Nathan Harvey, a 32-year-old Para Equestrian Dressage rider, is both visually impaired and autistic but that has never stopped his love of riding, especially aboard Off The Track thoroughbreds.
The talented equestrian began riding as a six-year-old at Riding for the Disabled (RDA). Nathan’s mother Kim recalls that when Nathan was nine-years-old they bought him a Pony named Tommy, and that was the first time the family had ever heard Nathan speak.
Kim recalls losing Nathan at his birthday party one year, but she knew exactly where to look.
“He went missing at his birthday party -and I found him in the stable lying beneath Tommy. Nathan was tickling Tommy’s tummy telling him a bed time story, speaking as clearly as you and I, which was incredible to see,” said Kim.
It was a lovely thoroughbred gelding named Sid, who came into the Harvey’s lives next and that was the beginning of a lifetime love of horses. According to Kim, Sid was the kindest ex-racehorse they used at RDA, so much so that aa young girl with chronic Cerebral Palsy could only lie on a horse. They made a special set up on Sid so she could lie flat on his back, he took it all in his stride and never flinched.
Over the years, Nathan began to go blind, he did not think he would ever ride again, but at 18-years-old, Nathan was still in the saddle, this time with a young Off The Track Bletchingly mare, who was quiet a handful.
Kim says that Nathan’s disability has always created a special bond with the horses he rides.
“Something about Nathan melted every horses heart he sat on. His love for thoroughbreds was infectious. Nathan has always said, when he is riding, he feels free, he is not disabled.
A love for retired racehorses has led Nathan to many successful partnerships and triumphs. With his thoroughbred Aquabatic, more affectionately known as Flip, the pair won both the Brisbane CDI and State Championships 2016, which has now qualified them for the World Games Special Olympics in Dubai in March 2019.
Flip is a 14-year-old brown gelding, who Nathan has been competing with for four years. He was trained for dressage by Ellie Pajovic, where she competed in Elementary and schooled to Medium/Advanced Movement.
Nathan loves riding Flip and know he always be safe when riding him.
“Flip is such a fun horse to ride,he’s got a good flying change and correct lateral work in the half pass and pirouettes, with super walk through canter transitions,” said Nathan.
“My horse is like an old soul, safe as houses, and a hard worker.”
The pair have never had any problem winning an Open class either, including the Official Novice Maryborough 2 Star in 2017, winning the Preliminary at Grafton, Tamworth Para Equestrian Classes and placing at many events in Qld and NSW.
Not only is Nathan a gifted rider, his affinity with thorougbreds make him a wonderful re-trainer as well.
Taking all the time needed to retrain his horses, his reputation exceeds him, having his first paid job arrive tomorrow for training. His goal is to retrain and compete thoroughbreds and then sell them to people who appreciate and love them as much as he does.
Another up and coming star in Nathan’s Off The Track family is Buddy, a very cute and compact four-year-old bay gelding.
People are surprised when they hear Buddy came from Off The Track, as he floats across the ground with the conformation more of an Andalusian.
Nathan loves all his horses but Buddy could be his next star.
"Buddy is just too much fun really and I think he has great potential,” he said.
Nathan is hoping to start Buddy at a competition once he is home from the World Games in Abu Dhabi at the end of March.
The talented young horseman re-trains all the thoroughbreds himself, mum Kim is always close by, but Nathan has a true connection, which you can't teach, very soft and gentle, always praising.
Kim says Nathan has always been resilient but connects to thoroughbreds for many reasons.
“He relates to the thoroughbred, being disabled he has also been told he does not belong in the world of dressage and show jumping, as many ex-racehorses are, to the point of bullying,” she said.
“Nathan has overcome all of this, he has a mission to show, we all have the ability to shine, and he wants to do that for retired racehorses as well.
Nathan leaves for Abu Dhabi in seven weeks for the opportunity of a lifetime when he will compete at the World Games Special Olympics.
“I feel a connection with them, they are underestimated, just like me. They are quiet achievers and always try so hard for me. I love them very much and always will.”
A very exciting time ahead now lies ahead for Nathan and his retired racehorses, so be sure to follow Off The Track as we track his progress.