"We want to make more people aware of the sport and also make sure that any para-rider knows that they can ride horses as well as their able-bodied compatriots."
Margaret Duprey is a woman with a mission – to raise USD 800,000 (EUR 650,000) to help support the efforts of the US para-equestrian dressage team in the run up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Duprey, from Wellington, Florida, spoke to Paralympic.org about the fundraising.
Paralympic.org: How did this fundraising challenge start?
Margaret Duprey: “I’m just a supporter and someone who thought that the high performance para-equestrian dressage group needs funding, so I spearheaded a challenge along with the Barnfield Foundation. Both of us match dollar for dollar donations as they come in and, at the last count, we had raised nearly USD 700,000. We are looking for USD 800,000 to be raised.
How did you develop your interest in para-equestrian dressage?
Through US team member Rebecca Hart. I’ve been a supporter and fan of hers for a while, and helped her compete at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics. Whenever she comes to Florida she stays with us at our farm and she’s someone that has inspired me.
I have high performance dressage horses and show jumping horses. I’ve been riding for most of my life. I got more and more interested in dressage when I got tired of falling off going over jumps, so dressage became my interest in the 70s.
What’s the profile of the sport in the USA?
It’s not as big as it should be and that’s something that we’re trying to improve. We want to make more people aware of the sport and also make sure that any para-rider knows that they can ride horses as well as their able-bodied compatriots.
How will you use any money you raise?
The money will help the riders prepare for the Paralympics in 2016.
The money will help bring riders over to Europe to gain the experience of international competition and to help them develop plans to take their sport further. The goal is to help fund training sessions, clinics and any other needs necessary for the high performance para-riders. For example, earlier this year, Rebecca came to Europe in the spring to see the venues, her competition, and to see how she would fit in. It was a great and inspiring trip for her, but she had to pay for the trip herself. This is where these funds will be of great assistance for the riders and the growing discipline.
And how do you fundraise?
We have a lot of individual donations - the minute we announced the challenge, it went out on social media and that very same day someone from the West Coast called up and donated USD 25,000. It’s been by word of mouth, engaging conversations and raising awareness for this need that has brought more people to this fundraising initiative.
How do you see the potential of Team USA?
We have to do our homework if we want to win a medal, and this is where the development programme is. We want to make sure that we get on the podium. The team we have is very young, but they had a great experience at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 and they want to come back to Europe next year and win.
And what will you do next if you raise that USD 800,000?
We go for one million!