Patron Catriona Williams was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame at world class equestrian event, the NRM Horse of the Year, which recently ran in Hastings from the 18th-23rd March.
We speak to Catriona who was also nominated for New Zealander of the Year 2014 and is the founder and inspiration behind The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust.
Catriona established Catwalk in 2005 after a devastating horse-riding accident in November 2002 cut short her career, leaving her a tetraplegic. Catwalk has raised more than $2 million for research under Catriona’s leadership.
How did it feel to be nominated for New Zealander of the Year?
It was humbling. The fact that someone has taken time out of their day, their life to highlight the work and challenges of another kiwi is incredibly special.
What are the best things to come out of an experience like your accident?
Definitely the money we have been able to raise towards SCI [spinal cord injury] research. With a devastating and life changing SCI happening in Australasia every single day this will always be CatWalk’s No.1 focus. But, something that has been an added bonus is getting people, able-bodied, more comfortable around the wheelchair.
Seeing someone in a chair, especially someone that was once very physical, can be an emotional rollercoaster but by sharing our life in a fun, positive and motivating way sheds light on the fact the only thing different is our mode of mobility - wheels vs legs.
Sure we have daily challenges but if you are a new Mum, a new CEO or moving to a new country that’s a challenge...the only difference is with these you made a personal choice to challenge yourself. But, you know, you don’t need to be in a chair to have a bad day.
One of the best things to come out of my accident
Realising that my husband has clearly not married me for my body!
What does a typical day look like for you?
After morning cares are done with one of my wonderful carers, the fun part starts. Almost every day includes either a swim, cycle or push. I’m a real foodie so ensuring meal preps are done in advance is a priority for me. With a challenged body what we put into it is totally relevant to what we get out of it. You really don’t want to know what happens when we get consumption wrong!
Supporting Sam [Catriona’s husband] with any promotional work with Little Avondale [their business] is the first box to tick and we have fantastic clients who are all now great friends so when going to the races is a work day, and my biggest concern is the same of any girl ‘what to wear’, I’m not going to be one to complain!
Working with the CatWalk team is a special passion. It has to be fun or we don’t enter into it. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard work but every project that we take on needs to emphasise we’re OK. This is not the path we chose but we have a body so let’s use it.
Are horses still a big part of your life?
Horses are my life. I feel very lucky to have been engrossed with them since I was 4. To have had a relationship with a horse is one of life’s greatest gifts. A horse on average is over 500kg in weight...you cannot dominate them you must coax, encourage and work with them to get the best out of them...then and only then will they do anything for you. They are still a big part of my life through Little Avondale and thoroughbred racing, and every day I consider myself lucky to still be around them.
What is the next big thing on your radar?
Every year CatWalk sends a team to the New York Marathon. I still rate it, even after all my crazy adventures, as the best thing I have ever done in my life. The personal challenge, the team and let’s face it, a week in New York – it just doesn’t get any better so if it’s on your bucket list - DO IT.
My next personal challenge is a ½ Ironman in New Plymouth on 7th February 2015...and yes...we (my tetra friend Rob Creagh and I) are doing every phase. Mad, yes...want to do it with us, sure can www.catwalk.org.nz.