Sunday, 24 December 2017

Day 24 - choir

I like singing. It'd been a long time since I'd sung regularly in a choir when I joined my local church choir a few months ago, and I'd forgotten how much I liked it. Specifically, I'm a nerd and I like singing church music in Anglican services. Being in a church/chapel/cathedral choir (I speak from experience of all of them) is way better than being in any other kind of choir. We sing new music every week, so you don't get bored of stuff and there's always a new challenge. We sing for a purpose that isn't making money. We get fancy clothes to wear. We get on with the job. Best of all, we get to sing from the music and rarely, if ever, from memory - and at Christmas time, we have the absolute bestest music!
Dream of Gerontius at Salisbury Cathedral, as part of Clare Choir (Cambridge), with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, 2011

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Day 23 - rowers

Earlier this month, I took part in the Fairbairn Cup Races, which is an annual event organised by Jesus College, Cambridge. As a college rower/cox I'd raced Fairbairn's a few times, but one of the nicest things about it is that alumni crews are invited to come back and race too. This year, I opted to cox the boat that was full of the older, more distinguished rowers! Well, mostly because the younger crew with John in was racing in a division that clashed with gymnastics, and I wouldn't have been able to get to the river in time for them...

Friday, 22 December 2017

Day 22 - The RDA!

Well, the easiest way to let you know what the RDA has done for me would be to direct you to this page.

But, just to give a bit more detail, I want to talk about the people in my own RDA group and how they have helped me.

Day 21 - my mum!

My mummy is the greatest. She cares for me, drives me to training/competitions/hospitals, she makes me laugh, she makes hot water bottles, she brings me medication, she cooks my food, she fetches things for me when I can't move, she puts up with me and, most of all, she supports me in everything I do. Without her I wouldn't be doing any of all the other stuff that is on this blog. Without her I would have died long ago. Without her I wouldn't have the means to do anything. She is simply wonderful and I love her completely.
Riding the fairground horses in France!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Day 20 - school (the grown-ups!)

I've already written about how great the children are that I work with, and today I want to say thanks to the adults. Trying to do the best for children who all have different needs - but whose needs are perceived as broadly the same by any government - is challenging! All the staff, however, try their hardest for the children and genuinely have their best interests at heart. They're also good to work with - I know I can always get advice (and do so on a daily basis!) and they're good fun. I feel so lucky to be able to enjoy going into work and a big part of that is knowing that I am supported by the rest of the staff, just as I try to support them.
As with the children, I don't want to share a picture of them directly because it would be unprofessional. I chose the one above because this week we all got an exciting Christmas present of the school's first ever colour photocopier! ๐Ÿ˜„

Day 19 - Isabelle

I was so busy feeling grumpy and sorry for myself yesterday that I didn't get round to feeling grateful for people - well, not online here anyway. My person for Day 19 is Isabelle, daughter of the inimitable Julie. Isabelle is a super volunteer for the RDA and also an excellent vaulter. This year she competed internationally for the first time and I was super proud! Isabelle is only a youngster really - she's in her final year at school - but she has maturity, compassion and generosity well beyond her years. She's witty and hardworking and, like her mum, is always a calming presence as well as being good fun!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Day 18 - family

Today I'm grateful for my lovely brothers and their lovely wives and lovely children (and livestock...). My oldest brother, Tom, is married to Katie and they have two little girls - ร†lfreda (who celebrated her second birthday yesterday) and Astrid, who is just two weeks old today! They have a mad working cocker spaniel called Maple, aka 'Yellow Dog' (Rosie is 'Brown Dog').
Maple and Rosie
My other brother, Edward, comes between me and Tom in age. In June this year he married Hannah - they had a lovely wedding in White Notley, where we grew up. It was one of the happiest days I've ever had! Hannah and Edward have two bunnies (Wiffles and Lola) and their plan is to get a puppy in the spring/summer - yay! - followed by children at some point... ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Day 17 - Emily

Today I am grateful to my wonderful friend Emily. Emily rides at my RDA group and is a very good rider and vaulter. She also comes to disability gymnastics class with me and always helps me have a great time!
Guess which one is me!
Emily has autism and is amazing at describing how it affects her. She is an expert on her condition and reaches out to people online and in person to share good news and good ideas. She's always so positive and has the best attitude even when she's finding things difficult.

