Lee Pearson has a vast number of championship medals to his name thanks to his success in the world of para dressage. But there are some things you probably don’t know about him yet — let’s find out…
1. Sir Lee Pearson has been to five Paralympic Games, winning 11 gold medals. Before turning to para dressage, he had an office job for six years with the Co-op, but says: “I am actually allergic to paperwork.”
2. He jokes that he’s been collecting the full set of honours, going from MBE in 2001, an OBE in 2005, a CBE in 2009 and a knighthood in 2017. “As a Paralympian they made me work for it!”
3. Lee was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which means the muscles in his arms and legs didn’t grow correctly in the womb. After his birth he was kept in a broom cupboard for three days while his mum was sedated as the medics thought he wouldn’t survive. His face was originally covered with a birthmark; he had 14 major operations in his childhood and also nearly died of whooping cough.
4. He first came to public attention in 1980, aged six, when the prime minister Margaret Thatcher carried him up the stairs in 10, Downing Street, having awarded him a “Children in Courage” medal.
5. Lee has bred several horses from his mare Sedona H (Sadie), who is by Metall, including Styletta, his WEG ride (pictured), and Breezer, whom he hopes to bring out at international level this season. She has also bred an appaloosa, Albert, a yearling who lives in the field behind Lee’s home.
6. Although Lee’s disability means he rides a walk-trot test in para competitions, he has trained horses up to grand prix level, such as Blue Circle Boy, who won three golds at Athens.
7. He is considering showing his Italian greyhound. Azure — also known as Az, Azbo, and “Stupor Mundi Mini Wolf Azure”, says Lee. She was bought in Poland and permanently wears a fleece, even indoors with the woodburner on.
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8. Ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Lee challenged the Russian president Vladimir Putin on the country’s anti-gay legislation after hearing that any publicity on homosexuals was banned.
“I said I’d visit Sochi and see if I, as a known gay man, might get thrown in prison — just to highlight this crazy thing going on,” he says. “But in the end I couldn’t afford to go!”
9. Lee helps out in a homeless shelter a few nights a week, serving food and washing dishes.
“The clients do know I’m a knight, and some of them like to see photos of me riding and ask for selfies,” he says.
10. His favourite drink? “I don’t drink much — I’m not the wildchild I’m sometimes portrayed as. I try to eat healthily and if I do drink it’s only one or two and it has to taste like a soft drink — Tia Maria and coke.”
Don’t miss the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, which is out now (dated 21 February 2019), where you can read a full interview with Lee Pearson