Your Riding Stories - Driving Force
I have faced many challenges in my life so far. I’ve overcome a mental health illness that many never recover from, and I currently still live with two chronic physical health conditions that affect my mobility. Horses have been my sanctuary through all of this and in a crazy turn of events I’m now an elite para-equestrian athlete! This is my "pinch me I'm dreaming" story.
I started riding on the recommendation of my GP when I had a major mental health crisis back in 2013. I was suffering from psychotic depression, which gave me auditory hallucinations as well as extreme anxiety and low mood. She thought that being around such large and gentle creatures might help bring my mind back into reality and settle my anxiety. She was so right and I have never looked back. Riding horses was a huge contributor to my recovery from psychosis and enabled me to return to university to complete my physics degree. I continued to ride during the rest of my time in undergrad at Imperial and when I started my teacher training at Oxford. When at Oxford I joined the polo team and got the opportunity to compete against Cambridge in a “beginners” tournament. Around this time I also got the amazing opportunity to start riding a chestnut thoroughbred-X ex-eventer called Archie and treat him as my own. My mobility was starting to decline at this time due to my Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder but riding allowed me to put this to the back of my mind. Archie and I did a number of online para-dressage competitions, we gained multiple rosettes and we're constantly improving on our personal best.
When I developed a neurological condition in 2019, I was not sure if I would ever get to ride again. Archie was also retired at this time at the ripe age of 27. After being housebound for a number of months I got in contact with Minta Winn at Ashfields about trying carriage driving for the first time. Minta was incredibly welcoming and great at finding solutions to the challenges my FND presented us with. 10 months down the line and after a break enforced by the lockdown for COVID I am now being assessed as an elite athlete with potential for the GB para carriage driving team! I’ve also even managed to get back in the saddle doing some Western riding with a lovely horse that is trained in voice commands.
After all, I had been through it is hard to believe where I am now. However, if I hadn’t faced all these challenges I would not have had all these amazing opportunities within the equestrian world. So in a way, I am thankful for all the hurdles that have been put in my way. I can’t wait to see what the future brings!
Thank you Naomi for submitting your riding story. To submit your story and be in with a chance of winning a prize worth £1,500, find out more and enter here.