After graduating from Caulfield Grammar School in 2019, Lucy Coates now reminisces on the positive experiences she encountered during her time at the school. After losing her vision in a car accident, Lucy studied hard to get into university and recalls making lifelong friends at Caulfield. She recounts CGS as being the first place to support and encourage her after the accident, whilst allowing her to do anything so long as she was safe. Never turning down an opportunity, Lucy went canoeing and hiking on a Year 10 school camp, less than a year after her accident. Lucy has a profound feeling of gratitude and respect for the school and the lifelong friends she made as she continues to thrive in post-secondary school life.
A defining moment in Lucy’s life was her decision to abide by one simple statement, “I can, and I will”. This mantra began within her first week in hospital and continues through to today. The time immediately after her accident was very difficult and confronting for Lucy. She describes her first day back at school as being extremely daunting. Regardless, Lucy knew she could have a prosperous life with or without sight. Paired with her positive attitude, Lucy made a succession of choices that helped get her to where she is today. As an avid lover of horse riding, Lucy got back on a horse only three weeks after losing her vision. If she fell down, she got back up. She was determined to become a Paralympian and represent Australia. Choices such as these were the vital steps in driving Lucy’s approach to life. They helped mould her as a person.
After high school, Lucy felt very comfortable. With close friends, her love for horse riding and a strong sense of community, she decided to take a gap year. Excited and refreshed, she viewed the world with a new lens as an adult. COVID-19 led Lucy to spend time training with her horse and enrolling in university as a Psychology, Criminology and Neuroscience student. Lucy now has a newfound love for university, a plethora of new friends and a beautiful new guide dog named Mickie. All in all, Lucy describes herself as being very happy.
Lucy is involved with Equine Pathways Australia, riding four times and week and improving constantly. Starting when it was just a group of five people, Lucy has had the pleasure of watching the organisation become a nationwide registered charity. After the car accident, Lucy’s coach, Julia Batterns, provided immense support and encouragement. Lucy describes the organisation as one big supportive family that guides and encourages one another in achieving their respective goals. She has endless gratitude for Julia, the competition and what she describes as her “family”. In Lucy’s opinion, there are not enough words to describe her love for them. Equine Pathways Australia helped Lucy attend her first national competition, whilst continuing to prepare her for her first international competition in the near future. Moreover, her involvement with the charity has allowed her to welcome and support new families and members into the program. Lucy has a passion for helping others and states that it brings joy and hope to both herself and others. In a world where people with disabilities can feel lonely, she credits Pathways as a haven of love and belonging. Sharing one another’s passion for horses and her delight in meeting new people helps inspire Lucy’s heavy involvement with the charity. Filled with happy tears and laughter, her involvement with Equine Pathways has changed her world for the better.
Lucy’s bond with her horse, Janz, is one of the many things she loves most about what she does. Often whilst talking to Janz, he will lift his head to Lucy’s and give her a playful lick or nudge. Not only does this make Lucy laugh, it consolidates the bond that she has with Janz and is one of the reasons she continues to do what she does. From flying around the arena with Janz to cuddly moments in the stable, Lucy feels free. In these moments, her disability doesn’t stop her. She can do anything she puts her mind to. However, this doesn’t come without work. Lucy shows great motivation in preparing and training for competitions, attending the gym on off days, staying fit and eating well. Such competitions take months of practice, learning dressage tests and freestyles until both she and Janz know the routine by heart. Lucy has callers at certain locations in the arena who will call out so that she knows where she is. Moreover, counting Janz’s steps helps orient herself. Arrival at the competition includes settling her horse, braiding his hair, presenting him and trotting in front of a vet to ensure Janz’s fitness to compete. Lucy describes this process as a mixture of fun, excitement and, of course, anxiety. She remains positive and happy, reminding herself that she is there to show what she, her horse and her team can do. However, things don’t always go exactly to plan. Lucy describes dealing with horses as being similar to that of a “massive toddler”. It is always a learning experience and often riddled with mistakes. Regardless, the feeling of competing is none other than euphoric for Lucy.
Throughout Lucy’s journey, she has learnt to have fun and trust herself. She hopes that students leaving the school will be open-minded to new opportunities, whilst cherishing their family and friends. Lucy suggests going back to your basic values and doing what you enjoy. After school, the world is only just opening up and she hopes that we learn to see that world as a place of opportunity. In Lucy’s words, “Work hard and push through challenges and you will succeed”.