July has been a month of lows and highs. It started with a low. My last competition was on the 17th June and I had huge problems managing in trot because my deterioration has been really quick. It can be like this for para riders. At the beginning of July a muscle and nerve conduction test proved that I have dystonia, which is a muscle-spasm disease but also that it is likely that at the age of 16 I am probably developing Parkinson’s disease. This all meant that I had to withdraw from representing Great Britain at the CPEDI, which was devastating. Tiger and I had worked so hard to qualify but I knew that I was going to have to apply to have my grading looked at by the physios.
Para dressage riders are graded into 5 grades according to disability level, with Grade 1 being the most disabled and Grade 5 being the least. Highly trained physiotherapists look at your balance, strength and co-ordination in each of your limbs, trunk and head to work out an overall score to relate to the grade. This has to be done at international level by 2 different international physios and therefore only takes place at international competitions, so in this country it only happens twice a year both in July. I knew if I was to be graded at the CPEDI it would mean I wouldn’t be able to compete to the best of my ability because the grading is a very painful process. Also, if I didn’t get re-graded I would have to wait another year to have my grading looked at and because of my deterioration I would struggle to continue to compete at my current Grade 2. The only thing I could do was withdraw from the competition and have my grading looked at.
I had an appointment on the 27th July at Bishop Burton during the CPEDI and two lovely physios, one from the Netherlands and one from Britain, examined me for over an hour and came to the conclusion together that I am a Grade 1. While it is disappointing to have deteriorated I am really glad to have the right Grade and to be able to compete again. This now means that I am a walk only rider.
In the meanwhile, I have been doing lots of hacking on Tiger to keep her fit. We are really lucky round here to have beautiful countryside and some very quiet roads, so Tiger and I do a lot of hacking. My coach Claire Cooper Wyatt and I have been working on the new tests. I really feel that once I know them they will work to my strengths. I am going to use August to learn and train the new tests and the first time I will ride them is the beginning of September.
Tiger is living out at the moment and it is very reassuring to know that with Horslyx, Tiger always gets the balance of vitamins, minerals and trace elements she needs to perform her best without anything unnecessary or that will hot her up. I am hoping that now I am at the right grade, this next year I will be able to push on with competing so Tiger will need the best support which she gets from her Horslyx.