Grade IV para rider Sophie Wells, 20, has become the first disabled rider to represent Britain at a major able-bodied championship — the young rider Europeans in Kronberg, Germany (20-25 July).
Sophie has amniotic band syndrome, which limits the use of her hands and ankles. She is riding Dr Jackie Walker’s Pinocchio, joining team-mates Charlie Hutton, Emily Harris and Susannah Coleridge-Smith.
Sophie said: “I still can’t believe it, I’m so excited. It’s wonderful to be the first para rider to compete on able-bodied teams. I owe it to my trainer Angela Weiss — she’s transformed Pinocchio’s way of going.”
Sophie was initially selected as second reserve, but learnt on 14 July she would replace 19-year-old Laura Swain, who was deselected at a training camp.
Laura’s trainer Nicky Barrett told H&H: “This is an unforgivable thing to do to a young rider and will completely knock her confidence. If they were in any doubt, they should not have put her on the team.”
Laura added: “There was a week and a half still to train, but they didn’t want to help me — they just ditched me.
“They wanted me to say I had stood down from team selection, but that’s not true.”
A British Dressage statement read: “Due to a recent loss of form, the selectors took the difficult decision to move Laura Swain to the reserve list.”
Sophie Wells has also had the call-up to for the British paradressage team for the World Equestrian Games (26 September-10 October).
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (22 July, ’10)