Sophie Wells’ dressage blog: Falling in love at the Global Dressage Forum

  • About four months ago I was invited to take part in the Global Dressage Forum. I couldn’t quite believe it! It’s long been a dream to just go and watch the forum – it’s always full of the biggest names in dressage, but to ride at such a prestigious event was incredible.

    It was also a big year for the forum – the first time it was held outside the Netherlands, but also the first time para dressage has been included. A big step forward for our sport.

    Being held in Denmark at the Blue Hors Stud, the Danish Para team were heavily involved. Annika Lykke Risum and Stinna Tange also took part and Annika led our demo.

    Our main aim was to portray our sport in a positive light, that it wasn’t so much about disability but more about ability. To educate and open eyes to what can be achieved when overcoming challenges.

    Because Denmark it’s quite a distance to travel, it was decided that I would try and ride one of the horses from the Blue Hors Stud. Which was very exciting but also very nerve wracking!

    Nerve pain

    I had a bit of a challenge the night before as the nerves in my legs kicked off, causing a lot of nerve pain, a lot worse than I have had for a while, to the point where I couldn’t put any weight on them.

    The next morning after a bad night’s sleep they were a little better but painful to drive. I went to see my sport massage therapist, Darren, and he helped get my legs softer and the nerves moving better.

    I took my crutches to the airport and over to Denmark, just in case I needed them. My legs were very fragile and I knew they could set off at any time, so I had to be very careful.

    Falling in love

    We arrived to try the horses that the stud had selected for us, to choose which would suit me the best. The stud is an incredible place, and almost like a dream, there is everything you could possibly want and more!

    Bossco was my first horse to try, a 17.1hh, chestnut gelding with 4 white stockings, by the famous Don Schufro with Michallano on the mother’s side.

    I got on him and instantly felt comfortable, secure, and happy, he gave me a great ride, even though we were both trying to figure each other’s aids out. We clicked and I fell in love with him.

    The two other horses I tried after Bossco were nice – a black 8-year-old and bay 6-year-old, but they didn’t live up to the feeling I got from Bossco. He also suited my disability well, good in the hand and responsive to the leg.

    I rode him in the main arena the next day before the forum started. He was a little nervous of the black curtain, and there were people banging around behind it, but he really listened to my reassurance and was so genuine about it. I never felt worried despite him being a new strange horse in a potentially big environment.

    We watched the forum that afternoon and evening, which was very interesting. Annika, Stinna, Angela and I had planned our section. But we were all very nervous, with the big names in dressage watching and listening. (No pressure!)

    Show time

    I warmed up in the arena next door as we only had a 15 minute slot, and then we went in. Bossco held his breath a little, but really listened and tried his best. He had such a lovely temperament and bundles of talent, I tried to learn the Danish for good boy, but it was very complicated, so decided he could probably learn the English easier than me learning Danish! I had a microphone on while I rode and Angela spoke as well. It was a good dynamic.

    We got a lot of positive feedback from the audience and panel afterwards. The Princess of Denmark, who is the president of the Global Dressage Foundation, made a statement expressing her disappointment that para dressage isn’t included in the Europeans next year. It was great to hear her passion in support of our sport.

    We quite literally had a bump back to reality when we arrived back in England, with it being quite stormy on Tuesday, but also the next day I spent seven hours riding outside in the rain, instead of the luxury of the stud.

    It was a truly amazing experience and a massive honour to be a part of the Global Dressage Forum. I was upset to have to leave Bossco at the Blue Hors Stud, but if I win the lottery I will definitely be bringing him home.

    I must also say a big ‘thank you’ to Champion and Toggi for the great kit they sent me before leaving for Denmark.

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