Back in the saddle to earn call-up for England

WINNING COMBINATION: Para horse rider Andrea Evans with Bruno at Middleton Park Equestrian Centre, Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson.
WINNING COMBINATION: Para horse rider Andrea Evans with Bruno at Middleton Park Equestrian Centre, Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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IT is 25 years since Andrea Evans was seriously injured when the horse she was riding bolted. She was 17 and her life was ahead of her. All she had ever wanted to do was work with horses but that was not to be.

Fast-forward to the present day and Andrea is riding with confidence once more and is about to represent the north of England at the first ever Para Dressage Home Internationals.

“You can’t put a price on the support and friendliness I have found here,” says Andrea, referring to Middleton Park Equestrian Centre in Leeds which is also a Riding for the Disabled centre.

Because Andrea has no suitable horse of her own on which to compete, the centre is loaning Andrea her regular equine partner, Bruno, for the weekend of the competition at Vale View in Leicester.

A groom from the centre, Aime Brook, will also accompany Andrea.

She has been riding Bruno for the past three years and last year, at the RDA National Championships, they won both their classes, Grade 1b and freestyle.

“I know Bruno inside out and he really steps up to the plate when he goes away,” said Andrea.

Six years ago she didn’t know anything about dressage and can hardly believe she has made such progress.

“I’ve just taken the plunge and bought my own little horse, a youngster to bring on, which I’ll do with the help of Cathy Cook, my instructor.”

Andrea has been riding since she was five. Growing up in Richmond, there was plenty of opportunity for work experience and she helped at a racing yard as a teenager.

On leaving school she went on a training scheme to a hunting yard in Catterick.

The accident happened when the horse she was riding was startled and bolted. She came off, hitting a tree, and had four fractured vertebrae. The treatment was bed rest and then hydrotherapy but years later doctors found she had muscular and nerve damage.

She had started to ride again with her daughter, Sacha, 16, but as her condition worsened she needed more help and has been riding at Middleton Park for the past five years. Andrea is unable to walk and rides using a special saddle and safety bands over the top of her thighs.

She found that riding outdoors was the biggest challenge she had to face but now she is happy to ride in the woods at Middleton, accompanied by Cathy, who has encouraged her.

“Middleton Park is much more than just an RDA centre,” says Andrea.

“They work with youth-offending teams, offering young offenders a sense of purpose and responsibility.

“They work with schools, letting school leavers do work experience.

“They are a training centre for budding instructors and grooms and they also let young people and old with physical and mental disabilities volunteer, giving them a purpose and fulfilment. They also support their riders 100 per cent.”

The centre receives funding from Leeds City Council but that has been drastically cut this year. “We are trying hard to make that up,” said centre manager Anna Burke.

They would welcome help from any companies regarding sponsorship and also from volunteers with experience of horses.

For more information go to www.equestriancentreleeds.co.uk or call 0113 2771962.

* TACK and trailers are still being targeted by thieves, according to the NFU Mutual’s rural crime survey published this week.

The theft of tack is the most common equestrian claim received by the insurers.

Over £243,000 was paid out in claims for stolen tack last year. Thefts of trailers were the second most common claim.

Nicki Whittaker, from the NFU Mutual, commenting on the results of the survey, said: “It is clear that rural crime is no longer the work of opportunist thieves.

“Tack and trailers are often unmarked and unregistered and, therefore, easy to sell on to unsuspecting buyers through car boot sales and internet auction sites.

“Even when tack is marked, recovering stolen items is not always straightforward as they can end up being offered for sale hundreds of miles away from where they were stolen.

“Unfortunately, the recovery of such items is often reliant upon the buyer knowing how to check if the tack has been stolen and then being honest enough to notify the police of their suspicions.”

However, claims for the theft of horses remain low, says the NFU Mutual.

Also, the survey shows that where farmers, horse owners and rural communities work together to tackle crime and improve security, rural crime can be reduced, so organisations such as Horsewatch are proving to be invaluable.

Hickstead success delight for Anya

FIVE-YEAR-OLD rider Anya Potter-Firth, from Pickering and her five-year-old pony Heniarth Dilyscious won the Supreme Mini Mountain and Moorland title at the Royal International at Hickstead.

The pair won the Heritage M&M open lead rein championship before going on to take the supreme title.

“It’s a huge achievement for her and we’ve had lots of celebrations,” said Anya’s mother, Anouska.

Anya and her Welsh Section A pony will also be competing at the Horse of the Year Show in October after being Mountain and Moorland Mini champions at the NSPS Area 25 show at Bristol.

The pony is from the Heniarth stud and was spotted as a two-year-old by Anya’s mother. “Anya and Dilys did a handful of shows last year and then were thrown in at the deep end this year,” said Mrs Potter-Firth. “They have had 13 outings this year, winning 10 and standing second at the Great Yorkshire and Newark and Notts and third at Lincoln.”

Next on the agenda for Anya and Dilys are the BSPS Summer Championships at Arena UK in two weeks’ time.

THE Princess Royal, above, will be at Burghley Horse Trials on September 4 to present the prizes.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the horse trials and Princess Anne will be one of many former winners returning to Burghley to join in the celebrations.

In 1971, at 21, she won the individual European Championship title at Burghley with Doublet and was subsequently voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of that year. In 1975, she won European team and individual silver and the following year was a member of the British team at the Olympic Games in Montreal.