Coates, Near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 6NS
We have a fantastic group of riders who love spending time with us and our horses and ponies on a weekly basis. Here are some of their stories…
I was diagnosed with trauma induced MS 10 years after a riding accident saw me suffer a horrific head and facial injury when I was kicked in the face by a horse I was leading. My riding days ended there until some 17 years later a Consultant suggested I should go back to riding as I was struggling to sit up unaided for long and he thought it would be good for my core strength.
That is when I met the Watershed RDA Team and Beans the wonder pony. At first I cried each time when I got home, I was nervous when I rode and couldn’t last more than 10 minutes at a time, I had to have 2 walkers either side of me and someone leading Beans, very upsetting for someone who in a previous life had had horses at Grand Prix Dressage level and I was sad that I couldn’t see that I would ever get that back.
The Watershed Team were fantastic with me and we did everything at my pace and with humour and as the months went by I got stronger and more confident until I was able to move from the steady neddy that is Beans and start to ride off of the lead rein and onto Connor who was much sharper and a real character. I started doing some video dressage tests with him and at the end of our first year together we won a silver medal in the RDA online National Championships 2015. It went so well I made the decision to seek out a Dressage Trainer, with the aim of improving my riding further...
I found my trainer, Sara Gallop, at Summerhouse Equestrian Centre and after a few months together she suggested I get my own horse and have a go at Para Dressage – so she found me the perfect Horse Winnie who we nickname the Unicorn.
Winnie and I joined the British Dressage South West Para Dressage Team in January 2016, were we attend a monthly training session with FEI trainers and Judges, attended the Para Dressage Camp with the team GB coaches and were selected to represent the region at the Inter County Championships, where we were Reserve Champions.
We were then selected to represent England at the Home International held at Vale View, Melton Mowbray. Winnie and I won all 4 of our tests and our team were 3rd, the highest placing they have ever achieved at this event. I also won the top prize for the highest scoring rider of the weekend.
We won Gold at the Dressage Anywhere RDA National Championships riding for Watershed RDA
Were Reserve Champions in the Freestyle Championships at the RDA Nationals 2016
We applied for entry onto the BEF Talent Pathway (Team GB training platform) and have been selected, this leads onto the World Class Podium Pathway and we are now working towards a Paralympic Team place in Japan 2020. Our first training session was August 9th.
Winnie and I also won the British Dressage Bronze National Championships and came 2nd in the Silvers – hard to believe that we have become National Champions in our first attempt – the future is very exciting.
Without Watershed RDA I would not have started on this journey with Winnie and Sara and I owe them so much. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to ride a Grand Prix test but I can still ride a quality horse and compete at the highest level.
In the early days of my diagnosis there were times when I would be at home for weeks at a time without venturing out in my wheelchair, now I have a full-time job in our business, drive a car independently and ride Winnie 3/4 times a week with a competition most weeks too and I am back at Watershed coaching 3 other budding Dressage stars when I can – Thank you Watershed!
We are so proud to have played a part in Di's remarkable achievements in getting back in the saddle and going on to achieve such great success!
If you would like to follow Di's journey, then visit her Facebook page:
Since this article, Di has another beautiful and talented horse Lexi, pictured above.
She was all set to be part of the GB team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a Grade 1 para dressage rider. Sadly, this Olympics have been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
We are keeping our fingers crossed for you Di!
As a child I use to ride once a week and continued to ride occasionally as an adult until my early 40’s.
As my multiple sclerosis got worse I became unable to ride anymore. I missed not having the option to ride if I wanted to but, accepted that that was just life!
Approximately three and a half years ago at Christmas time, I was in Cirencester and came across the Watershed stand. I chatted with Pam and took a leaflet which I took home and ‘filed somewhere safe’. About a year later I came across the leaflet and it sat on a table for a further three months. Two of my children encouraged me to contact Watershed which is what I did.
I met Bob at the stables and I felt really positive that maybe I could actually ride again! I had an operation coming up so, I joined the annual canal trip and then, once I was given all clear I started riding. My life has changed so much! I have met such lovely people, riders and volunteers. The riding has strengthened my body and mentally I feel so much better. I look forward to each week where I can ride and meet others.
It is good to be encouraged not just in my physical riding but being able to take exams and I have achieved level 1, 2 and 3 – the next will be level 4. I never did competitions when young but, Kathy encouraged me to do dressage which I find challenging but essential. I’m working hard at it and want to achieve. As Watershed is closed for the summer holidays I have been travelling to Cotswold RDA, Cheltenham to continue to learn more ready for the next term at Watershed stables. I feel that my riding has become an important part of my life.
Arabella was born with cCMV, which is a very common virus and affects 1 in a 150 babies in the UK in various degrees.
She has a speech and co-ordination disorder, swallowing and some motor skill difficulties, mild high frequency hearing loss and is a sign language user.
Coming to Watershed RDA to ride Ben on a weekly basis is the highlight of Arabella’s week. She started riding at the age of four and a half and we can honestly say riding is her favourite activity. She benefits a huge amount and the effect can be seen throughout the week because she “talks” (via Makaton) about Ben and what she did during her riding lesson non-stop to everyone she sees.