Beyond Expectations (Pre-Order)

An Extraordinary Equestrian Journey from Deadly Diagnosis to the Paralympic Games

Sydney Collier with Heather Wallace



Coming August 2024

A memoir that captures a young athlete's battle with a devastating diagnosis and the courage and perseverance that has propelled her to the top of a Paralympic sport.

For seven years, Sydney Collier enjoyed the life of a happy, active child, with caring, supportive parents and siblings. She ran through sprinklers and played with neighborhood friends. And she fell in love with four-legged animals, especially horses. Her mother encouraged her to ride, and Sydney was good at it, finding herself at home in the saddle.

Then a routine eye exam changed everything.

Sydney had the incredibly rare Wyburn-Mason Syndrome, a congenital birth defect that causes arteriovenous malformations where the veins and arteries in the brain don't separate as they should through capillaries. The resulting “clumps” of veins and arteries have increased blood flow and a high risk of aneurysm, and they tend to affect the brain, eye, and facial structures. Fewer than 100 cases of Wyburn-Mason Syndrome have been reported, according to the National Institute of Health, and its rarity means treatment remains controversial and prognosis uncertain. Most diagnoses in infants have been confirmed by pathologists after death.

Wyburn-Mason began to take an immediate toll on Sydney's body, first with its effect on her vision, and soon severe physical debilitation and excruciating migraines. Over the next eight years, as she and her family tried treatment after treatment, seeking some sort of hope, the only place where Sydney could escape the almost-constant pain for just a little while was on the back of a horse.

During a risky brain surgery in 2009, Sydney suffered a devastating and massive stroke, which inflicted a new level of disability, putting her in a wheelchair. Determined to ride horses again, Sydney entered a rehabilitation center and refused to give up on her goal of one day riding at the high-performance level for the United States. A year later, on a trip with her mother to the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, Sydney had a chance to watch the sport of Para Dressage, and that moment helped finally turn what seemed an overwhelming tide of loss and suffering. A new goal was born: to become a competitor in the Paralympics, and to do it in partnership with the only thing that brought her peace and happinesshorses.

This is the story of a brave young woman's journey from the doctors' offices to medal podiums, in her words. Anyone looking for a reason to believe that dreams can be realized, regardless of the odds, will find motivation in these pages.

Additional Information

Author: Sydney Collier with Heather Wallace

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 256

Illustrations: 50 photos

ISBN: 9781646011896

By Sydney Collier with Heather Wallace

Shortly after Sydney Collier began riding at age seven, she was diagnosed with the rare Wyburn-Mason Syndrome, a life-threatening condition that causes arteries and veins to grow together causing vascular malformations (AVMs) in the brain. Years of experimental treatment and a resulting massive stroke took a toll on her body, but she never relinquished the dream of returning to the saddle and the sport that she loved. Her belief and perseverance earned her a spot on the US Para Dressage Team at age 16, and Sydney was the youngest competitor at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France. At age 18, she won the 2016 US Para Dressage National Championships and became the youngest member in the 2016 Equestrian Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro as a part of Team USA, placing seventh overall in her division. In addition to her Paralympic goals, Sydney has dedicated her life to service and maintains a busy schedule that includes athletic training, equestrian training, guest speaking, volunteering, babysitting, and giving riding demonstrations at a variety of events. She graduated DeVry University on an Olympic scholarship, majoring in communications and is currently working to finish her MBA, specializing in marketing, thanks to a scholarship from the United States Olympic Committee. Sydney has been awarded the FEI Against All Odds Award, USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year, and The Captain Andrew B. De Szinay Memorial Sportsman Trophy. She was featured in the 2022 feature documentaryParaGold, directed by Ron Davis, which follows the lives of four Paralympic equestrian hopefuls as they vie for a spot on the US Paralympic Dressage Team. Sydney is based in Wellington, Florida, where she is working to earn a place on the next team and help the USA stand on the medal podium.

Heather Wallace is the award-winning author of the books Confessions of a Timid Rider, Adulting with Horses, and Girl Forward: A Tale of One Woman's Unlikely Adventure in Mongolia. In addition, she publishes a popular blog called The Timid Rider and co-hosts the podcast Adulting with Horses. By day, Heather is a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist dedicated to helping animals holistically. She lives in New Jersey with her family, dogs, and horses.