Born into a close-knit farming family in Lincolnshire/Leicestershire border, I had a love of horses bred into me and also a love for skiing. A number of years ago, I was returning to work in London by car when it left the road, resulting in catastrophic injuries and permanent paralysis. Amongst many other less severe injuries, my neck was broken in such a way that I should not have expected use of either my arms or legs to return. However, after seven months in hospital and time in the widely acclaimed spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville, I became an outpatient and began my convalescence and rehabilitation at home.
I found that it was escapism from my wheelchair which I had been longing for and being at one with a horse again. To be able to get across fields and the feeling of freedom was overwhelming – something I took for granted before.
I have come along way since I was lifted onto a horse by Roger himself and led gingerly around an indoor school! At that time, I had no idea of the physical benefits it would give me relating to strength and balance, or the mental benefits of subsequently enabling me to regain confidence once more.
In order to take the next obvious step (or giant leap!) of acquiring a horse that could cope with my disability, there were many practical obstacles to overcome (as well as persuading my support team that it was possible). I needed somewhere safe to ride, so with a friend’s father, redesigned and built a special arena to accommodate my needs. The fundamental problem of getting on and off also needed addressing, so a ramp was welded together and altered several times before it became perfect for my needs. This was all before the perfect horse could be found and brought home.
Once the horse was home and riding went smoothly there, I finally gave way to Roger’s badgering and entered a para dressage competition. This meant I have to get out and about and be able to mount and dismount safely. My support team spent countless hours and miles trying to find the perfect lorry at auction that could be turned into my ideal horsebox, complete with specially designed lift for mounting and dismounting.
With all in place, I started entering serious competitions and my marks began to increase until I realised that I was competing directly with people who had competed at the Paralympics, World and European Championships and was managing to hold my own.
This brings us to today, I have been based at Assouline Dressage in Colne Engaine, Essex for the last 3 years with World Class Coach Michel Assouline and Jessica Thompson. I am on the World Class Program which offers invaluable access for both horse and athlete to reach our goal.
It has not been all plain sailing and several falls have resulted in some quite major injuries, but I am determined to make the most of my abilities and inspire others and not focus on my disabilities to achieve my goals. I intend to follow the philosophy of Hunter S Thompson:
‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly