This month has been a time for hard work! After illness and injury at the end of 2016, I’d lost a fair bit of fitness so my first few sessions of 2017 were painful to say the least.
- Wheelchair racing
- RDA training
- RDA volunteer work
- New job!
This is important to me as the only activity I can do all by myself – quite apart from the fact that I enjoy racing and the training is really good for keeping my fitness up for horsey sports. However, a month of training alone for all but one session hasn’t made the transition back towards a heavier training schedule any easier. Since our club sessions are held on the track at the moment I have done an awful lot of lonely laps!
Having had a few miserable sessions with pain in my legs and back preventing me from being in the race chair too long, I’ve been spending more time in the gym to build up my fitness. The erg (rowing machine) always gives me a solid workout and allows me to think back to my para-rowing days! It’s also good to get on the weights machines, and I hope to start swimming again soon too.
At the moment my left shoulder is still not up to regaining what little strength it had to begin with. I damaged the acromioclavicular joint in September whilst doing a dodgy dismount in a vaulting session, which was on top of long-term problems with that shoulder. Early attempts to strengthen it were thwarted by a severe limitation to the range of motion and complete inability to move it against even very light pressure. I feel that I’m finally getting back a better range of motion (thanks to lots and lots and lots of physio!) so hopefully soon I can start to think about strengthening it. Even so, it still causes a lot of pain and is very unstable, so I’m not allowed to put any weight to it just yet.
RDA sessions have started back after the Christmas break and I’ve had fun riding Rolo. When we go off individually he’s far better than when we trot as a group, and I’m contemplating trying him at some low-key dressage competitions to see what he’d be like on his own in a competition arena. I’ve also done some more jumping with him with the Cambridgeshire Horsesport Academy. I love these sessions – we’re still working hard to improve technique, but somehow the balance between courage and technical skill seems to align better with my capabilities in jumping than in dressage!
Vaulting has had a very positive start to the year. I’ve ordered my first ever custom-made catsuit for this year’s competitions and I’m very excited to see how that will turn out. I’ve also picked my music for the year, and have almost finalised a freestyle routine. There have been various variations of the routine but I think I’m now in a place where my new freestyle has all the harder elements I wanted to include whilst still being not only manageable but also something that I should be able to pull off well in competition. Since the British Championships my repertoire has expanded enormously in walk, trot and canter. I’m loving the fact that I learn something new and consolidate recently acquired skills every single session. I’m also starting to see improvements in all-round flexibility, strength and co-ordination – which, though small, are so encouraging!
RDA volunteer work
My responsibilities with the RDA have kept me busy too. I’m putting together an e-newsletter for the Eastern region, complete with interviews, features and puzzles (with prizes kindly donated by Cambridge University Riding Club). For vaulting, I’ve put together a PDF of moves for beginners and those wanting to put together their first freestyle routines. The photos and descriptions have been printed off, laminated and put on display in one new RDA vaulting group, and apparently it’s proving very useful so far! I’m also looking forward to welcoming coaches and volunteers from that group to Cambridge for a session at our vaulting club in early February.
Added to all this I’ve just started a new job which – so far – I really enjoy. I feel lucky that I can do a job where I have autonomy and can exercise my own professional judgement. I’m also lucky that it’s a job which should be challenging and rewarding in equal measure. It certainly helps to meet the costs of training, but, more than anything else, it feels so good to have a job at all. Since disability really took hold for me, finding an appropriate job has been incredibly difficult. Regaining employment has been a key goal of mine since summer 2016 – so it’s really exciting to be able to tell the Occupational Therapist that I’ve actually achieved a goal!
Have two! (But you’ll have to click on them to appreciate the grim facial expressions…)