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Do you own an “Olympic” horse?

Britain’s elite disabled riders are looking for top dressage horses to take to the next Paralympics

The British squad at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games will be competing on their own, rather than borrowed, horses for the first time, and horsepower may prove to be the key to a medal winning performance or the team coming home empty handed.

“We need the help of the dressage industry to trust us to compete their horses, so that we can match the opposition and bring back medals for Britain,” says Nicola Tustain, a member of the gold medal-winning team at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.

The squad are looking for horses under 16 year of age with three good paces and a matching temperament. At the top end, they need to be working around advanced medium/prix st georges level, with good canter half-pirouettes and tempi changes.

Some squad members have their own horses, including Nicola’s medium level horse, Hotstuff, and Lee Pearson’s dun, Blue Circle Boy. However, like our other top Olympians, they cannot rely on having just one horse on whom to make a medal bid.

Horsepower is key

Jane Goldsmith, director of training for the British Paralympic squad, reckons that the team needs another five mounts, which are capable of cutting the mustard.

“I’ve been trying out horses here and on the continent and have had offers for possible horses from top riders, including eventer Bettina Hoy. Dressage rider Nathalie Heappey has just lent her ride, Irving, to Kay Gebbie, a grade IV rider, who is trained by Carl Hester,” she says.

The timetable is tight, with World Championships next year and the Paralympics in 2004. So, the horses must be found by this winter in order to cement the partnerships before the heat is on.

The Paralympic squad is happy to loan horses on a long-term basis, but it also has funds to buy them. British Dressage chairman Desi Dillingham has persuaded several worthy individuals to provide the finance to secure some top horses.

“I cannot overestimate the amount of fun an owner can have. It’s an amazing feeling to lend a horse to someone who will compete it at the highest level,” says Ann Cutcliffe, the Paralympic chef d’equipe and vice chairman of the British Paralympic Association.

If you think you have a horse which might be suitable for the Paralympic Elite Squad, please contact Jane Goldsmith via British Dressage (tel: 02476 698830).

New look for RDA Championships

More than 130 disabled riders of all ages will be heading to Hartpury College, Glos, from all over the country for this year’s innovative RDA national championships.

For the first time, they will compete in a wide range of competitions, including arts and crafts, carriage driving, dressage,horse care and knowledge, horse/pony and rider, musical ride, and tack and turnout.

This new concept was due to be launched last year, but had to be cancelled due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (18 July), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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