Click here to see what I’m talking about, then please come back and read the back story.
I’ve known Lauren Barwick as an amazing, inspiring person ever since I first met her in 2002 when she needed a Para Dressage freestyle. Lauren is, of course, the most successful Para Dressage rider in Canadian history, a role model for other Paralympic athletes and an inspiration to anyone with a capacity for awe in the presence of an exceptional human being.
But this week, Lauren’s fame got bigger. A whole lot bigger – to the tune of three and a half million views – and in the kind of split second that only happens in the world of social media. Let me get out of the way now and Lauren can tell you how it all went down:
‘I was sitting at dinner eating Japanese food with my friends and my phone started buzzing because Facebook sends me notifications. I noticed someone had tagged me with the video, one that I recognized as having been posted in 2014. As I was casually glancing at it I looked down at the number of times it been viewed and it said 516k. I proceeded to ask my dinner companions what did the k stand for, thinking that it’s not possible that it could stand for 1000 – but they confirmed that the video right now had been viewed 516,000 times. A little shocked, I clicked on the link to view who had posted it and discovered it was this community group that appears to be in Russia.
‘Over the next 12 hours I had to take the notifications off my phone because it was vibrating every two seconds. By the next morning I had just over 1 million views and 600 comments. I was absolutely shocked and blown away, especially since this video had been already posted in 2014 and only had 20,000 views.
‘Now 2 1/2 days later it’s been viewed 3.2 million times. I just find myself laughing as I never thought I would be able to say Paris and I have gone viral.
‘I guess the only thing that would make it better would be if the clip had a notation thanking Own The Podium and Equine Canada for allowing me to have such a fabulous horse, and to Pat and Linda Parelli of Parelli natural horsemanship for giving me an incredible education so that I could develop such a special partnership with Paris.’
Since Lauren first sent me the link three hours ago, there have been another quarter of a million views. Clearly this thing has not begun to slow down yet, and I urge you to forward the link so that the excitement, and the inspiration, can continue.
I looked at the Facebook page for the Russian group that posted Lauren’s video, and it’s fairly clear it’s a group that promotes an attitude of just getting on with life, even exceptional life, if Fate has left you in a wheelchair. Lauren is of course not the only Paralympic athlete we should admire and cheer on. But how cool is it that this video of her and Off To Paris, her Paralympic and WEG partner, is helping the world to connect with the incredible things a person can achieve against the odds, and how special a horse can be in that journey?
I’d like to take a moment to do some thanking too, to Lauren for being who she is, and for letting me play a small role in her story. I also want to thank Amie O’Shaughnessy, EC High Performance Director, who is the one who told me this morning about Lauren going viral. Amie has every reason to wish I’d just climb back under my troll bridge, what with all my haranguing over criteria and all. But what she and I do share is some passion: for horse sport, and for moments like this where a Canadian athlete is given the recognition she has earned. Even if it did come from the Russians!