Day 16 - John

This is John, my (very) long-suffering boyfriend. So far he hasn't despaired of me entirely despite my supreme talent for doing foolish things. He manages to strike the right balance of simultaneously looking after me and taking the mickey and is only occasionally exceptionally annoying.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Day 15 - puzzles!

Today I am grateful for puzzles! I love doing puzzles as a distraction from pain or feeling sick, or just to pass the time while I'm resting (I know, I know, it isn't proper rest if your brain is doing anything, but you know what I mean). It's something I've done to distract from illness since going into hospital when I was 17 (and I couldn't let my mind rest, so I had to do something). Mostly I just like cheap puzzle books with a good range of puzzles, but they aren't very interesting as photos, so here's something a little different: a classic riddle presented by a classic puzzle-meister...
...and here's a version made more appropriate for me!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Day 14 - medics

On Day 14 I'm grateful for our doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists and all other medical professionals.
It isn't easy having EDS or any other illness which is so poorly understood. A lot of the time, it feels as if we're fighting against the medical profession - fighting to be taken seriously, to be given answers, and to be given help. I've lost count of the number of doctors who haven't heard of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, of the ones who've told me things that I know to be incorrect, and of the ones who have tried to disguise their own ignorance by burying my case under a carpet. This shows that they respect me so little that they are more concerned with appearing omniscient than they are with helping me - or perhaps they simply don't believe my symptoms are real?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Day 13 - school (the children)

Today I don't have a proper picture to share with you, because it wouldn't be appropriate. That's because today I'm grateful for the children I work with, so instead I'm sharing these blob trees, which I sometimes use for a fun but sneakily productive session! I work in a primary school running interventions of varying kinds for varying kinds of children. Most of the children I work with are in Key Stage 2, which means they're aged 7-11. I really love my job because I never get bored (being bored is not an option when you work with children!) and the moments when you feel a bit of a breakthrough are just incredible. I really care about the children and being able to help them, even a tiny bit, is an enormous privilege.

Day 12 - Nett

Bit late on this one because yesterday was a tough day. For Day 12, I want to thank Nett Wight, who is a brilliant horsewoman who works, teaches and coaches at the College of West Anglia, where I do riding and vaulting. Nett hasn't had the easiest time of it but that hasn't stopped her being generally amazing.
She came all the way to Hartpury to lunge me at the RDA National Championships (it's a very long way and a very long journey for a few minutes of competition) and even brought her mum along too as extra support! Having her at the end of the lunge line always gives me confidence and she has been a big part of my six national titles. At the British Champs this year I had some great horse scores which are massively down to her!
Nett always has the horse's comfort in mind and is good at getting the best out of any horse she works with. She's also good at getting the best out of me, and is strict but encouraging - perfect really. She's just fab.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Day 10 - Paul Janssen

Today it's the turn of Belgian physician, Paul Janssen (1926-2003). He discovered/created numerous medications throughout his long and productive career, including loperamide. Because of the way EDS affects my gastrointestinal system, I have to take loperamide regularly and at the moment I'm taking it like smarties. Basically, it's a drug which is used 'to decrease the frequency of diarrohea' - in other words, it helps you out if you've got the runs!
It's kind of interesting how it works. Loperamide is an opioid which affects the myenteric plexus in the large intestine.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Day 9 - Percy Spencer

Quick one today because I'm in lots of pain and can barely type! Today I'm grateful for Percy Spencer. He invented the microwave, without which I would be in even more pain than I currently am (yay for microwaveable wheaties) and without which I'd probably have starved! There aren't many flattering photos of him but I found this one where he looks suitably benevolent.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Day 8 - Julie

