A para rider who suffers frequent dislocations and periods of blindness and paralysis has completed an epic 51-mile trek across Dartmoor to raise funds for the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust.
Grade IV para rider Kirstie McPherson, who has connective tissue disorder Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS) and neurological disorder generalised dystonia, completed the three-day trek on Monday (19 July) with two friends.
She told H&H she rode a mile and a half with a dislocated knee on day one — having to bite on her water bottle as it was put back in as “I didn’t want to scream in front of the others” — and lost the sight in one eye on the second day owing to a hemiplegic migraine.
She suffered an allergic reaction to the tape used on her relocated knee, bruised her eye when she hit it on a door she could not see on the second night, and her fragile skin broke in “areas you can’t imagine”.
“But it was 100% worth it,” she said.
“Those were probably the worst bits of the ride, but the biggest down side was coming home; we’re already planning the next one.”
It had been doubtful a week before the ride whether Kirstie would be able to go; her loan mare Mimi “had an argument with a tree” during a ride in the woods, thinking she and her rider could fit under a branch that was too low, and Kirstie came off backwards.
She hit her head and lost her sight temporarily but after eight and a half hours in hospital, was allowed home.
“All I could think was ‘oh my god, they’re not going to let me go on my ride’,” said Kirstie.
“I burst into tears and one of the nurses said ‘I bet it’s really scary’, and I said ‘No, I don’t want to miss my ride!’ I’ve spent four months training for this and I didn’t want to let everyone down.”
Kirstie’s determination meant she, coach Emily Lyndon and endurance rider Vicky Bartlett set out as planned, leaving early on Saturday morning and finishing on Monday afternoon.
“It was magical,” Kirstie said. “The views, the friendships made, the gallops, and Mimi was absolutely amazing, she didn’t put a foot wrong.
The rider lost her finger when her ring was caught in the rug strap of a horse who panicked and
“People keep saying it was my charity ride but it wasn’t; I couldn’t have done it without Vicky planning it and being amazing, the support of Emily and her parents, Vicky’s husband and sons being our support crew. It was a team effort.
“And Mimi blew me away. I loved her from the moment I saw her but the confidence I’ve built with her on this ride is amazing. She showed me her beautiful heart over and over again, and as a para rider, the most important thing is to have that bond. She blew me away.”
Kirstie is planning a longer ride next summer, to raise funds for the Devon and Cornwall air ambulances.
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