CRYSTALS explode with colour on the brow band of Arky Sparkle. The 19-year-old riding pony canters under the control of Sui Watts and as they work together in the brilliant sunshine, sparkles of pink, green, blue and white pop from his brow and her riding hat.
Sui is silent as she directs Arky Sparkle through a series of dressage movements.
The sounds of hooves pounding the ground and calls of coach, Nell Marshman are all that can be heard in the bushland arena and it is a coaching routine that occurs four days a week in Upper Lansdowne.
It is this commitment to training that recently saw Sui and Arky Sparkle take out two top titles in two NSW dressage competitions during August and September.
The first success was taking the title of Grade 3 overall champion at the 2013 State Dressage Championship for the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) NSW, and the second being the Grade 3 para equestrian champion in the NSW Dressage Championships. Both events were held at Sydney International Equestrian Centre in Horsley Park.
The remarkable relationship between Arky Sparkle and Sui has enabled her to compete and succeed in the RDA championships and the able-bodied championships even though she has special needs.
Sui has Downs Syndrome and was adopted by Paul and Janett Watts when she was two-years-old.
Her birth parents are Chinese and were not Australian citizens at the time of Sui's birth when they made the decision to give her up for adoption.
It took five years to convince the Australian government not to deport Sui, who would have grown up in a Chinese orphanage. Their fight for Sui involved a one-on-one meeting with the immigration minister and it resulted in a commitment from Janett and Paul that they would guarantee her financial security for the rest of her life.
Sui was granted Australian citizenship when she was seven-years-old.
Janett and Paul have given Sui so much more than the stated promise of financial security. As Janet watches Sui train under the watchful eye of her coach, it is apparent that love, education, opportunity and community support has enabled Sui to become a young woman with a very real sense of self and purpose.
Today she turns 21-years-old and as usual she will share hours with Arky Sparkle to further refine her skill in the saddle.
Six-days-a-week they train together and according to Sui, are working hard towards riding in the Saddleworld Australian Dressage Championships, National RDA Championships and the World Equestrian Games qualifier in Werribee in Victoria .
"I love training hard. Then I can get better and better and I can ride for Australia. I love riding with the Australian flag on my coat," Sui said.
"Arky Sparkles is my boy and he tries really hard and I love him lots. He likes to show off."
The relationship with her coach, Nell is special and both hold each other in high regard.
"The harder you work her, the harder she tries," says Nell of Sui. As for Sui, she "loves Nell helping me and my boy to get lots better."
"My coach tells me the truth, then I work harder to get it right."
Training is hard work but fun for both Arky Sparkles and Sui and she describes dressage as "dancing with my boys."
The other "boy" in Sui's world is Smarty Pants. He is just five-years-old and being trained to step into Arky Sparkles' role when he retires from competition. It is a new relationship that will hopefully bring Sui more championship success and happiness.
"I can be me" is how Sui explains her love of riding. "It makes me feel happy because I can do anything and my horses make me feel very special."
She rewards Arky Sparkle and Smarty Pants with treats such as liquorice and carrot pellets and lots of bling.
"I love making my horses look pretty!"
Janett is delighted by Sui's passion for riding and determination to succeed regardless of the perceived limitations caused by her disability.
Her eyes follow Sui as she rides Arky Sparkle and her comments of praise are balanced with admiration for the community of people who contribute to the success and growth of her daughter.
"So many people have contributed to her success. The community has embraced Sui and we are so thankful for their support," Janett said.
It will be this community of people who gather together to celebrate Sui's successes and her 21st birthday on the October long weekend and Sui is looking forward to it as it may just bring a little more bling for her boys.