Karen Brain: Anything is Possible

Credit: Darlene Brain

We are pleased to present the winners of our third annual Readers’ Choice Awards, honouring remarkable horses and horse people for their achievements and contributions to Canada’s horse industry.

Our sincere appreciation goes our generous Readers’ Choice Awards sponsor, Bucas, who graciously donated fabulous prizes to our winners. Thank you to everyone who nominated and helped make our Readers’ Choice Awards a success again this year.

Congratulations to our deserving winners.

The 2012 Readers' Choice Awards Winners Are (please read more at each link):
Grated Coconut: Born to Buck
Duane Latimer: Canada's Reining Royalty
Pippa Hodge: A driving force behind therapeutic riding in Canada
Karen Brain: Anything is possible
Hickstead: “He was the best horse in the world”
Eve Mainwaring: "A tremendous horsewoman"
Dianne Tidball: Matriarch of Thunderbird Show Park
Somebeachsomewhere: Racehorse of the Decade
Orion: A Remarkable Therapist
Bill desBarres: "A lifetime in the service of the horse"

Karen Brain Paralympics Para-Equestrian

Photo: Darlene Brain
Riding Dasskara, Karen took home team and individual bronze medals at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece.

In early September 2001, Karen Brain was one of Canada’s most promising eventing riders, with Olympic aspirations, until she fell from her horse, sustaining injuries that left her an incomplete paraplegic. Just three years later Karen represented Canada in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, winning Individual and Team Bronze Medals. Her dedication and determination are truly remarkable.

Karen’s riding career began at age eight, when she began taking riding lessons at a local stable in Victoria, BC. She began eventing as a teenager, moving quickly up the levels until, at age 18, she competed at the North American Young Riders’ Championships.

Over the years, Karen trained with coaches such as Canadian Olympian Nick Holmes-Smith, training hard to reach her goal of someday competing in the Olympics. Her diligence paid off and she represented Canada in the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome, Italy, and was shortlisted for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games until her horse unfortunately became unsound. Her future as a Canadian eventing star seemed assured.

On September 18, 2001, Karen was unseated by her horse, landing on her back on the hard ground. The impact completely shattered her T12 vertebra resulting in paralysis of her legs.

Karen Brain Paralympics Para-Equestrian

Photo: Darlene Brain
Riding Dasskara, Karen took home team and individual bronze medals at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece.

After extensive surgery and rehabilitation, Karen regained feeling and movement in her back and legs, and miraculously found herself back in the saddle a mere seven months after her accident.

“Not once did we ever hear Karen complain about the accident, her injury, or her fate,” recounts her mother, Darlene Brain.

Never one to give up, Karen set her sights on the 2004 Paralympics. Nobody who knew Karen was surprised when she succeeded in her goal. Riding Dasskara, a loaned German-bred Warmblood mare, Karen contributed to Canada’s Team Bronze Medal before winning her own Individual Bronze Medal.

“It was fabulous,” she says of the experience. “[It] was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

Four years later, Karen returned to compete at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, this time with VDL Odette, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. The pair finished in 10th place in individual competition.

Karen now lives in her hometown of Victoria, BC. An Equine Canada Level 2 Coach, she takes pleasure in teaching riders of all levels. Her story is an inspiration to both able-bodied and disabled riders everywhere, and a reminder that, with a little hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.

Main article photo: Darlene Brain - Karen with Double Take (left) and VDL Odette in 2006.

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