A rider whose medical conditions means she suffers frequent dislocations, twisting limbs and periods of blindness and paralysis is planning a 50-mile fundraising ride across Dartmoor.
Grade IV para rider Kirstie McPherson has connective tissue disorder Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS) and neurological disorder generalised dystonia. She also suffers with hemiplegic migraines.
This July, Covid restrictions permitting, she will ride her recently backed loan horse Mimosa on the trek, which is expected to take three days, in aid of the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust. She has aleady raised more than £1,100 on her fundraising page.
Mother of six Kirstie told H&H she was only diagnosed with the dystonia six years ago, but this did not fully explain her varied symptoms.
“Then one day, I was standing there talking to a client and my leg fell out,” she said. “It shot out and went backwards; great impression to give a client!”
With no idea what had happened, Kirstie was taken to hospital.
“It took 30 minutes for the ambulance to get there and the pain was excruciating,” she said.
“The funniest moment was when I opened my eyes and someone said ‘You can stop screaming now’!”
As doctors tried to find out what had caused such a severe hip dislocation, they were also unsure whether Kirstie would walk again.
She cites her “superhero”surgeon as the driving force behind her recovery, but the incident also led finally to her EDS diagnosis.
“I was very lucky while I was in hospital,” Kirstie said. “I felt life was a bit rubbish, and thought ‘What if I can’t walk again?’ and more importantly, would I be able to ride? It makes my doctor laugh that I always say not ‘Can I walk’ but ‘Can I ride my horse?’”
The Rio Paralympics were also on television while Kirstie was in hospital.
“There was one rider who had no pelvis,” she said. “She was amazing, and I thought if she can do it, I’ve got absolutely no excuse. Watching her was a great inspiration.”
Kirstie contacted multiple para dressage medallist Lee Pearson to thank him also for inspiring her, and he replied, and eventually travelled to Cornwall to teach her.
Kirstie had to learn to ride again, without the use of her left leg. A few years, she undertook a 13-mile sponsored ride to buy a defibrillator for her local Riding for the Disabled Association centre, for which she was a trustee.
“Two hours in, both my knees dislocated but not being a defeatist, and knowing the reason I was there, I finished,” she said. “My husband had to lift me off my horse and my kids relocated my knees as my husband sorted my horse. I made around £900 that day and the Lions Club, hearing my achievement, paid the rest so the centre got its defibrillator. I think they were worried about me dislocating anything else!”
The memory of that gruelling ride means Kirstie knows how hard this summer’s ride will be, but she is determined to raise money for the air ambulance, from which she and friends have benefited in the past.
She will be riding her “beautiful giraffe” Mimosa, on loan from Mandy Edwards, whom she went to view as her mare Connie had had an injury, and Kirstie wanted to compete in dressage, which Connie did not like.
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She had not expected to take on a 16hh unbacked youngster, but when she first met “Mimi”, “she put her head down, looked into my eyes and I thought ‘I love you’. And that was that.”
Kirstie said she is “slightly nervous” but looking forward to the ride, which she hopes will highlight the work of the Para Equestrian Foundation and promote para endurance, as well as raising as much money as possible.
“I look to set challenges for myself every day,” she added. “I think it’s a good way of life; life’s not what you can’t do, it’s what you can do that matters.
“Life is a challenge, and you can sit on your backside and think it’s horrible, and yes it can be, but it’s what you make it. You can find something positive in every day, if you look hard enough.”
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