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Heroic effort paid off for Team Isle of Man who flew to success at the National RDA Championships

When the Team from Riding for the Disabled Isle of Man flew in with two riders who had qualified to compete at the Riding for the Disabled (RDA) National Championships, at Hartpury College Gloucestershire, on 15 and 16 July 2022 a whole team of heroes went above and beyond to achieve fantastic success.

The two riders who competed were Chloe Dooley and Sarah Kelly. Chloe competed in a Countryside Challenge class and Sarah a Dressage class. For those who haven’t come across Countryside Challenge before, this involves riding a course including different elements that the rider has to navigate carefully, with different challenges at each (such as posting a letter or opening a gate). Both this and dressage requires great skill by the rider and usually a partnership would have been built up between horse and rider in advance. However, for Team Isle of Man, as it is not feasible to bring horses, they rode horses which they had never met before. Despite not bringing horses the trip to Hartpury, the logistics are still complicated with riders flying in with their coach and support crew before travelling onto Gloucestershire.

Chloe flew in on the Thursday in time to meet her ride Cotsworld Morph, who was kindly loaned by Cotsworld RDA. The next day Chloe and Morph competed in a Countryside Challenge Class and achieved an amazing 79% and got second place in the Senior Section. Sarah arrived late the night before her class that was first thing on Saturday morning. Although every effort is made to match horses to their riders (including their disability), no-one can be totally sure of suitability until they try the horse. Sarah, who has cerebral palsy, was lent the beautiful fell pony Brackenbank Flash Harry who is owned by Annie Wordley (East Liverpool RDA). Despite concerns that Sarah only had less than half an hour to get to know her ride, everyone was delighted and relieved that Harry and Sarah clicked instantly with both taking everything in their stride; “Riding new horses for dressage can be difficult because you don’t know the horse or how they’ll react and this can affect my tightness, but riding Harry was honestly the most relaxed I have ever been while doing a dressage test” commented Sarah. They went onto achieve a fabulous score of 65.27%. Harry is known to be a lovely pony but he proved himself to be “an absolute dream to ride”, Sarah said afterwards.

Gwen Wordley (Harry’s owner’s mum) further explained “Cerebral Palsy causes Sarah to have some involuntary sudden movements and she doesn’t have much leg or wrist strength. Harry had never experienced this before. Unfortunately, Sarah didn’t have her usual ladder reins, which make a massive difference. Luckily Harry has been schooled from the ground. Sarah got on Harry 20 minutes before her test. I told Sarah to use her voice so “Harry Walk”, “Harry Trot”. For the 10 metre circle, we asked her to put as much weight as she safely could to the left and then use the command “Harry Over” and then “Harry Walk On”.” Gwen was clearly so proud of both Sarah and Harry.

Sarah said she worked so well with Harry because “he listens to voice commands, wasn’t distracted by anything and had such a calming effect on me that once I had finished my competition I had a huge smile” and that “If I could take Harry home I would. I can’t thank Gwen and Annie enough for Harry, and all the hard work they have done with him really shows, thank you again”.

Ben, a hearing impaired and autistic rider from the Isle of Man, also rode Harry in May for the North West Qualifiers. Due to the heatwave, Ben wasn’t able to compete on Harry for the Championships but had this to say about earlier this year; “I finally got to meet Harry two days before the National Qualifiers in Southport. I was excited but nervous about riding a new horse. However, it was also the most relaxed ride I’ve ever had. I felt like I had a really good connection with him”. Ben was disappointed to miss out on another chance to ride Harry but said “I would love to own a Fell Pony, and would recommend them. I look forward to riding Harry again”.

The trip to the National Championships was an enormous success for the two riders, and it was lovely to see collaboration between RDA Isle of Man; Cotsworld RDA, East Liverpool RDA; Harry’s owner and her mum Gwen Wordley who all worked together to ensure the riders had suitable rides. Thank you so much to all of you who went above and beyond to make this possible.


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