Today I'm feeling grateful for a very special and lovely lady. She's often an unsung hero and she isn't someone who'd make much of a fuss, but she's so kind, generous and funny and a chat with her always makes me feel better. Her name is Julie Holgate and she is the mother of one of my RDA group's volunteers, who is also a fabulous vaulter at Cambridge Vaulting Club. The daughter is called Isabelle and I'm going to save her for another day because she is also amazing!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Day 7 - Father Simon

Today I'm grateful for a man who touched many lives and, if his funeral today is anything to go by, will be remembered by hundreds (if not thousands) of people with great fondness and love. The Revd Canon Simon Pothen (aka Father Simon, or just 'Farv'!) came to Chelmsford Cathedral ten years ago when I was a girl chorister. His three daughters joined the choir and subsequently his youngest son became a boy chorister.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Day 6 - Emm's Positivity Blog

Today has been hard, so today I am grateful for talented people like Emm from Emm's Positivity Blog. I've shared some of them before (here and here), and you can see more of her work on her website here.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Day 5 - Rosie and Maple

Today I'm thankful for this silly pair. Rosie will feature again because she's my near-constant companion, so I'll tell you more about her some other time (or you can see some posts featuring Rosie by clicking here). Rosie is great because she looks after me and knows when I'm poorly, injured or generally in pain - but more on that another time! The dog on the right is Maple, my brother's working cocker. She is mad and this is one of the only photos I have of her being still! They're both lovely and lots of fun. Here they are having a nice little snooze in the car on the way home from the Game Fair earlier this year. Dogs are so good for humans and we should never take them for granted!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Day 4 - Gym Club

Today I'm sharing some stills from a video that was taken this morning at gymnastics. I have an awful lot of people to be grateful for when it comes to what I've achieved in gymnastics so far. I've gone way beyond what I thought I would manage and, although I'm still working on very basic skills and making gazillions of mistakes, I'm having so much fun and I'm proud of what I've achieved! In order to get today's photos I depended on the help, support and encouragement of Iwona (coach), Lorraine (pink top), Claudia (grey top) and Becky (behind the camera). Special mention also to Hannah and Gemma who aren't in the picture but who are brilliant coaches at the club and have helped me so much. What a fab bunch of people!
When I started disability gymnastics classes in January I couldn't really walk at all without my crutch, but now I usually feel confident in moving around the gym without it. I'm still nervous about going anywhere without it outside the gym (if only there were sprung floors and crash mats everywhere I went!) but it feels amazing to be moving about without constant support even if I can only manage it for short periods of time. When I started, I needed constant support for all the moves I did - holding onto the bars, for example, or sitting on the trampoline, or using my crutch to walk along a floor beam. One of my first activities was simply sitting on a block and standing up again. It was so hard!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Day 3 - Meghan and Emma

On Christmas Eve last year I went and did fun clear round showjumping with Rolo. Whilst there I met a lovely young lady called Emma who took some fantastic photos of us. I'm very grateful to her not only for admiring Rolo and taking some photos, but also for tracking me down and getting my email address so that she could send them to me. You can see her instagram page here.

I'll probably share some more of her photos later in the month but I picked this one today because it also shows my lovely friend Meghan, who is a talented vaulter and has helped me enormously with all things vaulting! She's kind, generous and fun and although she has her own struggles to cope with she's always ready to help others.

I'm very grateful for both Meghan and Emma!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Day 2 - Saffron Walden RDA

Day 2 - chilly winter cuddles with this ponio at the RDA group which is now training me up as a coach! I've only been there a short time but they're so kind and welcoming, and I'm really loving it so far.

Advent calendar! - Day 1 - Springhill

One of my friends started doing this and I thought it was a good idea. I'm a day late, but you'll just have to forgive that. The idea is to share a photo every day leading up to Christmas, and I would really like to share photos that show the friendship and support that I have which help me to cope with disability and to achieve all that I can.

