Fly Away UVSI Rhapsody & Lee Frawley – Olympic Rider

Team Fly Away are very proud to introduce our latest sponsored rider, Lee Frawley. Lee is a mother, balancing training alongside a full time job.

Lee’s passion for eventing and show jumping started from age five and it’s the competitive element of these activities that she enjoys.

Lee unfortunately suffered a serious leg injury her leg whilst riding 14 years ago and thought she would not be able to ride again. However, in receiving help with rehabilitation costs from the Mark Davis Injured Riders Fund and the Diamond RDA she recovered to a level which allowed Lee to continue to compete; focusing her efforts on Paradressage.

She will be one of 78 Equestrian riders to competing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the first and only athlete from the US Virgin Islands.

“The Virgin Islands have been involved in the Olympics for over 40 years, but this is the first time they’ve had anyone qualify for the Paralympics, It’s a huge honour. It’s very, very exciting, but it’s also been a huge learning curve for us all. It’s going to be absolutely just spellbinding. This is something I’ve been dreaming about. Every day I wake up and pinch myself because when you’ve been working really hard for something it’s always just there in the future, and now people are starting to ask me how many days left in the countdown.” Lee Frawley

A brief history

Lee Frawley moved to the UK (her fathers’ native country) aged 14 to complete her education. She then spent time travelling around Europe working for show jumpers. However Lee still continues to travel across the Atlantic on a regular basis.

“On a very small island it’s a different sort of standard. It’s just a different way of life. When I was growing up, we were riding the horses on the beaches and taking them swimming. Although I’ve been back and lived back in the islands, I keep coming back to England because of the horses and because of the competition really.” Lee Frawley

Lee has competed in several national level competitions in the UK before moving to international events in 2007. Only five years ago for the first time, Lee took part in the Hartbury Festival of Dressage, but she said it feels like decades ago.

“It was something I never thought I would do. Wouldn’t it just be unbelievable if I could compete at London 2012 for the US Virgin Islands? That seemed like so far away because I had my little horse and was doing my first ever competition. It did seem a little bit of a grand idea for someone who was just kind of starting out in it.” Lee Frawley

Lee’s Update for 2015:

“I am not really sure where to start… I don’t need to tell you that competing in the Paralympics was just the most tremendous experience and lots has been already documented. But also to be the first paralympic competitor for the Virgin Islands was a huge honour! Rhapsody and I were a new partnership – 3 months is no time to get to know each other but we were all determined to do the best we could! It was a luxury and a privilege for me to be able to devote every day to riding and training with Andrew J Murphy. Unlike the other nations with their large professional backup, my team consisted of friends all donating their time and services for free in the aim of getting Rhapsody and I into that fantastic arena in Greenwich! There were a lot of laughs and tears along the way and the results are public knowledge but the totally absorbing feeling that we all felt while in London during those crazy couple of weeks will last with us forever. All the positive publicity about the Games was never over estimated – the ‘feel good’ factor went totally off the radar!! You can’t blame me for not wanting the magic to end!

After the heady excitement of London 2012 when it looked as though my partnership with Rhapsody would come to as an end, as I sent him back to Yorkshire to rejoin his owner and consider my future competitive plans, it became clear that it would be worthwhile negotiating to buy Rhaps to continue our training with the aim of the World Equestrian Games in 2014. With the co-operation of Rhapsody’s owner he came back to Surrey and with the support of my trainer Andrew J Murphy we drew up a training programme which included Rhapsody going to Kent at regular intervals to have intensive training sessions with Andrew, with me joining at the weekends. Rhaps soaked up the training – he was – and still is – a very rewarding horse to ride and train. With limited funding our international competitions were restricted to the single British para international at Hartpury where Rhapsody had some very good results. An added duty for me was being asked to be ‘rider’s rep’ at the draw for the order of riding which was fun and informative – its always good to be involved behind the scenes to get an idea of how a big competition is run.

Overall Hartpury was a good warm up for Caen in August as some of the judges would be the same. After the incredible amount of paperwork needed for London, entry procedures for WEG were in comparison a relatively smooth ride especially as we would only be allowed a small team. Andrew as trainer, friend Debbie Winchester groom and Regine Fitzner from the Virgin Islands coming over as Chef de Equipe/Virgin Islands Equestrian Association President. I borrowed and drove a friend’s horse box and Rhapsody travelled very well across the channel – all went to plan. We arrived at La Prairie Racecourse in Caen, settled Rhaps in and went in search of our courtesy car. Debbie went to find her accommodation which turned out to be a converted shipping container and we made it to our hotel to meet up with Regine After a couple of days training and arena familiarisation, our first competition – the team test, so therefore only a warm up for me and Rhaps – was on my birthday!

There was no time for celebrations as I had a fairly early time. A number of friends had come to WEG to watch various discipline over the 2 weeks but on that day they were in the stands to watch Rhaps and I do one of the best tests at international level that I have done and we were rewarded with a PB percentage. I was so pleased with him as I left the vast arena – and then over the tannoy the commentators started singing happy birthday to me – to which the whole crowd joined in! A truly unforgettable experience!! A rest day followed and then the main individual test. Another solid performance from Rhapsody but with a couple of losses of concentration from him our scores did not dramatically improve, as I had hoped. Unfortunately one of the 5 judges marked us very harshly and that pulled us back a couple of places. I was understandably disappointed but could not fault Rhaps – it is just the subjective nature of dressage – at any level. It really did not sink in what we had achieved – once again a first for the US Virgin Islands – to have a competitor at a World Equestrian Games. The opening ceremony carrying the flag was another very proud one! It has been a pretty intense few years since qualification for London began in 2011 – and we have had a bit of a break. Rhapsody is looking and feeling fantastic and I can’t wait to get him back out in the competition arena.

A whirlwind trip back home to the Virgin Islands in January to visit family allowed me some time to meet up with Regine again and make some competition plans for this year. All talk is of Rio 206 now as the qualification period has begun. with that in mind there are going to be three separate qualifying competitions in Britain this year, the first being at Hartpury – our happy hunting ground! The ‘plan’ is to get to all three – and to keep our sights on Brazil! But… if all goes to plan the first stop will hopefully be Belgium in April.”

Team Fly Away are delighted to sponsor Lee Frawley & Rhapsody

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