Para Dressage | Riding High to the Europeans
My name is Kate Kerr-Horan and I am a native of Co. Wicklow, Ireland. I am an international Grade III Para dressage rider, as I am a left-sided hemiplegia, who also competes in able-bodied dressage up to Elementary level.
Learning Everything Over
I had an accident when I was 3 and a half and suffered a serious head injury. I was in an induced coma for 12 days and as a result of this I was paralysed down my left side, my vocal cords were also paralysed. At the time my parents were told I would never walk again. The damage done to my vocal cords resulted in me needing a tracheostomy for 7 years after many operations this was removed. My breathing is still very laboured, I am managing but I require a mobility scooter for covering long distances. I still require weekly physiotherapy sessions and I do pilates every fortnight as a way of making me more aware of my body.
Following the accident, I was in hospital for 4 months. I then moved to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, where I had intensive physiotherapy, which included learning how to walk again, speech therapy and occupational therapy. I also started school while I was there. As my rehabilitation continued, my physiotherapists recommended I start riding as they thought it would help my balance and co-ordination. This had a huge effect on my progress as riding a pony enabled me to build up muscles and develop more feeling throughout my body. I quickly grew to love it and I could always be found in a stable or brushing a pony.
My Para Journey
In 2007, I joined Para Equestrian Ireland, I competed at my first junior international competition in July 2008. For the next 2 years, I competed nationally in able-bodied and Para competitions, all the while striving to improve. I competed at my first senior Para international competition at Hartpury, England in July 2010. My result at Hartpury in 2011, meant I was moved up to the High Performance Squad, as a result I was getting regular training sessions with the Team trainer and international competitions were partially funded by Para Equestrian Ireland.
In 2013, I competed at my first Championships which were the Europeans in Denmark with my newly acquired mare, Arlande, where I finished 7th. The following year were the World Equestrian Games in France, here I finished 9th. In 2015, I competed at the European Championships in France where I was 7th. Despite our best efforts, we failed to qualify a team for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last year, this meant there was no financial backing for international competitions. This didn’t stop me as I competed at 3 international competitions entirely self-funded.
The beginning of 2017 has proved to be a successful one so far. Arlande and I have been getting the best marks we ever have. In my able-bodied classes, I have rarely scored below 70% and my Para scores have been equally impressive. My good results qualified me for the Elementary Championship and Para class at the Dressage Ireland National Winter Finals in Cavan.
What a weekend I had in Cavan, on the Saturday I was 2nd on a score of 69.27%, out of 27 able-bodied competitors, in the Elementary and I won the class on the Sunday with a score of 69.05%. My combined score over the 2 days resulted in me being crowned Category 2 Elementary Champion which means I have qualified for the Dressage Masters Championship in Hickstead, England in June.
For me to compete in an able-bodied Championship outside Ireland would be a dream come true but I am torn as this year is the Para European Championships. To qualify for the Europeans, I have to compete at 2 other international competitions, all of which are outside Ireland. By aiming for the Europeans, it would be the first step towards gaining qualification for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. Once again, it looks like there will be no financial support for us to travel abroad. I have to continue with my training and competing at national shows but that is as far as my budget will stretch, but with my scores improving and my win in Cavan I believe I am in with a fighting chance internationally.
The support I receive will go towards the cost of travelling, entry fees and all related expenses. My journey so far has been possible on the kindness of friends and family but I cannot ask them to help again. Would you like to support an aspiring Paralympic rider who believes giving up is not an option? It has been a tough road but “can’t” is not in my vocabulary.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I believe I can make it as I’m not afraid of hard work, I have the horsepower and support team in place but I need a financial leg up.
Thank you in advance