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Maine para-dressage rider trains for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

"The second that we started working together I knew we had something really special."

MONTVILLE, Maine — It's the summer and while kids his age are horsing around, 17-year-old David Botana takes the horse he rides, around.

Not just around Maine but the world.

"Oh yeah, we travel a lot," said Botana. "Just in June, we flew him to California for a competition."

Lord Locksley, the horse Botana rides, is a Grand Prix Stallion.

"I always like to think of it in terms of cars," explained Botana. "So the pony is nice and reliable like a Toyota Carolla. Not going to win any races though. Then you get on the Grand Prix Stallion and all of a sudden you're in a suped-up Ferrari."

But this Ferrari knows when to slow it down.

"We're completely in sync," said Botana. "He's super, like, accepting."

David is a para-dressage rider.

David describes the sport of dressage as training a horse to complete precise movements and patterns. He says the pattern varies from level to level. 

David is a grade 1 rider, the classification for riders with the most severe of disabilities. 

"My test is a walk only test. So while that may seem like, 'oh that's just walking, it can't be that hard....it's still a very demanding and technical test."

David has VATER Syndrome; a series of birth defects that happen together.

"I have severe scoliosis. So when I was two and six I was fused in my back. So I've got harrington rods there. I'm completely fused and immobile in my torso area," he explained. "The 'r' in VATER is radial so I'm missing my radial bone in my left arm which caused my thumb not to grow. So when I was born they did a surgery to fix my pointer finger into my thumb slot."

Credit: NCM
David Botana is a para-dressage rider with his sights set on Tokyo 2020.

He also has muscular weakness in his arms and legs. But David's commitment to his sport is stronger than anything. For training he and his mom travel nearly 100 miles, one way.

"During the summer [that's] every day, except for Wednesdays."

Could you spend three hours in a car almost every day?

For David, if it weren't for all that time, he and his teammate would never have met.

Credit: NCM
The 17-year-old rides Lord Locksley, a Grand Prix Stallion.

"Not until I started riding Locksley and the second that we started working together, I knew we had something really special."

Together, these two began to dream, and dream big. 

"I'm trying to go to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in para-dressage," he said.

They make the perfect pair. A horse that's okay with slowing down to help a young man go the distance. 

"All the hours, all the physical therapy, all of the mental struggle that comes along with para-dressage, it would all be worth it."

David won't know if he's been chosen by the Olympic Committee to compete until about a month or so out from the start of the 2020 games.

His next competition is in September in North Carolina. 

His journey is an expensive one. To help with that, David's family has set up a link for tax-deductible donations through Southern California Equestrian Sports.