Charlotte Merle-Smith has been a long time supporter of the Draper products and will be in our booth at WEG giving a presentation on “Everything Happens For a Reason: I Went from the Top, to the Bottom, and Back Up.”
Charlotte started riding when she was just a mere seven years old and obtained her first pony a year later. She learned about responsibility from the start, and spent most of her time at the barn learning about all aspects of the horse world. Charlotte’s first instructors were a husband and wife team who also happened to be the local Pony Club instructors and were the reason she became hooked on eventing. Ten years later Charlotte represented Area 1 on the CCI* team at the 2000 North American Young Rider Championships (NAYRC). In 2002, Charlotte began with Jan Byyny and was fortunate to get a second chance to represent Area 1 on the CCI* team, at the NAYRC. During this years’ NAYRC, her and her team took home the gold. In 2003 at Radnor two-star, she was able to finish this tough event on her dressage score. As her career advanced, she moved up to take second in the 2007 Morven Park one-star just behind her coach, Jan Byyny. After the Sunday the Morven event finished, Jan and Charlotte got on a plane and flew to England to go scouting out her next mount. They had been close to buying a horse on the spot that seemed like a perfect fit, but alas, they went home empty handed. It was just two days after her arrival home that Charlotte was caught in a traumatic accident as a passenger on a four-wheeler. Her life was forever changed. She became a paraplegic as a result of a spinal cord injury and a traumatic brain injury. After a week in coma and ten week stint in a rehab hospital, she moved back to Vermont to live with her parents. Because of her passions, Charlotte found herself unable to give up horses or riding and as soon as she was able, started riding with the only adaptive riding program in her area, C.H.A.M.P. She also became involved with the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association and helped her achieve the ability to do anything she put her mind to. Charlotte not enjoys handcycling, playing sled hockey with the Vermont Sled Cats and completing marathons such as the Burlington Marathon which she finished this past May. Her supporting parents have allowed her to have her horses, complete with mounting ramp built at their home so she is able to continue on her path ahead. Charlotte casually jokes that she has the only 17.2 hand, two-star, Irish Sport horse, gone therapy horse. She is currently trotting independently, which is a huge achievement in light of everything she has been through mentally and physically. She also feeds her passion by giving lessons and going to as many events as she can, which also includes the World Equestrian Games. Her goal has always been to ride for the United States and while that is still her goal, she has modified it so that she will be going to go to the Paralympics instead of the Olympics.
To read more about Charlotte, please visit the Real Stories section on the Draper Therapies website.