A gold medal-winning para dressage rider is appealing for the public to help her on the road to Tokyo 2020.
Deb Criddle has launched a crowdfunding page to help her secure her next star horse.
Deb’s former top ride, LJT Akilles is now 18 and has been out of work due to lameness.
The Somerset-based rider is determined to continue on her path to the next Olympics, but suffered an unfortunate set back last month.
“I was trying out a prospective horse and he didn’t cope with my right leg moving around and was a little bit too sensitive,” she told H&H.
“I fell and injured my right leg, the one that is already compromised, which meant I couldn’t ride for six weeks.”
During that time Deborah learnt that she had lost her UK Sport funding and her place on the British para dressage squad.
“I did take a couple of weeks off when I heard the news I was coming off the squad. It was a huge shock.
“I guess you could liken it to being made redundant, not that it’s happened to me before, but being part of the para team has been a major feature of my entire adult life. It’s obviously not as dramatic as it, but it feels as if I’ve lost another limb.
“I did initially think, ‘Do I just call it a day?’ But I’m not ready to. I live for my riding — it’s what gets me up in the morning.”
Deb has since recovered from her fall and remains positive about the future and regaining her position on the squad next year, but will need to find a new horse.
“The time Akilles has been off I have so missed going out to train,” she said.
“He is off work through a mystery lameness incurred while indulging in high jinks in the field.
“It is still under investigation as the root cause is being difficult to pin down, but I am hopeful of a final diagnosis that is treatable.
“He is very happy and comfortable being a field ornament at the moment!”
Time is running out
Deb has raised 26% of her £25,000 goal, but the crowdfunding page can only run for 120 days, leaving eight weeks to generate the funds.
“Time is really tight,” said Deb. “I need to find a suitable horse before the end of the summer to meet winter qualification targets and to be eligible for international competitions.
“I have to start from scratch and work through the world class system from podium potential. They start the next intake for that squad in August this year so I would really need to have a potential Tokyo horse in place before then to stand a chance of being selected.”
Deb explained that the temperament of her new horse, her future long-term partner, is paramount.
“The horse needs to have a clear four-beat walk with good overtrack and an expressive trot and canter,” she said.
“Horses are so adaptive, if the horse has not been ridden by a para rider before that has no bearing what so ever.”
Deb was seriously injured in a road accident, which left her with fractures to her leg and a paralysed arm, which has since been amputated.
“For me, being one handed, the contact is so important. The horse has to be very quiet in the mouth as tension shows up quickly and is, of course, penalised by the judge.
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“My ultimate goal is to make it to Tokyo 2020 and produce the horse so we reach our peak performance where it matters, on the field of play. I want us to be the very best that we can be, and a real partnership.”
Those who donate £1,000 or more towards Deb’s horse will be treated in a similar way to syndicate members.
“They will be part of the process from the start,” she said. “They will be invited to yard visits, training sessions, behind-the-scenes opportunities at competitions and receive regular updates. They will get to know the horse and his routine.”
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This week’s edition (31 May) is a training special, including a look at the world’s top trainers and whether you should have multiple coaches. Also check out our summer clothing guide, interview with showjumper and recent winner of the Hamburg Derby, Matt Sampson and feature on health problems in miniature horses