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The Story of Amanda Arndell: Healing and Hope

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

1000 Hooves: Stories of the Moreton Bay Equestrian Community

In the heart of England's equestrian world, a tale of unyielding passion and unwavering resilience unfolds. Amanda Arndell, affectionately known as Mandy, embarked on her equestrian journey at the age of 3. With her grandfather's gift of a Shetland pony. The family lore recounts that her very first word was not a typical toddler's choice, but the enchanting word "Horse." An early affinity for equines was undeniable, as she would eagerly clamber into the car with a carrot in each hand, ready to befriend any passing horse.

As she grew older, Mandy's journey encompassed diverse equestrian pursuits, from hunts to eventing and show jumping. Yet, her story was not merely about competition—it was about forging an unbreakable connection with these majestic creatures. Her father's unconventional approach of acquiring $50 off-track horses, declaring, "If you can't ride those, you can't ride anything," became the crucible for her skills. The challenges these horses presented honed her abilities and shaped her determination.

The spark of a dream ignited during the 1988 Olympics, as Mandy watched alongside her

father. A declaration whispered in awe, "That's my dream—to do that," encapsulated her aspirations. It was a dream her parents embraced wholeheartedly, embarking on a journey to find the right mentor and the perfect horse. The pursuit of Olympic qualification became a mission, a testament to Mandy's unflinching dedication.

However, the journey was not without its trials. Midway through her career, adversity struck. A fall during junior team competition unveiled a diagnosis that threatened to alter the course of her life. Degenerative disc disease and spinal issues became her unexpected companions. Yet, Mandy's spirit remained unyielding. She continued to compete, train horses, and then faced an accident that would redefine her path.

A student's horse, entrusted for training, became both a challenge and an opportunity for healing. A serious accident left Mandy with a smashed helmet, head and spinal injuries that left her on the brink of paralysis. Although doctors were miraculously able to heal her body she was still left with shattered confidence, and deep-set fear. But Mandy's unwavering support system, embodied by her husband Shane, held the pieces together. Chuck, a patient Appaloosa, emerged as a symbol of renewal. From tentative touches to guided rides, Mandy's journey from vulnerability to empowered strength became a testament to the human spirit's resilience.

As the darkness lifted, the transformative power of knowledge emerged as a beacon of hope. Mandy delved deep into the art of horsemanship, learning to navigate the unpredictable dance with horses. The shattered confidence was rebuilt, brick by brick, as she mastered the tools to create a safe and empowering environment. Her experiences crystallized into a singular purpose—to share her journey of regained confidence and connection.

Today, Mandy is the force behind Betterway Horsemanship Clinics: Creating Confidence through Connection. Her journey became a guiding light for those grappling with lost confidence. Through her clinics, Mandy empowers riders to embrace their fears and forge new bonds with their equine partners. Morning hesitations evolve into afternoon transformations. It's delightful to witness how Mandy guides groups of women back to confidence with their horses. The camaraderie and support within the group is heartwarming, fostering an atmosphere of shared laughter and encouragement. The clinic is a tapestry woven with diverse stories—one woman riding again after raising a family, another fulfilling her riding passion at the age of 50. These stories encapsulate the essence of Mandy's mission—to help riders rewrite their narratives, rekindle their passion, and embrace the joy of horsemanship.

Delightfully, Mandy's clinics include fun confidence-building activities and games. These activities, ranging from passing closed and open umbrellas, to riding over tarps, culminate in the spectacular horsey soccer game—an absolute joy to behold. Initially shy participants evolve into confident women who lead their horses to kick the ball towards the goals. Laughter echoes as newfound connections between horses and rider’s blossom.

For aspiring horse owners, Mandy offers sage advice. She emphasizes patience, acknowledging that working with horses is a marathon, not a sprint. She advocates for presence—engaging with the horse in front of you today, rather than dwelling on the past or future. Mandy's mantra, "don't write the story before it's happened," is a reminder to embrace the journey without undue pressure, fostering a joyful partnership between rider and horse.

Mandy Arndell's journey is a testament to the enduring power of connection and the ability to overcome challenges with unwavering dedication. Her story serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring equestrians, showcasing the transformative potential of love, trust, and a deep connection to these magnificent creatures. Through her Betterway Horsemanship Clinic, Mandy continues to inspire and guide riders on their own paths.

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All Photos are Copyright of Novina Photography

This Project was made possible through RADF The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and Moreton Bay Regional Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

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