“I think it’s safe to say my summer has been full-on! Its good to have a plan and when the unexpected happens it’s even better to have a plan B. In May when I collected my Bursary from Chatsworth I had left hospital due to constant sickness and was preparing for my first para competition at Bolesworth International. We had some great warm up shows at a local centre (Hill House) and plenty of lessons at home with Jo Adams (qualified Instructor and owner of my ride Milton). It had become difficult for me to travel to Philippa Curry and manage my health. To
make it easier Mum moved her horse to the same yard as Milton so we could find a away to keep horses worked between my frequent hospital stays. It really helped as when I was in hospital as Mum could nip out in the evening as its only 15 minutes away.
I’ve learnt to cope with juggling my ACE and catheterisation but the biggest challenge was yet to come when we added in NG pump feeding. My management also involves checking bloods and a drip in my local hospital if lacking hydration.
Bolesworth International was an incredible show despite the mud. I was pleased to jump clear with one down in the jump off in my first senior para competition, to finish just outside the top places. It was also a lovely suprise to be nominated for Skegness Youth Achiever Award (as I choose to be open about living with my condition and hidden disabilities).
****1st at Hartpury RDA National champs****
This felt such an achievement as my weight was dropping and the plan was to be admitted for a gastric nasal tube when I arrived home. I had this done on the Monday and it was very unpleasant but at least my body was getting nourishment. I stayed in for 4 days and started on feeding every other hour (six hours through the day). It became
very painful coping with my other health care on top and I was overwhelmed for a couple of days. Once I’d started to cope, my first question was – ‘can I ride with the tube?’. Luckily I was told yes and I asked if I could compete at Arena UK in the area team jumping that coming weekend – which certainly stressed mum out! A test ride on the
Thursday proved successful so I confirmed my entry as area 24 team member and managed a clear round and 4 faults to help achieve 4th place overall. It was a huge challenge to go to a stay away show (we were competing at 8am so had to stable Saturday evening), but the main thing is I coped and enjoyed it. We parked in front of the stable (thanks to Arena UK) so Mum could take care of Millie whilst I fed on my pump feed. I’m so lucky that Arena UK have become involved with para showjumping – making accommodation available for me when needed as well.
Forest Edge was also worthwhile for 3rd place in the 90 BS Open though sneeking a piece of pizza resulted in a trip to hospital that evening for replacement of my nasal tube… so worth it for the taste though! My other plan was to do talks on hidden disability and I visited our local young farmers who were fantastically understanding. I talked about not judging people who didn’t look disabled but may use disabled toilets and how more understanding is needed. They asked some great questions and it wasn’t too scary.
This was my busiest time and I couldn’t stay at Pony Club camp due to managing my feed pump which runs out of charge. Plan B was organised and 12 of us did a two day camp and competition at our yard with pub ride, games, cross-country training, water fights and a show. Amazingly Millie and I won the overall trophy by one point after some serious competition and more importantly we had bundles of laughs.
ARENA UK held a para event at their fantastic ESUK show. Friday evening was a fun games night on my brothers pony – the super Roley. He won several classes and the atmosphere was incredible with commentary by Geoff Billington. Millie jumped amazing to finish second in a very competitive senior Para class. Plus Roley was placed in every jumping class finishing 3rd in the final. It was a super fun weekend and ARENA UK kindly covered stable and entry fees of para riders. I did a radio interview from the show organised by Dame Emma Jane Brown – a new experience.
Arena was great prep for Stoneleigh National champs where I was proud to finish an incredible 3rd in the warm up class (able bodied) and 4th in the para class. I was struggling with my health again though and extremely exhausted. We managed to stay in the lodge on site for 2 nights so I could have a rest and do my ACE drip in a proper bathroom as well as my feed pump etc.
One of my favourite shows is Scope showjumping festival and it was serious fun again this year. Millie jumped superb with a pole in the jump off to finish 4th in a strong class, plus a fun clear in the grass arena the day before.
****Winner of the 1 metre Open BS class at Willow Banks affilliated****
A dream come true! We also managed a couple of trips to Speetley as prep for Arena UK Festival – I needed to work on keeping a forward rhythm on Millie as my lower leg weakness can be a problem as the fences get bigger. I did however struggle with the heat and dehydration which was a reminder on taking care of myself. It had been a dream to compete at the festival and with much planning that dream became reality! With 120 in my 95cm class I was thrilled to qualify for the final twice over plus jumped a super round in the Dodson and Horrell for a fast time but last fence down. To top it off I did some flatwork on the 4 year old ‘Happy Girl’ who also competed at Arena UK and I’m so excited about beginning training on her.
OCTOBER, NOVEMBER & DECEMBER:
Most of October was spent in hospital having tests and finding a way to cope with my sickness. After a couple of weeks and blood tests after my ace washout it was discovered that my body was absorbing phosphate (I use it through my stomach to help flush through my lower intestine) so there’s a theory it’s leaking upwards instead and causing contractions and illness. Especially as I have used it nearly every day this summer and some days my body hasn’t expelled it! After 3 weeks I was able to eat without sickness and came home with advice to reduce phosphate use to just twice a week. Within 24 hours I was very sick again (10 mins after using phosphate). Worse still they didn’t have a bed to re-admit me. I was cared for locally and back on the nasal tube. My stomach has gastro paresis so won’t digest properly – like having a blocked hole in the sink and only liquids can get through. I suffered the worst infection whilst waiting for a transfer but eventually made it to QMC Notts for more help. We have currently controlled things and I managed very small low fat meals. Unfortunately I’ve lost a lot of weight, but I know it will take time. I’m going to Birmingham Children’s Hospital on 22nd December to see a new Consultant who I hope can help me in the future.
Milton has gone to be sold which I knew would be happening so I’m very grateful to have had the ride this summer and learn so much. Looking to the future I did try a lovely horse whilst on weekend release and we bought Breeze at the beginning of December. I’m planning so many fun things and will take my time building a partnership.
Though things didn’t go as first planned, I still think I owned the summer and as we approach winter I’ve made more plans. One plan is to start training in Para dressage, hopefully via Pony Club but if not I’m only 10 minutes away from Sheepgate now (one of the biggest dressage venues in the UK), so plan B will be easy! I’d love to qualify for the amateur showjumping series and think I’m competitive enough to succeed.
We are still deciding whether to adapt my current horsebox or raise funds to find one more suitable for my health needs – having stayed away at shows this year I know what I need to cope now. I’ve certainly put my motto “Find a way – not an excuse” to the test in 2016!”