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Stud owner paralysed in fall to complete wheelchair marathon in top rider’s memory

A stud owner who was paralysed in a riding accident is planning to complete a marathon in her wheelchair in memory of showing producer Rory Gilsenan.

Sharon Mynard, who runs the Dry Leys Stud near Quainton, will push herself 26.2 miles to raise funds for the charity Brain Tumour Research.

Rory died on 22 April at the age of 50 having been diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2018.

“He battled it with the most amazing Irish determination that anyone possibly could, his family have been a total inspiration to many,” said Sharon, who was a friend of the Irishman for many years.

“Although raising the money won’t help Rory, it might help someone else in the same position.

“One of the reasons I am doing this is that brain cancer research attracts less than 1% of the government spend — cancer is dreadful in all forms but it’s the fact this hits people so young, and so many children, that is the scary bit,” she added.

Sharon got to know Rory when he took over the ride on her stallions Dexter’s Puzzle and Dexter IV, going on to compete Puzzle at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal Windsor.

“The thing about Rory was that he was always fun,” said Sharon.

“Through my business I have been so incredibly lucky to have had some amazing people around me to enable me to make memories people only dream of. One of these people was Rory. He was a man of many talents on all sorts of horses, with whom many shows were visited and laughs had.”

Sharon broke her neck in a fall when she was 16 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. Her spinal cord injury at C6/C7 means she also has limited use of her hands and limited strength in her upper body.

She first attempted a sponsored “push” last year when she entered a 5km challenge to raise money for a breast cancer charity.

“I push all day, every day, running a big stud and looking after the horses but I wasn’t sure how fit I was until I entered the 5k,” Sharon said. “I ended up going a bit further and doing a 10k, and I raised £1,600.

“A friend of mine then asked if I wanted to do a half-marathon in Milton Keynes which I trained for and managed to finish — although I struggled with pushing into a headwind, and Milton Keynes isn’t as flat as I thought.”

Sharon was keen to set herself another challenge but because of her strength limitations, she wanted to make sure she could cope with the conditions. While shopping in Milton Keynes, she realised the shopping centre would be the ideal venue for a long-distance push.

“It’s flat and it wouldn’t matter what the weather was like, so we built on the idea from there,” she said. “The shopping centre has been great and really supportive throughout, even with the current situation.”

Although Sharon’s training has been restricted by the pandemic and by running a busy stud, she is building up towards the marathon, which is planned for 21 June.

“I have been confined to pushing round the yard recently because of the pandemic — we are also very busy at this time of year as we have 70 horses in and are foaling 20 mares,” she said.

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“I’m currently pushing about three times a week, and I am starting to do some weights trying to get stronger. I did six hours the other day, which hurt; one of the challenges is that my hands struggle with blisters and sores even with special pushing gloves.”

Sharon thinks it will take her around seven hours to complete the challenge, which she will undertake in a single hit.

“I’m not aiming for a time, just to complete it,” she added. “We’re hoping that it will all still go ahead with Covid-19 restrictions. We’re doing it on a Sunday but if social distancing is a problem if the centre is busy, then hopefully we can just get round it by starting earlier.”

Donations towards Sharon’s marathon fundraiser can be made on her fundraising page, while more information on her challenge is on her Facebook page.

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