About me

Hi, my name is Nicola. I'm a rider who has been disabled due to injury. After a brief foray into Dressage I discovered the exiting new sport of horseback archery (that's shooting a bow and arrow from a moving horse), and have been working on improving my skills ever since.

You can follow my journey at Facebook.com/NicWestDisabledRider

How long have you been riding?

I've been riding since I was about 10, so that's 30 years! Five years ago I suffered some nerve damage as a result of major surgery so I've been gradually getting my fitness back since then.

What area of the country are you from?

I live in Gloucestershire, a beautiful place to ride.

What's your equine experience?

I started riding as a child. No-one is quite sure where my passion for horses came from but it was there and so I pestered until I was allowed to start! I learnt to ride hacking around the Hertfordshire countryside, where I grew up. It was a great way to learn and gave me a good seat and a real love of exploring the outdoors on horseback.

I have ridden in various places around the UK as well as around bits of France and Corsica. Horseback is the very best way to see new places.

I did not have the opportunity to fully own a pony until I was an adult. I had a bonkers Haflinger who I planned to compete at endurance and TREC, and a little rescue Exmoor X pony as a companion who was a real character! Sadly I never got to compete as I got ill before that happened. My Haflinger was sold to go off and do pony club stuff with a bombproof teenager and the little Exmoor X is still going strong at 24, regularly hacking out with her current adopter.

My main interest has always been in getting out and about exploring with an equine partner, so the departure into Dressage was a very new one for me, but one I found quite rewarding. At my first ever competition, riding at the RDA regionals, I won the cup for best newcomer to dressage.

I then discovered that I have a mounted archery club on my doorstep, and got in touch. I loved the experience and immediately decided this was the route for me! After lots of practice over the summer with the Cotteswold Mounted Archers, we went along to the British Horseback Archery Association National competition in September. I was the first disabled rider to enter, and I won the walk class! This has whetted my appetite for more, and I plan to compete in canter classes next year.

What are your horses for 2016?

I do not have my own horse, so have been riding friends' horses. To start with there's Gandalf and Tari, the mounted archery horses. Gandalf is an old hand and a great teacher as he knows just what to do, and Tari is just learning all about it.

I have also had the opportunity to get involved with the education of another friend's youngster, a beautiful Lipizanner X mare. She has been helping me to really improve my understanding of the more technical aspects of riding, and the biomechanics of movement. As someone who had always just relied on a good sense of balance without ever developing much technical skill this has been hugely helpful, as well as very confidence building.

What are your goals for 2016?

To find a suitable horse and find a way to compete

My Para Dressage goal was a non-starter in the end, as unfortunately the grading panel put me in Profile 42 - not eligible to compete. After several appeals it became clear there was no chance to change the decision so if I want to compete at dressage, it would have to be in able-bodied classes. And with no suitable horse, this was not a route I could continue to pursue.

This led to a huge shift in my goals, along with the discovery of how much I enjoyed mounted archery! My goal, having achieved success in the BHAA Nationals at the walk,   is to learn how to shoot accurately from a canter so I can enter some of the more exciting classes next year! The BHAA are also extremely supportive, and would like to see more disabled riders compete, and perhaps even set up a a canter class for disabled riders.

Top tips?

We only get one life. If you have a passion then pursue it, rather than look back and regret the things you didn't do.

Personal highpoint?

Discovering how much I love mounted archery! And that I'm pretty good at shooting a bow from a moving horse, too.

Another high point was being told I can actually ride well enough (or at least, that I have the potential and the ability) to compete at dressage. Having spent most of my riding career being a bit yee-ha! It's been very gratifying to find out all that tearing about the countryside is still good for something, even if I do have to be a bit more careful now.

Memorable horses?

The pony I learnt to ride on was a lovely piebald cob called Gypsy who looked after me very well. I still have a huge soft spot for piebald cobs, as a result!

As an adult, my first experience of actually looking after a horse was when I started taking care of beautiful retired hunter, an Irish Draft X Thoroughbred. He had an endearing habit of trying to scrape me off on trees when we cantered about the farm we lived on. Happy times. And he thought deer were for chasing so would get very excited when we saw any, despite his advancing years and arthritis. A very good teacher and an extremely sweet horse to be around despite his cheekiness when having a blast!