Para Riders raised the roof over the bank holiday weekend at the first ever Para Reining competition in the UK!
Photo above: Lee Pearson on ‘Yelena My Way’ – winner of the Second Class
Riding horses they hardly knew, in a new discipline in front of a huge crowd, the riders demonstrated their exceptional skills producing fluent and accurate patterns. On day one Fiona Durston, a 3* Dressage rider from Kent, who is registered blind, took the top place ahead of former Team GBR Dressage member and individual Paralympic Silver medalist Ricky Balshaw. A delighted Fiona said “ I have had a whirlwind week, a crash course in a new sport and I have loved every second of it ! I could never have imagined winning on the first day, and am really excited to be trying to qualify for Holland. I can’t wait to see what the future might bring”!
Balshaw, back in the saddle for the first time after retiring from Dressage exactly a year ago, placed second, after just two days of practice. Sir Lee Pearson, 11 time Paralympic Gold medalist came in third, finding the change of saddles to be quite the challenge, whilst swapping 17 hand Olympic Champion Zion to a 15 hand quarter horse mare. Pearson said, “What a wonderful introduction to the Para Reining! Great atmosphere, great competition, and most of all great horses.”
Day 2 and the challenge was on, not just for the riders to beat each other but also to post high enough scores to qualify for the Para Reining World Championships in Holland this July. With only 4 days left before the entry dead line the riders had no room for error. This time it was Pearson who set the bar, pulling an exceptional run out of the bag on a new horse, Smart Like Valentino. Balshaw, providing the audience with an exceptional sliding stop was a mere ½ point behind, the smallest margin in a competition judged by three International Judges. Durston banked a safe run on Big Step Moonlight, ensuring her qualification for Holland. Balshaw said, “I feel privileged and honored to have been part of the first ever Para Reining Competition in the UK. I am very excited to be qualified for the World Para Reining in Holland and can’t wait to compete in another World Championship in a new sport”.
Organiser Francesca Sternberg was completely delighted at the success of the event, noting the large crowd that it attracted, as well as an overwhelming interest online and through out the social media network. “These riders have showcased their exceptional talents in an outstanding demonstration that proves Reining and horses can open doors for so many people with disabilities. I look forward to seeing the competition at the Para World Reining event in 5 weeks and feel confident that our riders will be very competitive and as always a huge credit to Great Britain”.
There is a Crowdfunding Page to send the first ever GB Para Reining Team to the World Championships. Please donate at: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/world-para-reining-championships
For more info please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Para Reining world championships: worldparareining.org
Photos available courtesy of LRG Photography : www.lrgphotography.co.uk