Born with no forearms, 17-year-old Abby Vidler sets her sights on the Paralympics.

16 April 2021

Abby Vidler, a 17-year-old with no forearms, smiles happily at the camera

Abby Vidler was born without forearms but it was not until she started primary school that she realised she had a disability.

“The teacher said, ‘Let’s all do finger painting’, and I couldn’t actually do that because I don’t have any hands,” she said.

“That’s when I was like ‘Oh, hang on a minute, I’m a bit different’.”

But the 17-year-old has not let that physical difference stop her from doing something others thought was impossible: riding horses.

She fell in love with the animals when she was just two years old when she started with Riding for the Disabled.

“Over years my passion has grown, I absolutely adore them,” she said.

“There is something special because they just do not judge you for who you are, they just love you and you can just forget about everything in the world because it’s just you and the horse in the moment.”

The year 12 student, who juggles riding multiple times a week with her final year studies, now competes with able-bodied riders and has her sights set on the 2024 Paralympic games in Paris.

“That’s where I hope to get and with pathways leading from Riding for the Disabled … this dream has now become a goal, so it’s pretty special.”

Abby’s riding coach Lyndsay Davis said it took about 15 years and a lot of trial and error to perfect her adaptive equipment, which was made by a man in Queensland.

“She has cuff and clips that fasten above her elbow which also has pins and attached to that is a piece of string that goes down to the saddle,” she said.

“So, in the event that Abby falls off the horse, the pin is pulled, and the cuff comes apart and she’s released from the horse.”

Ms Davis said Abby’s dream of the Paralympics was achievable, but she has a lot of work to do.

“Abby … hasn’t got those fine motor skills which make it harder, so she needs to be quite strong through her core also because she doesn’t have quite as much balance,” she said.

“But you wouldn’t think it if you saw her ride because she’s super, she’s really well balanced now and she’s riding really well.”

New arena in Melbourne suburbs hoped to reduce wait times

Riding for the Disabled has been operating in Victoria for 50 years.

It currently has a waiting list of more than 400 people and some have been waiting to join the association for over four years.

It is hoped a new arena in Wantirna South, in Melbourne’s outer east will drastically reduce that waiting list and allow more people with disabilities to thrive.

“This facility has been seven years in the making, it’s been a long journey which has only been made possible through a lot of fundraising, volunteer hours and government grants,” RDA Knox president Kathryn Holden said.

The site will see children from three years old to adults in their 50s and 60s.

“Some have autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome and we also welcome people with intellectual disabilities,” Ms Holden said.

“We have many riders that are in wheelchairs who can’t walk, and what some of the riders actually say is, ‘Riding a horse gives me legs’.”

The Wantirna South facility also received a $200,000 government grant through the Pick My Project program, where the community voted for project ideas in their local communities.

“This project couldn’t be any more deserving, it’s very heartening that the community got behind this new centre,” Suburban Development Minister Shaun Leane said.

Abby said it was the self-confidence that she developed from participating in Riding for the Disabled that has been life-changing.

“Having that community and being surrounded by such a great bunch of people has made me such a confident young person,” she said.

“I just see myself as normal, I forget that I have a disability.”