‘We’re quite a pair’: horse with limited vision and rider with neurological condition take championship win

  • Among the many worthy winners at last week’s National Amateur and Veteran Championships at Aintree International Equestrian Centre (8-13 November) was Surrey University veterinary school graduate Paige Staff.

    Norfolk-based Paige teamed up with her Irish-bred 15-year-old Laraghlease Blue Jeans to win the hard-fought amateur 85cm final by 0.22sec after a 30-way jump-off.

    Paige spotted the mare by chance in a for-lease ad.

    “I lost my elderly horse and she was just five minutes down the road – it was fate,” said Paige.

    “We’ve clicked and she’ll jump the moon for me although we’re quite a pair – she has an eye condition which restricts her sight in her left eye and I have the neurological movement condition paroxysmal kinesigenic choreoathetosis; we’ve had to learn to ride as a team.”

    The Norfolk rider has three jobs to help fund her passion.

    “I’m a digital communications officer for the John Innes Centre from 9am–5pm, a locum vet on weekends and bank holidays for the MiNight Service at the CVS Group Gorleston Veterinary Hospital and a debut children’s author for Walker Books UK,” she explained.

    Finishing second in the 85cm championship on Inshalless, Newbury-based racing permit holder Katharine Davis outpaced her 73 rivals to take the 90cm micro veteran final by 0.19 sec on the 12-year-old Princess Tinara, a dealing horse that stayed.

    “We import Irish horses and she came off the transporter with ears flat back as a very grumpy four-year-old,” said Katharine, who paid £800 for the mare.

    “She napped and we had big arguments long-reining but eventually turned a corner – and she’s now a delight! She’s won showjumping, dressage, evented to two-star level with Alice Bibby and hunted. She’s so intelligent and happy living in the field. My husband was right – we’ll never get rid of her.”

    You can read the full report from the National Amateur and Veteran Championships in Horse & Hound, in the shops Thursday 17 November.

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