Anne W 3

Anne is achieving her goals

Published: 25/03/2021

“My name is Anne. I am an adult rider with one of the local RDA groups.

In October 2015 I fell while jumping my young horse and sustained a spinal cord injury which has left me a T4/5 paraplegic.

I have been a horse rider since the age of 12. Before my accident I was a competitive rider competing mainly in Eventing. When I left the Burwood Spinal Unit in February 2016 I was determined to ride again, but unsure if it was even possible.”

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Competing at Horse of the Year show on Belmont Astranomical (photo courtesy of Barbara Thompson photography)

“With my level of injury, I have no feeling or sensation below the chest. This means I ride by balance, holding on to a grip in front of the saddle. This makes riding difficult as any unusual movement - a trip or a spook - could cause me to fall. I also need specialised assistance to mount and dismount, which happens by using a specially designed ramp and a sliding board.

My first ride was a trial in October 2016, less than 12 months after my accident. This was to decide if the local RDA group had the facilities and experience to work with someone with my level of disability.

I will be forever grateful to the coaches and volunteers at my RDA who helped me at this first trial. As well as people from RDA, I was also grateful for help from Vicky, the national para coach, who came from Nelson to advise the RDA team.”

Anne continues, “Three years later I now ride independently - no longer needing my side walkers or leader, and I have just started trotting on my own.”

“The benefits of riding are both physical and psychological.

The physical benefits of improvements relate to balance, core strength, and reduced spasm.

Riding gives me confidence that I can still achieve my goals. I can still work with horses although differently from how it used to be. I get great satisfaction working with Booms, the little horse pictured here.”

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“A normal rider would use their legs to ask the horse to move forward but we have developed our communication so that I can give her a verbal command and reinforce with a series of taps on the shoulder, varying in number and intensity to give her different instructions.”

“I will always be grateful to my local RDA for allowing me to return to riding. I look forward to each session and making continued progress. I look forward even one day to riding in a dressage competition.”

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