Golden Paralympics inspire bounce effect

Horse sport enjoyed a well-documented “Olympic bounce” and now it appears that the success of Team GBR’s para riders is having the same effect.

British Dressage (BD) told H&H that it had seen a “large increase” in interest, with more than 100 calls from people enquiring about the sport since the Paralympics, at which Britain won 14 medals.

“People are really inspired; it’s excellent news that the Games has encouraged more riders — you can’t help being proud,” said double gold medal-winner Deb Criddle, who is patron of the Conquest Equestrian Centre in Taunton.

A spokesman for the centre added: “We’re so proud of Deb and hope her success will inspire more riders in the area.”

Riding For the Disabled Association (RDA), which has around 30,000 riders at 500 centres, is also reporting a surge in interest.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of groups seeing a large spike in enquiries,” said a spokesman.

Vauxhill City Farm in south London told H&H it had seen a rise in keen RDA volunteers, as well as an increase in people wanting riding lessons.

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is hoping to build further on this interest.

A new training initiative designed to help young disabled riders on to the pathway to Paralympic success is being rolled out. The BEF Para-equestrian Entry Programme — which is funded by Sport England — offers free coaching to talented young riders with disabilities, aged between 12-18, from top international trainers at various RDA venues.

Trainers already lined up to take part include Angela Weiss, who trains Sophie Wells, and Sacha Hamilton, who coaches Natasha Baker.

“Many of our Paralympic medallists started riding at their local RDA centres,” said the BEF’s David Hamer. “This initiative has been designed to inspire and encourage talented young para equestrians and give them clear goals.”

Next month the first ParalympicsGB Sports Fest is to be hosted to “harness the increased interest levels in disability sport”.

It will be at the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford on 3-4 December.

For more information visit www.bef.co.uk.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (1 November 2012)