Becoming a para rider: So much to say!

It's been a while since we caught up with Sallyanne. Here she updates us on her riding progress and reveals some very exciting news that she's waiting on at the moment. 

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It’s about time I brought you all up to speed with what’s been happening since I last blogged.

To be honest, life has become a bit of a whirlwind and half the time I can’t remember what I've done.

I think I'm even busier than I was before my accident and I'm so happy now with the special team of family and friends that I have around me. 

When I look at how far I have come I know I would 't be here today without them all.   

Back to business

My general health is great. I feel stronger and I’m building up more stamina each day. I have a really good routine that keeps me out of trouble.

Monday is a personal training session with Seona, and the broken babes. Obviously I'm the best in the class!

Some of the floor work we do is lifting weights, core balance and stretching. We do a lot of work balancing on the ball and I'm getting quite good at balancing independently, and working on trust issues with falling forward and then puling myself up to sitting again, and pelvic tilts.

A lot of the exercises we do are working towards getting fitter and strengthening my core, all helping to improve my riding position and seat.

In the saddle 

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On Monday afternoons I have a riding lesson on Super Flynn. We're now managing a weekly session and have a willing team of para helpers in the form of Tess, Julie, Jane, Rowena and Beth.

The lorry is quite a way from the arena and this means that at the moment we need side walkers to walk alongside and make sure I don’t slip off going up and down into the arena.

We're also working with my new shaped whips, and liaising with Paul Allison who made them for me regarding help and ideas for the dressage saddle.

Flynn has picked up the contact so quickly and he really listens to my voice now and the action of the whip instead of a leg aid.

We're doing a lot of transitions, and bending round poles, barrels, turning sharp and turning wide. We also work on leg-yielding and serpentines.

It's all helping towards building our partnership and I absolutely love Flynn.

The pleasure he gives me being around him is better than any drugs you can get from the doctor. They're right when they say the best thing for nerve pain is distraction. 

I really look forward to our lesson on Mondays, I've just also been lucky enough to receive a grant to fund another hoist to be put in the arena from the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust.

This will be amazing as it'll save so much time at the beginning and end of the session and I'll need less people as I start to improve and ride without side walkers.

Flynn doesn’t bat an eyelid at the hoist now, so by putting another on in the arena I don’t imagine he'll be that bothered about when and where we get on. 

The day job 

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my days at work. I've landed the most amazing job working for a company called Wellspect Healthcare who make bladder and bowel appliances (things like catheters and bowel irrigation systems).

They're all extremely helpful with me wheeling around and they bring me tea all the time. The job is evolving, but at the moment I'm advising and supporting clients that are new to the bladder management and working on the key accounts with TIA (trans-anal irrigation clients).

I feel like part of the team and I’ve only been there three months. I absolutely love going into work.

Riding with the RDA

Wednesdays are supposed to be my rest day, but there's no rest for the wicked!

I normally have a riding lesson on the simulator at the Avon RDA. We've done lots of work on the simulator and this helps by working my core balance and strengthening my back.

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I enjoy these sessions as the RDA is an amazing charity, bringing so much joy and therapy to all the riders who use the facilities.

I recently had a lesson at the RDA with Nick Rodgers, who's a para coach with British Dressage.

This was very enlightening and I was shown some new exercises, with lots of tips and helpful advice about my saddle that I ride Flynn in and what to be looking for in a new one.

I've asked Nick to come to Lone Oak and watch us in action and help give us direction and he'll probably visit in the New Year.

Other bits and bobs

So when I’m not at the RDA, I normally have to do all my running around like doctor’s appointments, trips to Salisbury and Southmead Hospitals. 

Recently on one of my busy Wednesdays, I had a business lunch meeting at Tortworth court, a beautiful local hotel, with the chair and event manager for the charity Event Mobility.

I met Simon last year at Badminton horse trials, and had a real interest in the charity as the values they stand for - access to all at events!

The charity would like me to be a trustee on their board, it’s basically like helping the charity make decisions, have ideas to grow the charity and support the charity where possible.

I'm looking forward to this challenge and where it'll lead as I'm extremely passionate about this charity, providing access to events and venues that would normally be out of bounds for a lot of people who can’t walk very far, have long-term ailments or recent trauma. 

A few weekends ago, I went to Devon to be assessed for my classification for British Dressage. Para equestrian classification is a system for para equestrian sport and is a graded system, based on the degree of physical or visual disability and is handled at the international level by the FEI.

Para dressage has five different classes 1-5, 1 being the class for the most impaired rider, and concentrates on walk tests only.

5 is the class for the least disabled riders who can ride up to PSG levels and contain complex moves and speed variations.

My assessor suggested that I'd probably be a 2 or 3. I have to wait for clarification from the FEI, but once I have this, I'll be so happy to have achieved this within 18 months of being discharged from hospital.

I'm still working very hard on the 'Leg-up for Talent' program. I'd like to find some more sponsors or companies who can work with me either to provide something in kind or financial support.

I'd love to get a saddle company involved as I really need to get a dressage saddle. At the moment I ride in a general purpose saddle and I need to get  a more secure seat. If anybody can help me in any way, please get in touch (haigh.s@hotmail.co.uk).

And a final thanks to... 

Beth Hobbs BHS II is my amazing instructor supports me and helps me so much with my para ambition.

We're improving with my riding and partnership with Flynn and I am trying to help with her advertising and her business.

The para teaching is invaluable and a really good string to have in your bow as an instructor.

Julia Mottram, our equine physio, helps to support and treat Flynn and also is able to assist with my position in the saddle.

We've had some amazing helpful sessions that I've written about before as they are really interesting. 

I am still working on a few new links and fingers crossed something comes off in the New Year.  I'm so close to receiving clarification of my classification grade and what an amazing Christmas present that will be.

Roll on 2018 - I wonder what you have in store for me?