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Cambry Kaylor

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Story in Sidelines March 2014:

Cambry Kaylor: From Equestrian Vaulting to Para-Dressage

By: Lindsay McCall

On June 21, 2005, 18-year-old equestrian vaulter Cambry Kaylor showcased her last dismount and in moments lost the use of her legs. After a successful practice with her vaulting team for the proceeding National Championships, Cambry did her aerial dismount off of her horse. This was a move she perfected and had done many times prior. Cambry explained, “I decided to do my aerial dismount off the horse, but didn’t communicate it to my teammate still on the horse. I flipped, hit him with my leg, changed my rotation in the air and landed on my back. I broke my back, severed my spinal cord and became permanently paralyzed from the waist down.” As an 18-year-old talented athlete Cambry was a diver, cheerleader, dancer, and equestrian vaulter. She remembered thinking in that moment that she really hurt herself, would be out for the season, but she would be back competing the following year. “I didn’t think it’d be the last time I vaulted, let a lone the last time I had the use of my legs,” recalled Cambry. Cambry was born in Thousand Oaks, CA, but grew up mainly in Woodinville, WA. During her high school years she lived in Fairfield, CA, before moving to Highland Utah. As an eight year old, Cambry began her path through the equestrian sport after reading an article in American Girl magazine. She read about a mother and daughter duo in California who performed gymnastics and dance on the back of a moving horse. For Cambry who had been in ballet since she could walk, gymnastics since she was 5 years of age and a horse crazy little girl, this was the perfect combination of all three. It would not be long before Cambry had her mom calling the American Vaulting Association to find the nearest club to join and her lifelong journey with horses would begin. That same year, Cambry began vaulting with Redwing Vaulters out of Redmond, WA. Her vaulting career blossomed over her life becoming a vaulter on a National Championship C-Team and 2-phase team while vaulting in Washington. She earned her silver medal and vaulted as a flyer on Tambourine Vaulters A-Team when she moved to California. In 2005, in her last year of vaulting, she vaulted with Oak Hills Vaulters out of Utah as a flyer on their A-team. Cambry explains how vaulting holds a special place in her heart, “I love the challenge, the adrenaline, and that magical moment when the music, horse and vaulter become one. Vaulting taught me hard work, teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, balance, respect and gratitude for the most important member of the team, the horse.” After Cambry’s accident she spent a relatively short time in rehabilitation. Her therapists said she would be in therapy for two to three months, but Cambry made it through in five weeks just in time to see her team compete at the National Championships. Her rehabilitation did not end after those five intense weeks. “I quickly ‘recovered’ in that I could independently live from a wheelchair, but from an emotional standpoint, it took much longer,” remembered Cambry. “A couple weeks after being discharged from the hospital, I moved into the dorms at Brigham Young University and began my freshman year as previously planned. I had a hard time in the beginning trying to find myself without the things I had previously used to identify myself. I had been a diver, cheerleader, dancer, and vaulter. I had been an athlete. I didn’t know who I was anymore without my legs. I wanted my old life back.” Using the oldest rule in Riding 101 she got back on the horse. Only months after her accident, Cambry was lifted on the back of a horse and ponied around at the walk. It was a bittersweet moment. It was an amazing feeling for her because she felt as though she was walking through the horse’s movement. However, it was not the same as she remembered. “I wasn’t ready,” said Cambry. “I tried a few more times after to ride, but it ended up just reminding me of what I had lost.” Around that same time, Cambry would find herself a new way of working with the sport she loved. Her previous vaulting team invited her back to the barn and she came back to the vaulting world as a coach. In 2008, Cambry and her mother started Technique Equestrian Vaulting Club with five vaulters and her Haflinger mare, Miss Fire Opal. Miss Fire Opal was given to Cambry from a former teammate and good friend, Julie Young to help start their vaulting club. In the last five years, the club has grown to forty vaulters, seven horses, four lungers, and three coaches. These vaulters compete at the local, regional, and national level with multiple vaulters achieving individual and team National Championship titles. “Over the years, with the help from others, I have put pieces of myself back together and created a new identity from a wheelchair, but it wasn’t until winter 2012 that I truly felt whole again,” said Cambry. Her mother had been taking dressage lessons with David Macmillan to cross-train the vaulting horses and one Saturday her lesson partner canceled. She convinced Cambry to join her so they saddled-up Miss Fire Opal and Cambry got on. “I’m still not sure what happened during that lesson,” smiled Cambry, “I believe Opal and David opened Pandora’s box. I realized I could actually ride, I didn’t miss my legs anymore, and more than anything I missed riding and showing. Being able to ride after eight years of sitting on the sidelines changed me.” Cambry, 26, is now currently training as a Grade II para-dressage rider with David Macmillan in Saratoga Springs, Utah at Coyote Creek Stables. When she is in California, she trains with Brian Hafner with Silver Bay Stables out of Sonoma. Cambry recently purchased and started training her new para-dressage mount, Danish Warmblood, Markgaards Donnewind. He previously competed on the para-dressage Danish “B” Team. Together the duo is working hard towards attending the upcoming CPEDI3* events in order to qualify for the U.S. Para-Dressage Team selection trials for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy, France. Not only is Cambry working hard on her goals as a para-equestrian but she is also in her second year of graduate school at the University of Utah in their occupational therapy program. Cambry will graduate in May 2015 with her masters degree in Occupational Therapy. Her plan is to work with others with spinal cord injuries live full lives, return to what they love, and passionately follow their dreams. Cambry is also in the American Vaulting Associations judge’s training program working to be certified in 2016. When she is not studying, coaching her vaulters, or riding, she enjoys attending the University of Utah gymnastics meets and spending time with her family. “I honestly have the funniest family. I think the world of them,” commented Cambry. “My family means a lot to me. We’ve always been close, but I believe after my accident, we became even closer. My family members were there for me through that extremely difficult time in my life and helped make me stronger. I know they want the best for me and want to see me go after my dreams. They’re the first ones to tell me I can do anything. To have my parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all support me in my para-dressage endeavors is an incredible feeling and I’m so blessed to have them.” Cambry did not just dip her toe into the sport of para-dressage, she is serious about her future with the sport. She is raising money through donations and sponsors through her website www.Cambry.org to offset the multiple costs of competing internationally. Cambry’s journey from vaulting to international para-dressage has been a whirlwind. She believes that vaulting helped her with her speedy recovery after her initial injury from a physical standpoint. It also healed her emotionally by being able to return to the sport as a coach. Today, she attributes a lot of her balance and harmony with the horse to her previous vaulting training. “I believe the sport both as a vaulter and as a coach helped prepare me to become a para-dressage rider,” noted Cambry. It was also her family, the donation of Miss Fire Opal from Julie Young, and for David Macmillan to believe in her as a rider that Cambry is following her dreams. “I remember after my accident waking up in the mornings and thinking that it was just a bad dream and it wasn’t real,” said Cambry. “I’d ask family and friends in my hospital room why we were there hoping the reason had changed. That it wasn’t my new life. Now I ask my friends and family to pinch me, because I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have this life and the opportunities ahead of me. I’m enjoying the journey and excited for what the future holds.”

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