I was diagnosed with trauma-induced MS 10 years, after a riding accident saw me suffer a horrific head and facial injury when I was kicked in the face by a horse I was leading. My riding days ended there until some 17 years later when a consultant suggested I should go back to riding – I was struggling to sit up unaided for long and he thought it would be good for my core strength. That is when I met the Watershed RDA team and Beans the wonder pony. At first, I cried each time when I got home – I was nervous when I rode, couldn't last more than 10 minutes at a time, and I had to have two walkers either side of me and someone leading Beans, which was all very upsetting for someone who in a previous life had had horses at Grand Prix dressage level. I couldn't see that I would ever get that back.
The Watershed Team were fantastic with me and we did everything at my pace and with humour. As the months went by, I got stronger and more confident until I was able to move from the steady neddy that is Beans and onto Connor, who was much sharper and a real character. I started doing some video dressage tests with him and at the end of our first year together, we won a silver medal in the RDA Online National Championships 2015. It went so well that I made the decision to seek out a dressage trainer and found Sara Gallop. After a few months together, she suggested I get my own horse and have a go at para dressage – she found me the perfect horse, Winnie, who we nickname the Unicorn.
In 2018, I met Leonie Brown from Daneswood Dressage and really liked her set-up and training techniques. It was a bit of a gamble to move yards and trainers, but I adore Winnie and she owes me nothing, so I decided to put her interests to the fore and make the move. It couldn’t actually have been any better, and Leonie is just fabulous with Winnie. She is a great horse trainer but a brilliant human one – not many people have threatened to take me into a field and leave me there if I keep getting my halts wrong! As a disabled person, it is so important to me not to be treated like an idiot because while my body doesn’t work, my brain does and if I get it wrong I need to be told. The move came two weeks before we competed at the Gold Semi Finals, where we came second behind Paralympian Sophie Christiansen, and only five weeks before we competed for Great Britain in July. We smashed it, scoring 70%+ each day, so the results speak for themselves – it was the right decision. Winnie was like a different horse and I got 99% of my halts ,so remained out of the field, and more importantly we did it with a great mix of humour and professionalism.
I now ride three or four days a week and mentor a number of para riders. I also work with British Dressage on inclusion into the sport and, of course, my links with the RDA are still strong – we regularly run demo days and coaching sessions with them in the hope of inspiring other riders to take up the para dressage reins.