I cant quite believe it has been 12 months since I came runner up in Shearwater's Search for a Star competition and what a 12 months it has been with me changing trainers, changing yards, moving two horses, changing horses and becoming a full time dressage rider. It has been a whirlwind and I'm glad Shearwater has been with me along the way.
At the end of January I was lucky enough to finally meet up with Shearwater Search For A Star winner Sophie Hall when she was competing at Kingswood Equestrian Centre which is about 5 minutes from my home. I got to meet her fantastic horse and mom and dad who were just so supportive and encouraging to me.
As you all know I am a visually impaired rider but I would like to just give you a little insight into my condition which I have had since birth.
I was born on 19 May 1999 with a Bilateral Coloboma. This condition affects 1 in 10,000 people and affects the iris (coloured bit) the lens and the optic nerve in both of my eyes which gives a key hole appearance and causes low vision. I also cannot see above eye level. I also have Microphthalmia which makes my eyes quite small and a condition called Nystagmus, which means my eyes move back and forth involuntary which causes my eyes to become tired and sore very quickly.
My condition has caused me to have a reduced vision of 2/60 which means what a rider can see at 60m I can only be 2m away to see it. So as you can imagine in walk I can see clearly to the end of the horses nose which is ok but when your trotting or cantering I really cannot see much of where I'm going clearly in front or around me.
I am actually registered blind and have been graded as a grade V para dressage rider but my ambition is to also compete mainstream dressage. It's not that I am ashamed or embarrassed of my disability but I want to be treated as just a dressage rider and not Dan the disabled rider.
I have been riding unaffiliated competitions at Abbey Dressage on an indoor 20x40 arena but really love to ride outside. I find it easier to see in the daylight and feel less confined and in January I decided to try riding a test on a 20x60 outdoor arena and as you can imagine adding an extra 20m onto my arena length mean't having to recalibrate my thinking as I rely a lot on counting on my circles and in between letters but with his extensive training knowledge and help my trainer International Dressage rider Levi William Hunt helped me move forward with the new challenge.
I have been taking part in test riding and polework clinics to improve my confidence with Lucy Boormans LittleMan who was kindly loaned too me in December and I'm proud to say "I'VE DONE IT!!".
I've only ever competed in unaffiliated competitions but on the 8th February in the most awful conditions ever to ride in and with the support of Levi William Hunt, Robbie Mcneill, Nicky Hill, Lucy & Helen Boorman and all of the Abbey Dressage family I competed at Summerhouse Equestrian Centre with LittleMan in my first ever BD affiliated completion at Preliminary level and came 1st. It was a very big surprise and I'm now looking forward to many more competition in 2019.
The day was made even more special by the fact that Levi & Robbie also competed the same day at Summerhouse. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to watch & train along side these two during the week at Abbey Dressage so to be able to compete on the same day at the same venue was quite a humbling experience and to have them both there to support me was a very special memory to have of my first affiliated competition.
I am incredibly lucky that Levi sees my ability not my disability and is pushing me to be the best and not just to be an ok rider. I love the career I've chosen even though its hardwork and some days I wonder what I'm doing but I wouldn't change it. It's not always easy but the best things in life never are and are worth working hard for.
I look forward to updating you all next month.