World, Paralympic and European medallist Ricky Balshaw (pictured) is coming out of retirement to take on the new discipline along
The organiser of what may be the first local show to run a dedicated ring for para equestrians said she was in tears as she realised how much it meant to those who took part.
Andrea Povey of Fawley Farm Feeds, in Alton, Hampshire, told H&H she was “absolutely blown away” by the reaction to the initiative, at the family business’s annual show on 3 July.
The event has been running for nine years, in aid of good causes, and Andrea said the idea came from last year’s show.
“A lady came who was in a wheelchair; she was desperate to come and show her pony,” she said. “She said ‘I’m sure you’re going to say no’, and I was shocked by that word. I said ‘My show is for everyone, and everyone’s included’. So we made it happen.”
Andrea said that having checked the other horses were happy with the wheelchair, and with the judges allowing the competitor into the ring first, the competitor last year was “overjoyed” to be able to show her pony in hand.
“She went in the ring and led her pony like everyone else,” she said. “She was incredible, and it got me thinking.”
Realising no shows in the area had a para ring, Andrea contacted Nigel Hoppitt, chair of the local Broadlands Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group, one of the 2022 show’s chosen charities.
“And we pulled it off,” she said. “I hadn’t realised that it just wasn’t out there; I didn’t realise people felt they couldn’t go to shows. I announced on Facebook that we were going to have a para ring, once we’d ticked every box, and I was blown away by the support.”
Andrea said one of the shop’s clients gave up her day to pick up the Broadlands RDA ponies, take them to the show and take them home again. Others entered a variety of classes on their own horses.
“I’ve had so many emails,” she said. “People were telling me their children had autism or ADHD, or other things, and they had ponies but had never thought about taking them to shows in case the child had an episode. With the stigma that goes along with it, it just wasn’t worth doing. But they came to this show.
“We had spectators crying at the ringside, people with no connection to the competitors, they were just blown away by watching them have the time of their lives.”
Andrea cited one girl, Libby Thorne, who made a TikTok video of her experience with her pony Poppy at the show.
“It meant so much to me to be included and enjoy showing my pony like everybody else,” Libby wrote. “We WILL be back next year.”
“I was sobbing when I saw her video,” Andrea said. “They were fantastic, and I shared it because I want to show everyone this is why we did it. The ring will always be at the show now.”
Andrea would like to see other shows following suit; one, booked on her land for a local bloodhound pack this summer, will also run a para ring.
“Someone posted it on another show’s page and the organiser said she’d think about it, but what is there to think about? Other shows need to be doing this,” she said.
“Everyone deserves to be treated equally. One lady at the show had been in Afghanistan and couldn’t walk far, but she wanted to be in that ring. Everyone should have the chance to feel what we feel when we enter a show; the buzz, the way you feel when you win a rosette. Reading the emails from people saying thank you for giving them or their children something they’d never been able to give; I was in tears all week.”
Mr Hoppitt told H&H: ‘The initial call from Andrea, our local feed supplier, to include a para ring was a breath of fresh air. The chance to be involved at the beginning of a much-needed change in the grass roots of the equestrian world. A first step that will make a difference for the disabled community who love horses.
“From the feedback and enquires Andrea has received, the decision was right. After this first one we can help with our riders’ anxiety issues and enter more riders next year. Maybe we can talk Andrea into an RDA carriage driving competition too, another great leveller.”
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Credit: Rob Bayes Photography
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