So, without further ado, here's day 1!
2 years ago, fun Christmas showjumping at Springhill Stables (I'm in the middle on Oscar). Kirsty (green jumper) has always been a tremendous supporter of RDA and of me! Fiona, who owns the stables and teaches us, is a brilliant instructor who has made such an impact in my development as a rider. Thank you to them and to Cambridge University Riding Club for linking us all up!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017


EDIT: When I actually gave this speech I wasn't sure if I could get through it without crying. I'm one of those people that look AWFUL when they cry, so there was no part of me that wanted to cry in front of a large audience! As it was, several people came up to me afterwards to say that I'd made them cry (sorry...) and a few had also noticed how choked I got at one point. Anyway, the point of this is that there was one thing that I would have liked to have talked about but I just knew I would lose it if I did. I've added that in now at the relative point (about three-quarters of the way down, in italics). For more information on that aspect of things, please read this post (which also made people cry - sorry again!). 

At this year's AGM for the Riding for the Disabled Association, I was asked to go and talk and give a participant's perspective on all the great stuff that the RDA does. Fortunately it went pretty well and several people have asked me if I could share what I talked about. It doesn't translate perfectly to prose but I'll do my best!
Saddlers' Hall motto: Hold fast, sit sure!
"Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen - hello and thank you for having me here today at Saddlers' Hall! [I copied this from Alastair Stewart, who fortunately knew how to address HRH Princess Anne and went first - I hadn't even thought about that!] Ed Bracher has asked me here today to talk about why I need the RDA - and I really do need it. I'm going to start off by taking you back to when I first started riding...

Monday, 20 November 2017

Vaulting News - UK para vaulting

Earlier this year I spoke to Vaulting News again about para vaulting in the UK. Vaulting News is an international site which promotes and reports on competitive vaulting as well as grassroots opportunities and training advice. To read the article they wrote, click here!
On Milton the mechanical horse: Rebecca (with a hat on) and me. On the ground, L-R: Alexis (coach), Anne and Emily.

RDA Magazine vaulting feature

One of my posts for my blog on Your Horse Magazine's website ('The Para Vaulter') was spotted by the RDA and they published it again in the latest RDA magazine which gets sent out nationally. They also added some of the photos from this year's Championships at Hartpury, with my fairly unmissable pink and green outfit! You can read it online for free by clicking here and navigating to pp.14-15.

What (not) to say to a disabled athlete

A recent article of mine has been published in The Blue Bird on the topic of how able-bodied athletes can befriend and support disabled athletes. Sometimes we might seem hard to talk to, so this was an attempt to break down the barriers! You can read it here.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Ranch des Baous, 06140 France

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of riding at the Ranch des Baous near Tourettes-sur-Loup in the south of France. I had such a good time that I felt I should review it!

For a start, booking some riding as a tourist in France is rarely easy. Many places do not respond to emails, phone messages or carrier pigeon and over the years I’ve tried several places who have all retained a stony silence. The Ranch des Baous was different however - I quickly received a friendly and encouraging response from the owner, Anne Condesse (who runs the stables with her partner Michel Condesse).
Finding appropriate stables for me abroad is more challenging than for most people as I am a disabled rider and although I have a lot of competitive experience at home in the UK it isn’t always easy finding somewhere that will take me on as a risk and improve my riding at the same time! Fortunately, Anne reassured me that they would be able to help.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Para Athletics World Champs 2017

I recently wrote a report for the Blue Bird about the Para Athletics World Champs which were held earlier this year in London. It's a wee bit edited but mostly me! You can read it here.
Abdullah Hayayei died in a training accident just before the start of the 2017 World Championships

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

British Vaulting Championships 2017

After feeling a bit disappointed with my routine at the English Championships (nothing went wrong, apart from subluxing my ankle - it just wasn't much fun) I decided to revert to my RDA/Hartpury music and routine for the British Champs. This made me feel more positive about it so with a fortnight to go I was planning my packing with some good excitement.
With only a week to go, though, I knew something wasn't right.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Generic update

Well, it's high time I wrote something. To be honest, I've been struggling lately: since getting home from our holiday in France, I've had a lot of stuff happening and have swung between being incredibly busy and using all my energy on that and having no energy left the rest of the time. So, here's a quick lowdown:

