WHILE Welsh cob Gwenfythen Amber may have been impressing the judges in the show ring, it’s his owner Lydia Grace who has been attracting the most attention.
Despite relying on crutches to walk, the Birmingham-based 15-year-old has become adept at showing her horse in hand.
Lydia, who suffers from hereditary spastic paraparesis, has ridden since she was five but only took up in-hand showing last year.
“I never believed I’d be able to run with him but I’m pretty determined!” said Lydia, whose condition severely affects the muscles in her legs.
“It all started when I was playing with him in the field. I realised that he just followed me and we took it from there.”
While showing Welsh Cobs in an event atmosphere can sometimes prove a handful, Lydia’s reliable bond with the 15-year-old “Jamber” attracted plenty of admiration at the recent Welsh National Championship Show on 8 August.
“He kind of spins a bit sometimes but he doesn’t do anything naughty. As soon as I calm down, he relaxes,” she explained.
“I honestly don’t know how we do it. I have him in my right hand, I ask him to trot on and he follows me. He knows not to come into my space — he’ll take a step forward and one to the side so as to not trip me up.”
Lydia has owned Jamber for two-and-a-half years and they compete across disciplines including show jumping, cross-country, dressage and mounted games.
“He loves his jumping but our main discipline is now showing,” said Lydia, whose best results have included reserve champion at last year’s High Horse Showing Society Gala.
“I’d love to compete him at the Horse of the Year Show. That would be my main dream. Other than that, we just like to have fun.”
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Lydia credits horses with having helped improve her condition, as a result of which she was in a wheelchair when she was five, progressing to a walking frame when she was 10 and later crutches.
“Riding has made my legs a lot stronger, as well as the running now,” she said. “It can be a bit unpredictable as when it’s cold, they can go into spasm and I can’t move.”
After sitting her GCSEs next year, Lydia is hoping to study for an equine qualification at Hartpury