Melissa Cannon - Road to the Paris Paralympics 2024

Melissa Cannon - Road to the Paris Paralympics 2024

Raised

$41,081.99

Goal

$150,000.00

Like many young girls, Melissa Cannon dreamt of riding horses at world level. She could not have known then that an acquired condition would result in her campaigning as a para-dressage athlete. 


Melissa has worked tirelessly to turn that dream into reality. In December 2023, she packed up and set off on the adventure of a lifetime, on a mission to compete in the Paris Paralympics with her horse Quentino 43. 


Melissa has diligently and deliberately carved a path over the last twenty years in the hope that this dream could be fulfilled as a self-funded athlete. Melissa has not only saved for twenty years but is also selling her home, with all the proceeds from the sale committed to the journey thus far. Without the help of a dear friend, Vicki Macdermid, she would have not even reached this point. Asking for your assistance now is hard but crucial. Returning home at this stage, with only just a few months remaining for qualification, would be truly distressing.


Melissa is a private person. While you might know her for her contribution to the equestrian sport, she has battled a serious illness since her early teenage years. 

 

At the age of 14 a gene in her body that was triggered, changing her life forever. She had acute juvenile arthritis, with several joints swelling to the size of a football with excruciating neuropathic and joint pain. She home-schooled herself for an entire school term as she was wheelchair bound, and progressively improved over the year with the support of crutches.  

 

This was followed by years of medical conditions and illnesses, including periods when she was too unwell to work. Devastatingly, the myriad of medical conditions has resulted in Melissa being unable to have children. 

 

When she began to shatter bones, the doctors were puzzled, and it took years for the specialists to realise what was happening. In 2021, after being in extreme pain and suffering severe debilitating symptoms, Melissa was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and multilevel degenerative disc disease. There is no cure and it is a degenerative disease. 

 

In Melissa’s case, this condition causes long-term inflammation of the joints of the spine, neck, and hips. It causes the muscles and tendons around the joints to turn into concrete and, over time, causes the vertebrae to fuse.

 

She always feels every vertebra in her body and can distinctly describe all three types of pain she experiences, which are musculoskeletal, bone pain and neuropathic pain. 

The compression of everything also means her nerves are getting compressed, and the physical damage she now has means the messages don’t always get through to her legs. Whilst she can still walk, it is often excruciating, and her legs aren’t very effective on a horse, so she is permitted to ride with two dressage whips as an alternative to her legs. The whips are used to apply light pressure, like a leg would and she is very grateful the horses understand this.  


A note from Melissa: 

 

Riding is my lifeline. I can be in excruciating pain and riding is my only pain relief. Physically, it has something to do with the horses taking the weight and the angle of my hips and spine.

 

Mentally and emotionally, the horses give me a purpose to get out of bed and keep going. The bond I share with them is like nothing else. They are my healers. Whilst life has been challenging, I’ve always tried to remain positive, striving to be the best version of myself.

 

Last year, I had approximately 50 spinal injections and four surgical procedures. So far this year, I have had about ten spinal injections and a surgical procedure to keep me going. I’m hoping this lasts 12 months.  

 

I have tried to give back to the sport as much as possible without expecting anything back. I dedicated two years to the Board of Equestrian Australia (voluntary role), have brought many stars to Australia with Dressage Masterclass to help the sport advance, I have helped with two athletes’ WEG and Olympic fundraising efforts, assisted with two corporate fundraising events in support of Equine Pathways Australia and produced a para dressage super clinic across Australia in partnership with Equine Pathways.  

 

I have always been reluctant to ask for help of any kind. Making this page live is daunting, but on this one occasion, if you are able to assist me over the next few months in achieving my dream of hopefully making the Paris Paralympics, I would be ever so grateful. 

 

The funds will go towards: 

 

Competition: I came to the UK early to really test myself against the world’s best. I will be attending lead-in competitions as well as international Paralympic qualifiers. Competing against the world’s best in the lead-up is essential to producing the best score for selection and hopefully, the best score for Australia at the games. Competing comes with a lot of ancillary costs outside of the entry fee, which the proceeds will go towards. 

 

Coaching: I am fortunate enough to be based with my coach, Spencer Wilton, and he not only supports me at our training base but also travels to all the competitions. He has medalled at both the Olympic and World Equestrian Games for the British dressage team, so I am in world-class hands. His dedication to my campaign is heartfelt, and I am so grateful for this. He also supports me with riding Quentino 43 to ensure we produce the best result possible. 

 

Stabling: We are based in a training environment with other top British riders. This high-performance environment will help me produce the outcome we are trying to achieve. 

 

Maintenance costs: My body is a bit of a mess and requires a lot of assistance from body workers. I am fortunate to have the support of the NDIS for some of these expenses, but I need a lot of medical intervention, and my medical procedures have cost thousands in the last two months. This is concerning. Your support will go towards anything that isn’t covered medically.  

 

Quentino 43: The funds will also go towards caring for Quentino 43 in the lead-up. 

 

Keeping Food on the Table and a Roof Over My Head: The time away training and being away from home has been wonderful, but it has impacted my ability to work and make a living. Whilst I am still working one day a week, it’s hard to maintain more than that with the time difference in Australia and my training commitments, so your support will keep us afloat on this fantastic but challenging journey. 

 

Thank you for your time and thank you for supporting me. 

 

Melissa Cannon

 

  • Equestrian

Your donation to this project is tax deductible

The Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) is the only deductible gift recipient for sport in Australia. This means that donations of $2 or more to approved projects on our website are tax deductible. Shortly after making your donation, you'll receive an official receipt from the ASF that you can use in your income tax return. If you have any questions about your donation, please visit https://asf.org.au/faqs

Raised

$41,081.99

Goal

$150,000.00

Recent donations

Anonymous

No leaf unturned, no obstacle big enough

$10,100.00

David Rapsey

Goodluck from Nicky and Dave Mel. oxo

$151.50

Peta Hey

Donated to your project

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Nadia Motta

What an achievement! Let's go Cannonball!!

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Your donation to this project is tax deductible

The Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) is the only deductible gift recipient for sport in Australia. This means that donations of $2 or more to approved projects on our website are tax deductible. Shortly after making your donation, you'll receive an official receipt from the ASF that you can use in your income tax return. If you have any questions about your donation, please visit https://asf.org.au/faqs