Rio medallist ‘heartbroken’ as top ride’s future hangs in the balance

  • Sophie Wells’ Paralympic gold medallist Valerius may not compete again after he was diagnosed with a suspensory injury in both hind legs in January.

    The prognosis is uncertain for the 16-year-old Flemmingh gelding, known as Reece, who has undergone shockwave therapy at Newmarket Equine Hospital.

    “His career is likely to no longer continue how I’ve known it,” Sophie said in an emotional Facebook post. “It’s fair to say I was heartbroken at the news.”

    Sophie and Reece claimed team and individual gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, and have also competed successfully up to grand prix in able-bodied dressage. They finished ninth in the inter I at the 2017 British Dressage national championships.

    “It started with a niggle after the nationals, and we took him to Newmarket in January as we couldn’t get to the bottom of it,” grade V para rider Sophie told H&H. “I found out the diagnosis while at squad training, which made it especially hard as everyone was asking about Reece.

    “Originally the prognosis was not good, and they thought he wouldn’t come back to work at all, but now they think there’s a chance he might be able to do something at a low level — it depends if he will be able to tolerate trotting. I’m not sure how he’d cope with that mentally, but I’m trying not to think too far ahead.”

    Over the 11 years that Sophie and Reece have been a partnership, they have won nine gold medals and three silver medals across European and World Championships and Paralympic Games.

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    “He has never been the most talented, but he loved the attention work brought, and we sure put in a lot of work over the years to develop him into the horse he became,” said Sophie in her tribute.

    “He’s played a massive part I making me the rider and trainer I am today… I will stay positive in the belief miracles can happen.”

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