Sophie Wells on how she got the ride on her London 2012 Paralympic star

  • Sophie Wells MBE is one of Britain’s most decorated para dressage riders, having won medals at Paralympics, World and European Championships.

    Sophie was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, a congenital disorder caused by entrapment of fetal parts in fibrous amniotic bands while in the womb. In Sophie’s case, the band wrapped around her fingers and legs, causing loss or partial loss of fingers on both hands. Plastic surgeons managed to move the amniotic bands around her legs therefore saving her feet, however deep scarring caused loss of sensation and feeling below the scars, and the constriction caused nerve problems as Sophie grew.

    Pinocchio is a horse that came into Sophie’s life in 2008 and in 2009 the pair won three gold medals at the European Championships and went on to win gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

    “I had just lost Touchdown, who had been my top horse due to a tumour in his foot after Beijing,” said Sophie, when H&H’s senior news writer Lucy Elder chatted to her on episode 57 of The Horse & Hound podcast. “So I needed something to take over from Touchdown to keep me on the world class programme and to keep moving forward. I enquired about Pinocchio, who had been advertised on for a long time. We didn’t have any money to put into a horse at all, but when I called his rider, Pippa Fisher, she said ‘sorry he’s not for sale anymore as he has just failed a vetting today’. So I asked how he had failed and she said he had a heart murmur.

    “But when I asked, Pippa said he was still fit and healthy and she wouldn’t have known about the murmur if Pinocchio hadn’t been vetted. So I enquired as to whether his owner would be interested in leasing or loaning him, and she said she would talk to them.”

    And the rest is basically history as Pinocchio’s owners, Jackie and Neil Walker, who owned him since he was five years old, enabled Sophie to initially lease and then loan him.

    “Pinocchio flew all around the world with us and gave his owners some amazing experiences – they are the most wonderful owners I could ever wish for and they’re still involved in horses with me now.” 

    If you’d like to hear more from Sophie, listen here to episode 57 of The Horse and Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

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