The biggest-ever RDA Riding for the Disabled Association) National Championships took place last weekend, and for the first time a member of the Border RDA Group took part.
The RDA National Championships saw nearly 800 entrants compete over a packed few days including Borders competitor Jane Currie, who had an exceptional weekend, winning her freestyle class.
Jane, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 19 years ago, has been riding with the Border Group RDA at Monteviot, near Jedburgh, since 1998. For the last two and a half months she has been riding Berwickshire-based Equibuddy horse Softie, coached by Jenny Leggate from Greenlaw.
Here she tells of her experience at her first-ever national championships.
“I am recovering from a fantastic weekend at the Riding for the Disabled National Championships in Hartpury, near Gloucester in July. Travelling down from the Borders on the Friday was exhausting but both my classes were on Sunday so I had time to rest up.
“The whole weekend was very well organised and I enjoyed the RDA Showjumping display on the Friday evening and also the demonstration by the BEF (British Equestrian Federation) explaining the pathway from RDA to world class Para Dressage on the Saturday evening.
“On Sunday morning I was a bit anxious about my competition but after a ‘rocky’ start, caused by a bit of confusion on my part due to the judge speaking to me as I passed the ‘shed’, saying he was blowing a whistle at E, and me panicking and thinking I had to start then... but seemingly I should have went round the outside again (according to my coach!).
“So, anyway, after I started breathing (probably about half way through) things got better. We also managed a flying change in the canter, which isn’t allowed but that is something I need to work on. Comment from the judge was: ‘Correct paces and showing clear difference with trot. Pity about the mistake in canter, but quickly corrected.’
“I had a few hours between the two classes I was competing in and went to the room for a rest. Unfortunately, not long after the ‘room boy’ came to make the room up for the next guest and I had to vacate so loaded up the buggy and relocated to the horsebox.
“I soon discovered I had been placed second in the canter class so as I was getting ready for the freestyle I decided just to go for it and enjoy it to the fullest.
“After a quick warm up I entered the arena and as the judges weren’t quite ready, gathered up Softie and trotted round the arena to the gallery where my ‘team’ was sitting.
“By this time I was grinning like a Cheshire cat, said ‘hi’ to a few friends and trotted off again. The bell rang and I began.
“I remembered what Jenny had said about power and powered my way into the arena. We were off. It was a freestyle test I had made up, originally with music but this time without the music (which was a shame because the music improved it ten fold). I prepared for a bigger trot across the diagonal (we had done a beauty in the canter test) but I applied too much power and got a couple strides of canter. We soon recovered it though and finished the test with a smile on my face – I had enjoyed it, in fact I was absolutely buzzing!
“I dismounted quickly and was rushed to the prize giving for my first class to receive my rosette for 2nd place and then we were heading back to the lorry to load up the horses and head home – a long drive ahead us back to Greenlaw, then home to Denholm.
“About an hour into the drive my mobile rang and Susie told me I had won the freestyle class – I was gobsmacked.
“The extra power must have done the trick! She told me she was holding two red rosettes and a trophy. I had won the class in my section and also overall. I think the judge liked the horse – he is the best after all. I continued home on cloud nine.. and I’m still on that cloud!
“I cannot thank RDA enough for giving me this opportunity and all the Eqibuddy team for their help, support and encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without Eqibuddy’s horse Softie, he is a beautiful horse who has taught me a lot over the past few weeks – thank you all.