My Story

My Equestrian background is The British Horse Society.

I have got the BHSII Sable Manager and the BHS II Teaching and the Advanced National Certificate in Equine Business Management. 

My passion is Dressage!!

I am 41 (21) married to Ian with two children, Cameron 11 and Freya 8. Ian is a crew member for the RNLI in Seahouses, where we live in Northumberland.

I worked as a cabin manager ( trolley dolly ) for Thompson Airways and when I was not flying had my own freelance business teaching people to ride.

In 2005 I became very ill and in 2006 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which left me prenatally disabled and because it is degenerative I’m gradually getting worse.

So where my Dressage is concerned I have to do everything I can while I can !!

I thought I must have hurt my back shutting an aircraft door when the pain started, but then I lost the feeling down my legs, then my arms and hands.  My balance went, so it was difficult to walk, and I was always exhausted.  I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. They think I have had it at least 10 years which looking back explains a lot. If I had pain I thought I had pulled a muscle, if I had a numb arm I must have slept on it, if I was exhausted I was just doing too much and because of the damage the disease did my life would never be the same again. So I had gone from being a very active person to someone who is in constant pain, permanently disabled and also exhausted all the time. 

My whole world fell apart. I could no longer work and therefore lost my income. I needed help with everyday things and if I want to go out I rely on my mobility scooter.  I spent nearly 2 years really not knowing how to adjust to this new me. It was a very hard time, but my fantastic family kept me going.

A good friend could see all of this happening and knew she had to get me back in the saddle, but I was reluctant as my balance is quite bad now and I really did not think I could ride. She would not give in, so in the end I agreed, as long as she picked me up off the ground when I fell off!  This was the turning point and I have never looked back.

That’s when I started to aim to do Para-Dressage. I found a dressage rider nearby who allowed me to ride one of his horses to my first Para competition at Vale View EC in Leicestershire in 2010, where we got a 1st and a 2nd.  This qualified us for the Para National Championships to be held at Hickstead.  I did not have the funds to get there and that’s when the crew based at Newcastle Thomson Airways stepped in to raise money for me, and the Spa at the Ocean Club also gave me some money, and my friends and family helped too! Which I can never thank them enough for. Unfortunately the horse went lame a few days before the competition and we did not get to Hickstead.  I was devastated but after everything I had been through I could not give up.

That’s when I found the RDA Pegasus centre at Tranwell, Morpeth. I started going down there regularly and schooling their horses for them, in particular a horse called Highlights. Although Highlights is a long distance horse and had never done Dressage before, he is a fast learner and he really tried hard, and that’s all you can ask for.

So we had a great year gaining many 1st places at Riding for the Disabled competitions culminating in the RDA National Championships in Hartpury, Gloucestershire last summer, where we got a 3rd in a huge class. Then we were chosen to be on the team to represent the Northern Region in the two day British Dressage Para Home International.

After the home international I knew that if I was going to aim for the British team I would need a very talented Dressage horse, as the standard of horses is so high, and Highlights was ready to semi- retire. So once again I was in the same position, Horseless!!

So with the help of my good friend and trainer Cathy Burrell, who is the British Dressage Para Rep for the Northern Region, we started the search for a new horse that could take me further. This led to meeting Sue Mead and her fantastic horse Bartie. Bartie is a 16.1hh Belgium warmblood who has competed to advanced level able bodied dressage. So last October we went down to Rugby to meet Sue and Bartie , things could not have gone better he was ideal for me. So I have been very kindly loaned Bartie by Sue Mead.  Bartie, posh name Hulland Sensation , is the real deal, so I feel very lucky to have him.

And Thomson Airways Money is paying for his feed, shoes, vet, insurance, training for me and competition entries and travel, but with those sorts of expenses it is sharp running out!!

If I was to use one word for what riding does for me its FREEDOM

I am in constant pain and restricted to being in my scooter most of the time and fatigue is a big problem for me. But when I ride I feel free, it’s the only time I can manage to block some of the pain. It’s a form of natural Physiotherapy as it is working muscles I can not use on my own and it makes me feel happy in so many ways.

Well what’s next for me!!

I need sponsorship to continue to improve through training, and to pay for Bartie and competitions, and boost us to the next level

I got Bartie on loan in Nov 2011 and I love him to bits. He is such a talented horse, who loves his Dressage job and makes you smile every time you sit on him.

Last weekend at the BD Festival of Para Dressage at Vale View, Leicestershire

we won our section of the Talent Development Day competition with 90.67%.

This class consists of a written question paper, riding your grade test, and a 20 min lesson to assess trainability, this is one of the only classes were you are competing against all the other grades of Para Dressage riders.

When Ava Bachinger International Judge from Austria took us for the lesson part of the class she said “I would not change anything about you and Bartie, you are the perfect combination” and that is with us only getting 1 lesson a month with my trainer Cathy Burrell. With more training the improvement will be limitless.

The next class of the day was the Grade II Restricted Championship 2012. This was a large class with some talented and very well sponsored riders in it. I had been awarded a last minute wild card to compete in this class. We were the last combination to go and I knew if we rode a good test we could win it. So we went in determined to win and we won!! With Gwyneth Lewis awarding us 71.43% and Pam Bushell awarding 70.48% which are brilliant percentages and we will now aim to improve on. 

I have only done two Para Dressage competitions with him and we are unbeaten!

We are now the Grade II Restricted National Champions 2012! 

We have achieved so much in such a short time and with very limited funds, the sky will be the limit with sponsorship and nothing is going to stop me getting where I want to be on the British Team.

I recently was lucky enough to have a lesson with Simon Laurens Paralympic Gold Medallist who said “You and Bartie are the most talented combination I have seen, and I have seen a lot of combinations”


Part of my prize for winning the BD Talent Development Day was a training voucher for 200 pounds which I intend to spend on more lessons with Simon Laurens.

So my aims for this year are:

The Para Championships at Hickstead

The BD Para Home International

The RDA National Championships

To be selected for the Para 2* at Bishop Burton

The KBIS Championships which will be held at the British Dressage Winter Championships.  

And my aims for the future!!

So now I have a brilliant horse, we are aiming for the top. Team GB who are the best Para riders in the World and with a good sponsor behind us we will aim to represent our country internationally. As my initials are GB I think that’s a good omen!!!!

So watch out here we come!!

Gayle xx

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