Summer holiday

Whilst I was on holiday in France I did a lot of conditioning each day which was exhausting but has definitely helped my fitness. I've built up my core strength and, after a torn hamstring in my right leg, I also managed to keep on top of flexibility. It was all very painful!
My bad leg splits are now my good leg splits...
I also had plenty of time to play in the pool and went riding twice at a lovely riding school.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

RDA Nationals - Dressage

This year I sort of had two opportunities for dressage at the National Championships, because even though you are only allowed to compete in one Championship class (I had opted for the walk/trot test ridden side saddle on Rolo rather than the canter test that Boysie and I had also qualified in, on the basis that Rolo and I are going well at the moment and Boysie is VERY popular for everything and everyone else in the group) you can also do Dressage Anywhere. This was the first year that I'd had a go at Dressage Anywhere and it's something I'm going to be trying to get more riders doing in the East Region - and further afield, although I have even less jurisdiction outside the east of England!
Qualifying with Rolo at the regional competition
I've written about Dressage Anywhere here and here.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

RDA Nationals - Showjumping

This year I had entered the Level 3 jumping competition with Rolo and I was looking forward just to having a bit of fun - Rolo is great fun to ride and even more fun to jump! We had plenty of time to warm up in the collecting ring, although it was a bit irritating that both jumps that were up had to be tackled from the right rein. Rolo was feeling unusually calm so we just had plenty of time to feel loose and free but also sharp and on the ball. Those things sound mutually exclusive but aren't - it's vital to be a bundle of potential energy not just nervous energy!
Walking into the indoor school with Rolo brought back memories of doing the same thing two years before, when a lovely but overzealous official leapt up from a chair on the inside of the (very dark) barn just as we came in from the (very bright) outside world. Rolo nearly had a fit and it wasn't a calm way to enter our dressage test!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

RDA Nationals - Showing

It's not a secret that I really didn't feel very prepared for the showing class at the RDA National Championships. Along with Eleanor and Olivia from my RDA group, I'd been put forward to it on the basis that we'd be there anyway so we may as well give it a go. I didn't really think it was my thing but I never say no to having a ride so we went for it!

We had a practice session at RDA where the three of us and Chris went in the outdoor arena and Gillian did her best to explain what was likely to happen and what we would be required to do. Suffice to say we had a lot to learn about showing etiquette!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Left shoulder

Many of you will be aware that I have various problems going on with my left shoulder. These are longstanding and date back several years, although a few falls in the last two or three years have caused particular problems. The joint is very unstable and also pretty damn painful! It's caused and/or exacerbated weaknesses in my hand. Watching this video has been really weird - a lot of it was filmed on my webcam so it's a mirror image, which means I get to see what my left hand would look like if it worked properly (the fast forward speed neatly disguises my shaky hands!).

After two years of riding one-handed and letting the left arm flop about, we decided about a year ago that I needed to keep it as motionless as possible whilst riding, because having the arm yanking around was causing more and more damage to my shoulder.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Interview for 'Totally Horse and Pony'

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a lovely lady called Julia who asked to write a feature on me and para vaulting more widely in the magazine she edits, Totally Horse and Pony. The finished product is now live and can be read here!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Getting used to sitting aside

The day after the RDA lunch I made an exciting new acquisition - my first ever side saddle habit! I managed to find a (relatively) inexpensive one online that was within driving distance so, on probably the wettest day in the year, I drove for an hour along tiny country roads to a little yard to try it on and (yay!) take it home.
About this wet, but not as cross!
I've had one side saddle lesson since then which was an opportunity not only to get some more practice in but also to learn how to tack up and how to arrange the apron (skirt bit). Putting on a side saddle is rather more complicated than putting on a regular saddle. The steps are:

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Head above water

Over the last few weeks it feels as if I've just about been able to keep my head above the water just by thrashing wildly around and trying not to drown. I've had a lot of commitments to keep but problems with my neck have made everything about fifty times harder. It's made it difficult to keep up with updating this blog, so the next few posts will be fairly brief and just deal with one thing at a time.
Flowers for sale at the RDA lunch
First off, the RDA fundraiser lunch!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Motivation madness

