A talented rider is determined to make the British para dressage team at next year’s Paralympics — before her condition leaves her unable to ride.
Julie Payne, who has multiple system atrophy (MSA), is seeking a horse to compete and ultimately take her to Rio 2016.
In two year’s time Julie will be wheelchair-bound, but until then she wants to make the most of her time in the saddle.
The grade IV para rider, who runs a livery yard in Oxford, had been competing her loan horse, Little Lewis.
Julie and Little Lewis qualified for the British para dressage championships at Hickstead (26-27 June) and were selected to go to the three-star international at the 2015 festival of dressage at Hartpury (July 8-12).
However, the 18-year-old gelding was beginning to show his age and Julie decided to retire him before these competitions.
She is now looking for a horse of at least prix st georges standard and hopes to be chosen as travelling reserve for the British para dressage team.
“To be selected as a reserve would just be the absolute icing on the cake,” Julie told H&H.
“It would be a fantastic end to my career — it would just be incredible.”
Julie was diagnosed with MSA in August 2013 and was given two to seven years to live.
She began competing in para dressage immediately after her diagnosis.
“It’s like having multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s and chronic fatigue syndrome all in one,” she said.
“My voice wavers sometimes — I know what I want to say but I can’t get my words out, so speech can be a problem.
“I have weakness all over but I am generally quite weak down my right side of my body.
“My balance walking is very bad and my coordination has been affected.”
Julie added that when riding her balance improves.
“When I sit on a horse it’s better — the horse seems to counteract my sense of straightness,” she said.
Those who can help Julie with her search for a horse can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org