January 2018

December 2017 was a month to forget in training terms, but fortunately January 2018 proved to be more successful! After completely resting a neck injury for six weeks I was raring to go, and although I’m having to take it a bit easy it feels great to be out and about and exercising again.

This month I have…

  • competed in the RDA Dressage Anywhere qualifiers – and successfully qualified for the Championship!
  • had a side saddle lesson in which we did more canter work and some lateral work
  • done some more coaching
  • carried on learning new skills (and desperately trying to consolidate old ones) at gymnastics, with a view to entering some competitions later in the year…
  • given a couple of talks on RDA and me in general!
  • had far too many appointments with various medical professionals
  • got back into my race chair!
Having a little ride on Oliver – we went better once I ditched the stirrups!

RDA Dressage Anywhere Qualifier

This is an event I took part in last year (you can read a bit more about it here). Thanks to my injuries and general deterioration this year, I decided not to enter a canter test and opted instead for a walk and trot test. This was duly filmed – first on my friend Penny’s horse, Oliver (see photo above), and then on good old RDA horse Rolo. Oliver was a good boy but I ride Rolo better so that’s the version that was sent off in the end. We achieved a score of 70.56% which was enough to win our class – of only one entry this month! Even though we weren’t in direct competition it was good to see that this score is still very competitive with previous entrants who have also qualified for the final. Given that I rode the test in a neck brace and feeling pretty awful I hope I can improve on the score.

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Final halt with Rolo

Side saddle

I had another side saddle lesson on Rolo – the first time I’d ridden aside since we were Reserve Champions at the RDA SEIB Search for a Star final. We did some trotting but even with my neck brace on this was extremely painful for me, so after that we focussed on canter and getting some leg yield in walk. Rolo somehow read my mind to do some lovely ‘legless leg yield’ (i.e. moving forwards and sideways away from the side where you don’t have any legs). I don’t quite know what aids I gave him so it makes it hard to recreate it if I think too hard about it! I was pleased that, despite the pain in my neck, I hadn’t completely forgotten how to ride aside.

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Legless leg yield – concentration face!


I’m soon to be the proud holder of a Log Book for RDA Coaching – the first official step on the path to becoming an RDA coach! I frequently run the warm-up sessions for the riders, which I really enjoy as it gives you a chance to get to know them all and to give them something just a bit different to do each time. I’m learning loads from being on the other end of riding coaching. It’s deceptively difficult!

I’m also hoping to train up as a vaulting coach, in particular to coach RDA vaulters. I’ve had some preliminary discussions about it so now it just needs to be a case of proving what I can do and learning the things I can’t do yet, then hopefully I’ll be qualified to take a more proactive role.

Preparing for our riders


The most important thing for me here was to get back on the bars and do that skill which went wrong, making me hurt my neck. I need to do it regularly and frequently so that I don’t get scared of it! On ‘vault’ (I’m not sure what I do could be described as a vault!) I’m working on getting plenty of bounce out of a springboard in order to be able to use that to propel my feet up into the air. Given that I don’t have the luxury of a 35m run up it’s vital to get the energy from elsewhere, and I’m only just getting the confidence (and technique) to do that properly. Doing lots of drills where you lean on a vault with your hands and keep ‘donkey kicking’ up from a trampette or springboard has helped – but I’m not always brilliantly in control, and trampettes and springboards are not soft things to land on! Still, I’m having fun and making gradual process so it’s all OK.

A rare moment of not falling off!

Talks on RDA

I love talking, I love the RDA, and I love combining those things! I do quite a few talks now for all kinds of groups, from Brownie Guides and school children to businessmen and -women and the WI. I’m currently planning a talk to a group of girl guides with a rough age range of 10 years – we’re going to make it good and fun and get them doing some little contests for rosettes too!

Everyone loves a rosette! Credit to Emily Cole


I’m fed up of the hospital now, after spending way too much time there in January. On the plus side, I’ve had my steroid injection into my acromioclavicular joint (which was all fine) and I have met the orthotists a couple of times, who are hopefully going to provide me with a special suit to help with my lumbar scoliosis, and with some form of AFOs to help my legs. Deciding upon appropriate orthotics for my legs has proved a bit of a headache – not only do my nerves do the wrong thing compared to healthy people; they also do the wrong thing compared to most disabled people because of the interaction of lots of biomechanical issues in my joints.


Wheelchair racing

Having met my shoulder surgeon, I decided it was the right time to get back into my race chair. He said that he probably won’t be able to do the surgery until the spring, which would mean I would be unable to train for regional and national competitions, but he also felt that we could afford to leave it until later in the year so that it doesn’t clash with training and competitions. I wasn’t prepared to spend more than a year out of my race chair so, with the support of medics and coaches, I’m gradually getting going again. It feels great for my brain but not so much for my body right now! Doing too much too soon is a bad habit of mine and I’m keen for this to work properly, so sessions are currently short and light. This feels OK at the time, but the last few I’ve had have felt horrendous afterwards pain-wise. I’ve got my sights set on a 10k at the beginning of May, so I just hope I can get going by then…

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It wasn’t exactly sunny, but at least there was daylight…


This month’s joker is a nice one. Boysie and I are famous – here we are on the front cover of Horsemanship magazine!


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