Veronica Gogan (Fairfax, VA) isn’t letting multiple sclerosis or disability dissuade her from a goal of international equestrian competition. At the 2020 USEF Para Dressage Emerging Athlete Championship, she earned blue ribbons in her grade aboard Glenord’s Christopher Robin and again at the 2021 USEF National Championships aboard Mason. She has been a USEF Para Dressage Emerging Athlete since 2020. She is laser-focused on her goal to compete, all while managing a chronic, debilitating illness and raising a young family. As an ambassador for para dressage, a role model for those with multiple sclerosis, and an advocate for the disabled community, Veronica lives her philosophy to positively and relentlessly put one foot in front of the other.

When Veronica’s five-year-old feet hit the ground after a dude ranch trail ride, she had a fully formed passion for all things horses. In northern Virginia, she was a winning competitor at local hunter and equitation horse shows and formed a passion for competing. In high school, she owned a 1995 Hanoverian/Thoroughbred gelding, Delias, whom she competed in local hunters, equitation, and dressage. Her father purchased a yearling Thoroughbred filly as a project horse. Foxy was intended to keep the two close as they navigated the ominous teenage years and it was a miraculous success. Also during high school, at age 17, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, affecting mainly her eyesight and causing fatigue. It was essentially invisible for many years.

At George Mason University, where she earned a BA in Philosophy, she was president of the equestrian club and an open rider for the intercollegiate team. In recognition of her leadership and conduct, she was awarded the 2007 Lauren Burns Sportsmanship Award. After college, multiple sclerosis slowly began to affect her life in and out of the saddle. A bad riding fall caused serious concern about multiple sclerosis affecting her safety while riding. It resulted in a hiatus from the saddle. In 2012, she married Robert Gogan and they began a life and a family together. Two pregnancies were bookended by significant multiple sclerosis relapses, the second leaving her permanently disabled due to loss of mobility and strength in three limbs, nerve function, and fatigue.

Serendipity struck when Veronica had an opportunity for therapeutic riding; horses were calling her back. Fueled by a passion for competition, she graduated from therapeutic riding to para dressage aboard Robin, a horse she had shown in college, with the help of Robin’s owner and event trainer, Ann-Louise Markert. It turned out to be the perfect work for 26-year-old Robin, who came out of retirement to compete with Veronica in 2020. At the 2020 USEF/Adequan Emerging Athlete Championship, the two took overall top honors on day one and second on day two. Veronica was the 2020 VADA/Nova FEI Para Equestrian Champion. Robin was awarded the 2020 Rataxes Memorial Licensed Show Award before returning to retirement.

Aware that her high aspirations demanded an upgraded mount and training, she contacted Lauren Sprieser for help. Lauren is an esteemed international dressage rider and trainer. She connected Veronica with Mason, a 2005 Irish Sporthorse gelding, who had done it all and at every major championship on the east coast. He was leased to Veronica for the 2021 season and the two began in a training program with Lauren. They debuted the introductory tests in June 2021 and were swiftly encouraged to skip ahead to the top-tier para tests: team, individual, and freestyle. Lauren coached the pair to blue ribbons at the 2021 USEF/Adequan Para Dressage National Championships.

Sponsorship and syndication are necessary for sourcing and supporting the horse she needs for a national ranking in para dressage – the next stepping stone to the international show ring. Para dressage patrons have received increased recognition in- and outside the equestrian community due to the recent success of the U.S. Paralympic equestrians at the 2020 Tokyo games. Individuals and organizations assisting Veronica associate themselves with an inspiring story and charismatic individual well-poised for success. Veronica has exceptional momentum; the future is bright for her and her support team.