British gold medallist to climb Ben Nevis to fund Tokyo dream

She’s already abseiled down the ArcelorMittal Orbit building in London, climbed Snowdon — and won triple gold at the 2017 European Championships — but para dressage rider Julie Payne will taken on another huge challenge next month — climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.

The 57-year-old, who currently competes as a grade II para rider, suffers from multiple system atrophy (MSA), which she describes as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and chronic fatigue syndrome all in one.

In 2012, doctors told Julie that within two years she would not be able to walk or speak, and this incredible rider has already defied the odds by a huge margin. Now, she has launched a fundraising campaign to both raise money for the MSA Trust and help fund her bid for Tokyo Paralympic selection.

“Ever since I was diagnosed with MSA I’ve been doing things on my bucket list — things I’ve always wanted to do — and raising money for the MSA Trust,” said Julie, who will take on the Ben Nevis climb on 18 June.

“I will have a support group with me, which includes a paramedic who is also a climber, a photographer and a couple of other friends, who will carry my equipment for me so I can focus on the climb.”

Julie has been training for the climb using a treadmill and through her strength and conditioning regime that is part of the World Class programme.

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“I don’t have much ability to push down with my legs so I’ve been walking on a treadmill with an incline and using the sides to help me, and I will use poles while climbing,” she told H&H.

“I have to take lots of rests because fatigue kicks in really badly, so it will be slow, but I don’t care how long it takes as long as I achieve it.”

This summer, Julie will also start working towards her Paralympic goal with a new horse, the six-year-old Don Frederico x Rotspon gelding Larkshill Divinity, or Leo as he is known at home.

Julie plans to campaign Leo nationally alongside her older mare Pandora, before aiming for a foreign international next spring.

“Leo is the sweetest, cuddliest horse you could come across — everyone who has met him has fallen in love with him,” said Julie. “He was advertised as 17hh but I would say he’s nearer 18hh — he really is massive!

“But he’s very relaxed and takes everything in his stride. He’s such a super natured boy, with a good walk and trot and an amazing canter.”

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