61-year-old pub landlord who started riding a year ago is aiming for Paris Paralympic gold

  • A 61-year-old pub landlord who started riding a year ago is aiming to go to the Paris Paralympics, win gold — and inspire as many people into the sport as possible.

    Steve Cotten, who is registered blind as he has very limited vision as a result of glaucoma, was given two horses a year ago, and has since been learning to ride the younger, a 25-year-old part-bred Shire mare called Tammy. He now has three lessons a week at a riding school, and has also been taught by Badminton course-designer Eric Winter and top eventer Nick Gauntlett.

    Steve, who runs the “off-grid”, solar-powered Poltimore Arms on Exmoor, said he is hoping also to encourage Lucinda Green or Mary King to come to give him some lessons, but his main aim is Paris 2024.

    “The aim is to go and win gold for the pub,” he said. “I’m not allowed to drive because my eyesight has gone but I’d qualify as a para rider; I’ve filled in the forms and I’m waiting for grading.”

    Steve says he has never been scared while riding. Tammy has been known to throw some shapes but, he said, “I thought all horses were like that, and would dance about and throw you off”.

    “I haven’t competed yet but I will,” he added. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get selected.”

    Steve said he believes his lack of vision made learning to ride almost easier; for example he has to feel when he is on the correct diagonal rather than looking down, and he believes he will be able to find the right horse to progress on through his clients at the pub.

    He added that he hopes to show that “if I can do it anyone can”.

    “I’m not rich and haven’t got the slightest bit of blue blood,” he said. “I used to be a real p***head landlord and now I’d recommend riding to anyone. It’s the most exhilarating thing ever.

    “The number of people who have never ridden and have mental issues, and I’ve got them on a horse and it all goes out of the window. They can’t get enough of it. It’s a serious workout and the health benefits are incredible, as long as you don’t fall off and break, which I don’t intend to do!

    “It can be seen as incredibly elitist but it doesn’t have to be, so if I can inspire anyone to get on a horse [that would be great]; I’d recommend this to anyone.”

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