World and Europe Para Dressage champion, Emma Sheardown speaks of her love of horses
I was introduced to horses and horse riding due to having a disability, Cerebral Palsy. When I was two my physiotherapist suggested horse riding would benefit my physical development. It was thought that being on a horse/pony would help to strengthen my core and improve my balance, develop my co-ordination and the movement of the pony would stimulate movement in my hips.
I was lucky that I lived on the family farm, as shortly after this suggestion a Shetland Pony called Dusty Bin arrived.
I had Dusty Bin from the age of two until five. This time was hugely important in my physical and overall development as I was receiving various daily therapies to help get me well, physically stronger and more mobile.
My parents tell me that the benefit of riding Dusty Bin alongside my physiotherapy programme quickly shone through. At the age of six, I took my first steps unaided and started walking on my own.
Our local riding school ran a Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group so, aged seven, I started to have weekly riding sessions there. During this time, I was continuing my all-important therapy while learning to ride, enjoying the same hobby as my able-bodied friends and falling in love with the horses.
As time went on, horses and riding turned into a real passion and, during my teenage years, I was keen to find some sort of career around horses. However, due to having a physical disability, this desire seemed unrealistic.
It was in my late teens I discovered the Paralympic sport of Para Dressage and it was this discovery that made my dream of a riding career a more realistic goal. After a couple of years competing in RDA dressage competitions, I stepped it up and entered my first para dressage competition.
In 2004, I was selected onto the world-class training programme for riders who have Olympic/Paralympic potential. This is where my career began. I was living the dream! During the years that followed, I got my own horses, developed as a dressage rider and represented Great Britain at Para Dressage competitions around Europe.
From 2009-2011, my horse, Eddie and I represented Great Britain at two European Championships as well as the 2010 World Equestrian Games in the USA. Eddie and I brought home one team gold medal, two individual gold medals, three individual silver medals and a bronze medal for team GBR, becoming both European and World Champion.
My horses mean so much to me.
During my early years, my ponies were my therapy and played a huge and important part in getting me as physically able as I am today.
In my competitive years, they were my friends, my teammates, my pride and achievement, my happiness.
In the latter years, when life has brought more mental challenges, the horses that I have in my life have been my friends, my rock and have given me the psychological support needed and the motivation to carry on.
National Pet Month does a fantastic and important job in promoting responsible pet ownership as well as highlighting the value of animals in both assistance, wellbeing or companion roles.
I believe there is a large percentage of the population, who simply don’t know the true value of our four-legged companions, nor do they understand the true feeling or affection that our animals have. I owe so, so much to the animals in my life - each of them with a different, powerful story of how they have helped me.
So, please help us celebrate and support our UK pets and join me in being part of the #NPMOnline campaign!
We may be in lockdown, but there are still plenty of ways in which you can get involved so visit www.nationalpetmonth.org.uk
If you would like to find out more about me and the animals in my life, please find me on social media:
If you wish to donate to National Pet Month, please use the below link.
Thank you for your support!