I recently stole an idea from a friend which answered a problem that I often have to address. It wasn't anything to do with health, or exercise, or energy, or anything really. Nope, it was, 'What do I do with this notebook that I've just bought that I couldn't resist because it was so lovely even though I really, totally don't need another notebook?' This is a problem which keeps me up at night. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Who could resist?!
The solution? Make a little motivational notebook.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Gymnastics training

In January I started going to disability gymnastics sessions, then in April I started attending a second class each week for women of all ages, where I'm the only one with a disability. It's brilliant to get the extra practice and I've definitely seen a marked improvement through learning new skills and the progressions towards them. Both the disability and women's only groups are full of lovely people so it's a really fun environment to train in. It's physically demanding but very enjoyable at the same time!
At first I was using the sessions mostly as physio and to complement my vaulting training, but now that I'm learning more and growing more confident I'm also enjoying it just for the fun of it and I like learning skills that wouldn't really be very practical on a horse. I might even be competing by the end of the year!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A bit on the side

Back in March, I had my first try at riding side saddle and I absolutely loved it! I was expecting to feel really precarious, but actually it was surprisingly comfortable. I rode Rolo, and for the first time I felt that I was actually in pretty good control of when and where we stopped.
My first time!
Having watched the person before me doing some trotting and cantering, I thought these both looked horrificbut Rolo's trot was much smaller than normal (just as well, because you sit to it without rising) and although the canter felt peculiar it didn't feel horrid!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

RDA Regionals 2017

This year's regional show has now been and gone and it was a fantastic day. The sun shone brightly all day, everyone rode amazingly and it was a lovely friendly atmosphere. Plus, I got some good results!
The shield, blue qualifier rosette and one of the red rosettes are all for showjumping.
I'm writing a report on the whole event which will be available on the RDA East website as soon as possible (as soon as I'm sent all the results...) and I've already written about it on my more 'professional' website so this version will be a bit briefer because there's only so much time I can spend writing about one event!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Riding update

At the moment I am working towards a few RDA goals. It's easiest to split them down into disciplines so that's what I'm going to do!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

RDA Creative Writing Competition

Way back in February, I entered the RDA's first ever creative writing competition. You could choose to write a poem, letter or short story, and I went for a letter (500 words limit). I was in two minds of whether or not to share it, but the RDA have permission to share it if they want to and now I have heard that I was 'highly commended' (and got a fancy rosette!) I think the time is right!

So, here goes:

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Regional Athletics Champs 2017

Last weekend MJ and I headed to Chelmsford for the East Region Disability Athletics Championships, where we'd be racing in a number of wheelchair track events. This was our third year at the Championships and it was a fun day out again, with lots of new friends made and old friends seen again for the first time in a year!
I was entered into five events: 100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m and 3000m. The 1500m kicked things off on the track.

Friday, 5 May 2017

GEAR10K 2017

It's taken me nearly a week to get round to writing about this, mostly because I'm very tired at the moment, and the event itself wasn't much fun, so it's been hard to gather my thoughts. Here is a potted version of what went on!
Prep! New odo fitted which took AGES because nothing worked.
Sticking to tradition, I went up to Norfolk the day before with my mum so we could stay nearby overnight - massively less stressful than having to travel far on the morning itself. Also sticking with tradition, we had a trip to Church Farm Rare Breeds Centre on the Saturday where we saw lots of lambs and loads of piglets, including some very sprightly little English Lop piglets!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Preliminary list of expected and unexpected occurrences relating to my new hearing aids

Last week, I finally bit the bullet and was fitted with my first set of hearing aids. Some things I was prepared for; other I wasn't. Here are a few of the things that have stuck out over the last week!
  1. Within minutes of leaving my appointment, I had the itchiest ears I've ever had in my life. I basically wanted to scrape the inside of my ear with a tiny rake. It's weird, because I've never had this problem with earphones but BOY did my ears itch. I've got over it now but it was unbearable for a couple of hours!
  2. When wearing hearing aids do not try to shove earphones in as well...

