‘An inspiration to many’: rider with severe learning difficulties overcomes hurdles to make show ring debut

  • Christopher Sinnott is proof that despite the challenges and barriers that life can throw at us, anyone can follow their dreams — especially when it involves horses.

    Described by his twin sister, Vicky, as an inspiration to many, Christopher has severe learning difficulties, expressive and receptive language delay and global development delay.

    The 29-year-old siblings were born three-months premature and spent time on a special baby care unit. Christopher suffered severe brain damage due to being deprived of oxygen in the womb.

    Despite his battles, Christopher has not let any hurdles hold him back and, in November, he took to the saddle aboard Vicky’s pony Glynwyn Predicts A Riot at the Supreme Showdown at Warren Farm EC in Merseyside.

    “Just seeing him in the ring brought tears to both mine and my mother’s eyes,” said Vicky. “For him to do so well and clean up [the rosettes, pictured below] throughout the competition made us all so proud.”

    The Supreme Showdown was the brainchild of Dee Castellano and, since its inception, has grown from strength to strength.

    The idea behind the show was to allow riders of all abilities to compete on a level playing field, encouraging anyone with a disability to get into the saddle and have fun. The venue now holds two Supreme Showdowns a year — a summer championship held in June and a winter championship held in October.

    Christopher first picked up the reins aged five with Crosby Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

    “He has experienced significant positive changes with his communication and confidence while learning horsemanship,” said Vicky. “Riot is not an RDA pony but when they’re together they have such a special bond. He really looks after him, it’s like he knows.

    “My brother has always watched me compete and I have always wanted to watch him achieve his dreams, as riding gives him freedom and empowerment. For most riders, being in the saddle is second nature but for my brother it was a huge achievement. Seeing him compete against both able-bodied and disabled riders was such a beautiful moment for us to watch.”

    For Vicky, horses have also played a pivotal role in helping her deal with mental health issues, having been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression aged 16.

    She became the owner of 12.2hh Welsh section C Riot in 2012, when he was a six-year-old.

    “We have been through so much together, from starting out at local working hunter shows to competing at county level — last season we also did some Royal International qualifiers,” adds university student Vicky, who is studying adult nursing alongside working as a health care assistant.

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    “Riot is the reason I get up every morning with a smile on my face. He gives me the courage to keep going and is better than any therapy.”

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