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Injured eventer Kate Hunter aims high in para dressage

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A teenager who suffered terrible brain injuries in a fall while eventing three years ago is now competing at para dressage – and has been accepted on to a prestigious training programme.

Kate Hunter, 17, was injured in a fall on the BE90 cross-country course at Bishop Burton Horse Trials, Lincs, on 30 May 2009.

She was in a coma for three weeks and spent four months in hospital, relearning to walk and talk.

She started riding again as part of her therapy, but within two years has progressed so far that she is now a member of the British Equestrian Federation’s Excel Talent Programme for young riders.

Kate, from Market Rasen, Lincs is a grade 3 para rider. Grade 1 (of 4) is for those with the most severe disabilities.

She told H&H: “My left side is weaker where my pony rolled on me.

“I’ve got a right-frontal lobe brain injury, which means I find some of the finer motor movements difficult. I can’t do fiddly things, like doing up buckles or plaiting,” she added.

Kate’s parents took her to their local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) centre six months after the accident.

She advanced quickly on its horses and, in 2010, won several classes at the RDA national championships at Hartpury, posting the highest dressage score of the weekend with 77%.

This led to her being talent-spotted by the BEF.

She competes her 16.3hh gelding, Bertie, but is advertising for another horse in this week’s H&H, as it is difficult keeping him sound.

“Before the accident it was always my dream to compete for Great Britain at eventing,” said Kate. “Now my long-term goal is to ride in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.”

Para coach Karen Thompson, who has taught Kate since she returned to riding, said her pupil had made “amazingly fast” progress.

“Within two to three months of getting her to sit on the mechanical horse, we were thinking about competitive riding,” said Mrs Thompson.

“She is very rewarding to teach, with that rare ability to do what you ask her to do.

“Taking [another pupil] Emma Sheardown from a therapy rider to a strong contender for London 2012 was an exciting journey – I think this could be just as good,” she added.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (19 April 2012)

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