Future for Disabled Riders

I usually leave my controversial discussions and opinions on my other blogs. I’m sadly known for being rather outspoken but when I feel something is wrong, I cannot help but get slightly worked up about it. The barriers that are put up in our society for disabled people is mostly misconstrued ideas about the capabilities of the disabled. Unless you know someone who is wheel chair bound, deaf, blind, or suffering ffrom a vast amount of other disabilities, you are reasonably not aware of what that individual can and cannot do. At 15, I sat in an office at my high school, being asked what I wanted from my future. I told the careers advisor, I wanted to be in performing arts and live in America for a time. They literally laughed in my face. I, as a blind 15 year old should get my act together and think about realistic goals. Career wise, I sort of accepted that. Acting, singing and dancing are very hard areas to get in and stay in but the America dream just wouldn’t die. At 19 that dream came true when I went on an exchange programme, by myself, having never flown anywhere with family let alone by myself before. I didn’t know who would be at the other end, I had no idea what I would find and the level of support I would receive. There were a lot of unknowns, but I did it anyway. It was a risk, but one I was willing to take. Why am I telling you all this? And what does that have to do with the equine world? Well, I’ve told you all before, I was refused lessons as a child to learn to ride despite me truly wanting it. I walked away from that dream once but finally came back around to it with some amazing people who’ve brought me farther than I ever thought possible. If anyone had ever told me I would be cantering, by myself with nothing but shouted stops or directions, I would have laughed in their face. No way, I a blind person, could be left in charge of a huge horse and go at a fair speed without doing myself some major injury. That brings me to my outburst of frustration. When I started riding, I searched the internet for information on blind riders. I learnt there were a fair few around in the national and international arenas from various countries in several disciplines. I found dressage to be the most popular, naturally with it being the main para equestrian sport at the Olympics. But I also discovered that there was a definite chance to learn to jump. A girl in my region had come second place in the European championships and she was totally blind. She was featured in our newspaper and my thoughts were, you go girl and wow, I could maybe do that if I ever got good enough. I was researching online today about blind riders again, seeing if any early events would indicate how the para riders were doing in light of the olympics this year. I stumbled across the British Para Show Jumping Association’s website and I knew of their existence but had kept away due to my own focus on my own riding. But what I found there today angered and saddened me. Here’s the link and I’ll insert the text below for you guys. British Para Show Jumping association BPSJA has finally given in to the bullying, smears and general nasty tactics of people involved with the Governing bodies in this sport, we have fought for many years to bring Para Show Jumping to everyone that is disabled and capable of jumping designated heights. We were heavily involved and the first to set up an organisation catering solely for physically disabled riders, we took many riders to France, for there first International Jumping experience. We took pride in producing shows where you had the ability to jump against your peers and learn from each other against fellow International riders who have had many years of experience. The comradery that came out of these shows has given us a fantastic reputation around the world. But at what price, I am fed up with the constant smears, obstacles, personal attacks, and attitudes of a lot of the old-fashioned beliefs about disabled people. They have a right to compete as much as an able bodied person. Seven years I have battled and have made some great friends in the England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Spain, USA, Canada, Sweden, France, Australia and New Zealand. This may not seem professional and I apologise to all those riders and future disabled riders for not being strong enough to carry on on your behalf. One can only take so much crap and I have reached my limit the latest was an anonymous warning: ” Andy please be careful and on guard you are planning a show for the summer and various organisations are not happy!! I understand certain people are trying to discredit you and the BPSJA. I’m afraid I cannot intervene. That is all I can tell you. Good luck” Just one of many I get. This web site will be wiped and I will be posting more of the above at the end of the month including minutes of meetings slating the BPSJA. Andy Lawes This saddens me that other people’s ignorances are laying bear to an organisation that supports disabled people in show jumping having to give in and stop supporting and promoting the sport. Clearly, with their levels of successes and the recent adoption by the Riding For the Disabled Association introducing show jumping, the sport could have been successful. They were hoping to get it to FEI level eventually and add another Equestrian sport to the international levels. I know what some people will think, jumping is just far too dangerous for a disabled rider. But riding is a dangerous sport for anyone. Show jumping is a dangerous sport for sighted and abled bodied riders. You fall off! as long as you’re physically able to withstand a fall, and have been medically proven fit to take part, why not allow disabled riders to compete? I read about an endurance rider a few months ago, Carl De Campos and I was blown away. Every time I read about someone with a disability doing a different horse related sport, I’m like awesome. I used to think I could only hack out but through chatting to others and seeing what is possible, I think there are many doors open to me if I can find the right horse and work hard to achieve something toward establishing the knowledge of the different disciplines. I don’t know what they are yet, I don’t even know if I’m good enough to compete but I think I, like any disabled rider who has the drive and ability, should be given half the chance. Do I think eventing should be included? I don’t know. Do I think we could play polo? I have no idea. Do I think the disabled should be given the chance to prove what they can do as individuals? Absolutely! If someone’s already set the president , and clearly BPSJA already has, then why shouldn’t it be allowed to take para equestrianism to the next level? I’d love all of your thoughts on this and I’m open to anything. I accept there are risks, but there always is. Isn’t there? If you want to know more about carl De Campos click on the link below Info on Carl De Campos

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Marie, You truly are an inspiration! I am in awe by the way you ride and I hope to one day be able to canter as you do!

    Keep up the good work!

    1. I’m sure you’ll be cantering with your lovely horse sooner rather than later. I’m only doing what I am because others inspired me to go the extra mile to achieve my dreams. πŸ™‚ Give your sweetie a huge pat from me πŸ™‚

  2. Love it when you get on a rant! A well deserved one too. Why is it many able bodied riders are allowed to ride – badly – without a medical? Quite honestly I don’t care if you have two heads, one leg or you’re blind – if you’re over eighteen and you want to do it how dare anyone tell you you can’t?!

    YOU go girl! And if you want to jump I’ll promise to be there with a crash mat and air bag πŸ™‚

    1. Lol. Lorraine, I don’t expect the crash mat but appreciate the thought. You can be the one to yell at me to get back on if you want though. Now that would definitely be a good job to have πŸ˜‰

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