Paralympic dressage rider Philipha Johnson-Dwyer defies life threatening odds to keep getting back in the saddle.

The unbreakable Phillipa Johnson-Dwyer is among South Africa’s most successful equestrian athletes. We take heart from the five time paralympic dressage rider whose smile and surroundings are in such contrast to what she has overcome.

“My love of horse riding was predestined. First of all, my name in Greek means the love of horses, second I’m sagittarius which is half horse and half man, and then I was born into a show jumping family so I don’t think I had much choice but to be in love with horses,” shares a very warm and bubbly Philippa.

Philippa competes in dressage and para-equestrian dressage and before her tragic accident in 1998 competed in able-bodied dressage competitions at national level. 

The accident caused Philippa to lose all her strength in her right arm and 60% of the strength in her right leg so she had to learn to horse ride from the beginning. It has been a long and hard road that has seen many setbacks, including falling and breaking her back and undergoing heart surgery in 2020, but Philippa is unbreakable in spirit, if not body.

She’s married to fellow horse rider and para-equestrian dressage rider James Dwyer who hails from Ireland. Together they live in Belgium.