Monday, 17 April 2017

This is how it feels when nothing feels right

The rushing, whining, shrill, clear ring sweeps round your head, dives through your ears, meets in the middle with a sonic boom that resounds in your skull, that shatters bone, that forces out energy and draws it back in; it cycles; swirling, whirling around; your constant companion, a familiar gaoler.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Left shoulder update

Lately I've been pushing my luck a bit with my left shoulder. After a string of injuries I could barely lift my arm at the end of last year, but an onslaught of determined and possibly foolish attempts to make it function better means that I'm now doing quite a bit better. Once I'm warmed up, I'm fairly good at lifting my arm above my head. Before, I couldn't get my hand to shoulder height, so this is a good development. I'm not fully in control throughout the range of motion but at least there is now a range to speak of!
I love this! Credit

At some point in January I started trying to do handstands. This didn't go so well - at that point, I couldn't lift my arm enough to start safely from standing, so I'd go into push-up position and get someone to walk my feet up for me. Every single time - without fail - I would get so far then my left shoulder would suddenly buckle. It was so frustrating because it wasn't especially painful - it was as if moving the joint beyond a certain point or putting it under a certain amount of pressure just flicked the 'off' switch and it would collapse.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Dressage Anywhere competition

Recently, I took part in my first ever 'Dressage Anywhere' competition. They run a number of different classes each month and all you need to do is video yourself at home and upload your video to the website with your entry form, the idea being that you can enter from pretty much anywhere in the world without having to leave home.
Each month from September-March there is an RDA competition, with each of these acting as qualifiers for the RDA Dressage Anywhere Championship, which takes place in April/May each year. The last chance to qualify is March of that year, and you have to have uploaded your video by 31st March - so when I found out about it with only ten or say days left in March I had to get my skates on!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sun's out guns out!

I've not posted much about wheelchair racing lately, mostly because nothing very exciting has happened. I haven't had any races, I haven't had had any noteworthy training sessions, and it's all been rather 'same old, same old'. However, there's a lovely shift that happens after the clocks change. The evening sessions become so much lighter, so instead of starting in darkness we finish, just about, in daylight! It makes me feel more energetic and gives me such a boost. One of the best feelings in the world is getting out in the chair and pushing as hard as possible in short sleeves - it just feels so liberating.
This month I really need to start training a bit more intensively. I have a 10k at the end of the month and a series of track races from May to July, and I've taken my foot off the pedal a bit to make space for riding. By this time last year, I'd already done two half-marathons so there's a bit of catching up to do to get fit. Just getting out has felt difficult since I moved further away from Cambridge in October - there aren't as many flat places round here, and no track or decent stretch of traffic-free road surface! Today, then, I celebrated the Easter holidays by going for a wheeling session along the Cambridge Busway.

Friday, 31 March 2017

The beginner's guide to a vaulting competition (4)

Part Four: advice for vaulters
  1. Don't change your routine in the fortnight before the competition (ideally this should be month, but hey). This includes the day before and the day of the competition. It also includes when you are actually on the horse in front of the judge.

The beginner's guide to a vaulting competition (3)

Part Three: What to be aware of if you are a friend, family member or other supporter of a vaulter
  1. It's a competition. It's nerve-wracking. Please don't add to the nerves of your vaulter - especially if they are very young - by adding either your own hopes and expectations or your own nerves about seeing them flinging themselves around on a horse.
  2. Don't use flash photography. Some horses are fine with it, but some aren't, and generally there are better times to discover this than when there's someone standing on their back.
    Contrary to popular belief, not a real horse.
  3. Do not get up and start moving around or try to enter/exit the competition arena whilst people are doing a routine. It's distracting for them, the horse, the lunger and the judges. It's rude and can be dangerous. 
  4. Clap for everyone.

The beginner's guide to a vaulting competition (2)

Part Two: Things to consider in the days before your first vaulting competition
  1. This list assumes that you have a routine, music and a costume. If you don't then you probably shouldn't do the competition.
  2. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who do not label their CD (the CD itself!) clearly. Somehow playing the right music at vaulting competitions seems hard enough anyway, so put your name, club and class on your CD as well as a CD case.