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 a Consultant suggested I should go back to riding as 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 and couldn't last more than 10 minutes at a time, I had to have 2 walkers either side of me and someone leading Beans, very upsetting for someone who in a previous life had had horses at Grand Prix Dressage level and I was sad because 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 and 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 start to ride off of the lead rein 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 I made the decision to seek out a Dressage Trainer and found Sara Gallop and after a few months together she suggested I get my own horse and have a go at Para Dressage - so 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 setup 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, Leonie is just fabulous with Winnie and we have stripped everything back, 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, my body doesn’t work but my brain does and if I get it wrong I need to be told. The move came 2 weeks before we competed at the Gold Semi Finals where we came 2nd behind Paralympian Sophie Christiansen and only 5 weeks before we competed for GBR 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 3 or 4 days a week and mentor a number of Para Riders, work with British Dressage on inclusion into the sport and of course my links with the RDA are still strong and we regularly run demo days and coaching sessions with them in the hope of inspiring other riders to take up the Para Dressage reins.
GUNSTONE'S PRIDE - aka Winnie the Unicorn. . She is an incredible horse with a real sense of humour. She loves bananas and carrots and likes to gently fashion me a new hairstyle when I am in my wheelchair in her stable. She can be a little naughty with able-bodied people but never with me and even when she has been spooked by her surroundings her priority is to keep me safe before herself - perfect Para Horse/Unicorn. Winnie has a troop of supporters and her own Winnie the Unicorn Club and range of merchandise, so she is also rather entrepreneurial!