I’m lucky enough to have been selected onto the World Class Podium Potential programme which is the icing on the cake — I didn’t think my year could get any better!
This was a great piece of news to help me through recovery after a recent operation on my ears. The operation went according to plan, apart from the fact that as per usual I had to put a spanner in the works as my day case admission turned into an overnight stay! An overdue week resting at home, spending time with my niece and nephew was all I needed to recharge the batteries and get back to Gloucestershire ready to get back in the saddle and hit the gym again.
The announcement of the World Class squad was swiftly followed by a trip to Warwickshire for a two-day induction which was followed by our first squad training weekend.
The induction was a great insight into the plans and support team we will be working with over the next two years. The two days were incredibly inspiring as we were also privileged enough to have a talk from iconic Olympic butterfly swimmer Jemma Lowe about her journey including her highs and lows. It’s safe to say we all came away from the induction not only inspired, but excited about the next two years. I rode the horses at Talland on my way back and clearly remember having a smile permanently fixed on my face! I think it was because I realised I actually have a future ahead of me, something I never thought I’d be able to say four years ago.
The following weekend was filled with my first World Class squad training at Solihull. It was intense, packed full of information and completely incredible.
We had sessions with both human and equine practitioners. My weekend started with the vet (Tim Randle), farrier (Andrew Bowyer) and equine physio (Helen Mathie) having an overall look at the horses. It was very interesting to have their feedback and to make a plan for the future.
We had positional analysis with Russell Guire and Mark Fisher (sadder) alongside the human physio (Lucy Bell) and our strength and conditioning coach (Carys Jackson) also having a look. This involved having our position videoed in slow motion riding away from the camera, looking at how our body is moving in terms of straightness and if we are compensating in any way. My position has certainly improved since my last assessment, however, I still have a tendency to not sit on my right bum cheek and tilt my head to the right, compensating for my visionary issues.
Over the past few months I have been trying to wear an eye patch from time to time while I am riding. This is due to my vestibular disorder causing me to struggle with my vision and making me dizzy once I get off a horse. Interestingly, with the eye patch on I was almost completely straight in my head position, so this is something I am going to continue to work on over the coming months.
On the second day we had test riding practice, which was judged by David Hamer and also involved a lot of input from the selectors and coaches. This was particularly helpful as we were riding the new 2017 para dressage team test. After we had completed the test we went back through it on the screen and broke down each movement, analysing how we could have gained those all-important extra marks.
We also had a whole host of help from the human sport science team, including help from Dr Sally Nicholson (doctor), Lucy Bell (physio), Julia Scott Douglas (dietician), Jane Mawdsley (performance lifestyle), and Jennie Killilea (sport psychologist).
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I felt sorry for them having to go through my complicated medical history. It was fantastic to be able to have a massive overall look at all the areas I am needing some added help with in order to try and aid my performance in the arena.
It’s now time to consolidate and put everything into practice in order to come out stronger in 2017. It’s also time for lots of Christmas parties and for it to be totally acceptable to eat our bodyweight in delicious food!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank not only the incredible team that have worked closely with me to help make everything possible, but also thank you to everyone who has supported me from afar over the past few years; it means the world to me.
“Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits”