pegleg5125

Craig's World of Sport

Posts Tagged ‘disability

And in joint forth place…

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Five simple words, that’s all they are but to me it is a sign of an achievement that will live with me forever, a fourth place at The Riding for the Disabled (RDA) National Championships. First time competing at a National event and I won a rosette.

Why? Its simple I like to win things and this is me going in the right direction. After just 8 months of real training on 3 or 4 different horses and just 10 weeks to get a real partnership with my current horse Beauty well it was out of this world. I also bagged ninth in my main class scoring the same percentage and overall score as 8th place, only being separated by our collective marks. But hey I’m still in the top 10 of my country.

This blog is really about the weekend and the week leading up to the Championship. It started early on Monday 10th July, as I had to travel down to Chippenham in Wiltshire to pick up a van from Bathwick Car and Van Hire, because it was the closest place I could get a 3.5tn automatic horse box from. My sponsors Irvings Law of Liverpool had kindly agreed to pay for the whole weekend at a massive cost so I must say a big thank you to them.

I travelled by car, train and bus over 200 miles to get the van and then the same distance back driving the vehicle. I had never driven a van before. It was brilliant so much fun to do. I arrived home just after 9pm. The Tuesday was my son’s birthday so no training then and as it was the weather was rubbish.

I had my final training session with my coach Moira on Wednesday where we practiced both tests and they went so well it was unreal. Thursday was travel day. It took over 4 hours to get to Hartpury Equine College the beautiful home of the Championships. Beauty was treated to a lovely stable and we sorted her for the evening before meeting up with our friends from the Pendle RDA Group who we parked our van next to for the weekend. Lots of laughs have been had I can tell you, most not for public consumption.

As I wasn’t competing till the Sunday I spent Friday and Saturday watching and meeting friends I’d made over social media and just relaxing.

Well I say relaxing if you call getting your horse out of the stable when your coach arrives and realise she’s like a coiled spring that you may not make it into the arena on Sunday. Beauty had to be walked and walked lots and then ridden both evenings and between them Moira and Helen did the walking as always, I just sat on the horse.

Even though I was competing at 9.56 on the Sunday, Saturday night was still party night and superhero fancy dress was the theme. We had to go and aimed to be back in the room by 10pm. Well 11pm was ok, wasn’t it?

Sunday morning was a mad rush, Helen was out and feeding Beauty by 6.30 before I woke and tried to wake Clayton, but an 8-year-old who had been out partying the night before was not for waking. Thankfully Helen came back for us to go to breakfast and she sorted him.

I’d like to talk about Helen here if I may. We have been married 17 ½ years. Like every couple, we’ve had good times and bad times but we are together. She took me on when I was more able than I am now, and now she is my carer as well as my wife, she is a mum and now head groom. I don’t know how many caps she wants but I hope it’s not many more as I don’t think she can split herself much more lol. She has been so good, without her none of this silly dream of mine would be possible so I want to really thank her for that and tell her it means more than she will ever know.

I mounted Beauty at 9.30 just outside the collecting ring and although a little jumpy she was better than she had been. Then as we went into the collecting ring she switched on, it was like a light went on and she was like “oh I remember doing all this”. Having walked round for what seemed like a life time we got our call to enter the huge outdoor arena. I went and spoke to the judge who was situated in one of the type of sheds you see at big dressage competitions around the world. As we walked down the side of arena 8 the bell sounded to start the test. Beauty rose to the occasion and hit the centre line like a pro. I felt the test went well and the pace was good. Could it have gone better of course it could but very few get it completely right.

It all seemed to be over in a flash and even with the fly’s driving her mad Beauty behaved so well. I must admit I was riding round thinking “we forgot the damn fly spray” lol. But we managed. It was so nice to be greeted at the gate of the stables by Helen and Clayton who proudly led Beauty in for a little rest before part 2 of the day.

I want to add at this point the 16th July is always an emotional day for me. It is my mum’s birthday and the last day I ever spoke to her or heard her voice. So, to do this massive competition on her birthday was so so special. I know she was looking down with a massive smile and as I left the arena at A I pointed to the sky to say thank you and I love you.

The 2-hour gap between tests flew by and before I knew it I was back on the horse again, still not having a full result for the 1st class and was now heading down to the holding area beneath the big indoor International Arena. I was 1st in there as I was the 2nd to compete. I had another good warm up and kept Beauty nice and calm. At 12.38 it was our time to go out there and do it. As I was walking round the outside of the arena to speak to the judge I said to my coach Moira “well if Charlotte Dujardin can compete in this arena so can I” that settled the nerves because this was a big arena that had proper stands that people were watching from. Again, I spoke to the judge and walked round to A to start the test. I had called the test MerseyPride as I choreographed it to Z Cars (Everton), Rockford Files (Tranmere) and You’ll Never Walk Alone (Liverpool) the 3 pieces of music the teams run out to. Again, the test went well. Other than our almost none halt at the start, but I put that down to nerves on Beauty’s part but not to be helped. In dressage, I find if something goes wrong forget about it you can pic marks up in other places and we did. A score of 66% in that test was only 2.5 points behind 3rd and 3 points of 2nd so a good halt and who knows but we got some really nice comments on the test and to pick up a 4th in my 1st ever freestyle test I was so pleased. I mean I just wanted not to finish last in either class.

So, it took quite a while for the results to be finalised as Class 67 which was the main walk test had 26 riders overall Junior and Senior. I placed 9th in Senior with a score of 67.35% same as 8th place but they had better collective marks. Right in the middle part of the group. I was so happy it wasn’t a rosette but a top 10 finish which I thought was all I could hope for. But the day got better when I said above I got a 4th for my freestyle. 8 months into my Para Dressage Career and I’m picking up a rosette for competing in National Championship inside an International Arena.

I am a big dreamer I know that and it is hard to keep my feet on the ground and not get too carried away. But I’m also a realist and know my path to Tokyo 2020 is going to be very hard if not impossible, however until it is completely ruled out I won’t stop trying.

So, what’s next for me, well I am now in the process of going for RDA classification which will determine which of the 5 categories I will compete at. 1-2 are walk only which is unlikely for me 3 is walk, trot and 4 and 5 are both walk, trot, canter. We think I will be grade 3 or 4 but 2nd guessing won’t help and I just must now wait till I can see either 1 or 2 physios’ who will put me through my paces and decide what I can and more importantly in classification can’t do.

After that then it’s onto British Dressage Para Intro Bronze level. I need to again start getting scores and getting noticed and attending BD Para Dressage training days in order to compete for initially the North West but then hopefully GB and again hopefully Paralympics GB. This is a long road but one I have now started on and I want to see it through. I hope you follow my journey and support me in any way you can. If you would like to donate to enable me to compete in various competitions going forward you can find my GoFundMe page HERE.

Before I go I would again like to thank each and every single person who has helped me so far in any small way. The rosette I came away with on Sunday was for everyone. I am just the person who sits on the horse, everyone around me in my opinion has harder jobs.

Can we make it all the way to the Paralympics, I believe I can and that’s the full-on aim, keep an eye out as this ride could get interesting?

 

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Written by pegleg5125

20/07/2017 at 12:58 pm

Who Am I?

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I’ve written this blog to potentially go on another blog about my riding. It will probably be a lot shorter by then but I really want to share the full version. Thanks for reading.

So, who am I? And how did I get to the point of wanting to become a para equestrian with the goal of competing in dressage at a future Paralympics? Simple answer I didn’t, I wanted to be a football commentator with the goal of commentating on a World Cup Final. Listen one thing you will find about this piece is I’m honest, I’m self-deprecating and I like to think I can be funny but you can be the judge of that.

My name is Craig Harrison, I’m 38 and live in a small part of the world called The Wirral Peninsula, Wirral or The Wirral (big debate for another day) is located on the banks of the River Mersey just over the water from Liverpool. I would happily call myself a scouser I know lots don’t but I do, I love the area I’m from and for me there is no greater city in the world than Liverpool. I was born with disabilities, a club foot, left leg was deformed, I have congenital hip dysplasia and scoliosis of the spine, in fact I have a double scoli which means my back curves twice. I’m a bit of a medical mystery to be fair, when they amputated my leg at the age of 7, best thing they ever did, it was described as “the most unusual bone structure we have seen”. Not bad I suppose it’s a claim to fame that my wonky leg has been written about.

I’ve always wanted to do the best I can and be the best, having 1 leg or any of my disabilities hasn’t stopped me or slowed me down too much. I have always pushed the boundaries and if I was told no I couldn’t do it I asked why and tried to figure a way I could. I was one of a group of young disabled people in 1990 who went to mainstream school. We were the 1st to transition from special needs education into the mainstream education system. It was a struggle but I came out with grades I was happy with and it helped pave the way for other physically disabled to go directly to mainstream when people realised our brains were not affected by our physical appearance.

When I left school, I started work as a YTS in office work, it wasn’t what I wanted to do but it paid the bills, even at 16 I had them! This led to full time work and other great opportunities.

Whilst I was working at an organisation called Wirral Action I was made aware of a scheme run by Raleigh International called the Merseyside Millennium Award Scheme (RIMA). This was a lottery funded expedition for 120 young people plus 40 support staff all from Merseyside to spend 12 weeks in Namibia in 1998. Of course, I jumped at the chance to try and win a place on the expedition. So, in the middle of January or February 1998 I got to spend a lovely cold weekend in the outdoors at Hepdon Bridge. There we had to pass different tests including team building, problem solving and sleeping out as a group under a bivywhack. That was cold trust me. One of the things I was most proud of was at the time I was still wearing my artificial leg and I managed to walk the 1st mile with my group of the trek, it was and still is the furthest I’ve ever walked in 1 go. But I did it. This determination despite the pain I believe helped me win a place on the expedition. So, in October 1998 I was off with 160 other people who have now gone on not just to become friends but family because we united on that trip and did some amazing things. I personally got to help in Bushmanland home of the San, the oldest indigenous tribe in Africa. This is something I will never ever forget building a school for children who would never have had that opportunity without our help. The smiles from those people as they danced on the newly concreted floor the day the school was opened will live with me forever.

It was at this time I realised I didn’t need to wear my artificial leg. It was heavy, cumbersome and made me feel far more disabled than I was without it. I would still wear it off and on until 2004 or 05 but hated it till I finally decided I’d had enough of it. I would wear it for other people as it looked better or it was the norm and was expected, I now know you should do it for yourself not to please others.

When I come home I got involved in playing amputee football and started training with the England squad. I was luckily enough to be selected to go to Ukraine in 1999. This was something else, a lad who loved football from a family of some decent armature footballers, getting to represent his country. I spent 90 seconds on the pitch during the whole tournament and never touched the ball but I got on the pitch and no one can take that away from me. I was an international footballer. My England shirt is proudly on display in my son’s bedroom. I also represented Everton’s mixed disability team and was joint captain when we lifted the charity shield in Cardiff in 2000.

I met my wife Helen in mid-1999. We must have hit it off or something because just 6 months after getting together we married in February of 2000 after getting to spend Millennium eve down at the Millennium Dome in London with HRH The Queen and other dignitaries all due to my time with Raleigh. I was a very proud Millennium Award Winner who that night at the Houses of Commons and the Dome I got to represent all RIMA Award winners.

Helen and I have now been married 17 years and have a lovely son called Clayton who I will tell you more about soon.

Like any couple, we have had great times and not so great times but on a whole our experiences have made us stronger and we are a great partnership. Helen has been there for me when I have suffered through bad depressions due to my disability and bereavement, but we got through them. It is not something I’m ashamed of to admit it’s a daily battle to keep going but I do because I believe I have a goal to complete and I’m not ready to give up yet.
It was in 2004 that my disabilities started to get worse. I suffered huge amount of pain in my hip that even up to now doctors don’t know what caused it or how to treat it other than manage with pain medication. Because of my hip problems my scoliosis kicked off causing me back pain as well, again nothing they can do, I just have to get on with it which I do.

During this time, I found out that I couldn’t have children, this was an awful time and put a strain on our marriage. Again, I’m not ashamed to say it was me with the problem. A lot of men don’t talk about infertility as it’s not the done thing but why? It can’t be helped and there is support out there. We successfully went through IVF treatment at the Hewitt Centre at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital. We are 2 of the lucky ones it worked 1st time for us. Clayton was born 31st January 2009, he is my little miracle and proudest achievement in my life.

As I say I suffer with chronic pain in my hips and back. I went on a special Pain Management Programme in 2013 and this has really helped me in some ways manage my day to day activity and realise sometimes too much is too much. I must plan my days without over doing things to avoid the low points where my body says no. This does happen still thankfully not to the extent it used to where I had been laid up in bed for sometimes 6 weeks at a time. I now at least know when it may happen and can lessen the impact of such periods with careful management of my pain medication.

In 2014 I was told that horse riding would be good physio and help me develop my core muscles. I had done this during primary school but not since so thought I would give it a try. After a little wait, I was invited to join the Foresters Horn Riding for the Disabled group now based at Foxes Riding School. I loved it and was told I was quite good at it. I was asked about dressage and I said I would consider it as I loved competing. Sadly, my nan passed away in 2015 before I got chance to start properly. I went back into that dark cloud of depression and stopped riding.

Thankfully in September 2016 I went back and this time I was determined. With the help of my trainer and coach Moira and my groom Helen (yes, she’s no longer my wife 1st) we managed to put in a test to Dressage Anywhere. They allow you to video your test at your home yard and send it in to be judged. My 1st test was on Jilly who I had been riding thanks to a lovely lady called Nikki. Jilly is an old girl in horse years but as spritely as they come and we did an amazing test for a 1st go. I wanted to score over 40% but to my surprise and utter delight I score 66.67% and instantly qualified for their online RDA National Championships. I scored over 66% a month later a different horse so maybe I could do this.

I decided I would really give it a go and try and go for the “unreal” goal of the Paralympics. I trained as much as I could in the winter but due to weather etc. it was difficult. Early this year I loaned a horse and was in training for the RDA North West Championships, unfortunately the loan ended abruptly and 5 weeks out I was left with no horse to ride. Step in Natalie and her horse Beauty who needed some exercise and work doing as she had been lame and put some weight on.
We clicked straight away, I even ran through the test for the championships on her and she just got it. This was a horse who had never done dressage before in her life. So, I asked could I take her to the championships and thankfully Nat said yes.

We put in 5 weeks hard training as many days as my body would let me. So, on Sunday 14th May I went to my 1st ever face to face comp with a horse that never goes out of her home yard. She was brilliant like an old pro we score 73.24% the highest score on the day in any class and qualified for the National RDA Championships in Hartpury, Gloustershire over the weekend of 14-16th July. Am I excited yes but also very nervous as this was a realisation that the “unreal” goal could be a reality.

So, what’s next for me? During the Championships, I will be graded so I can compete at the correct category going forward, currently I only do walk tests. This will enable me to compete at more events next year on the BD Para Intro circuit which is the level between RDA and full British Dressage Para events and the Elite Performance Programme. This is where I want to be. Will it happen in time for Tokyo 2020 who knows, it’s unlikely as everything just needs to click? I’m not ruling it out but realistically 2024 is more likely to be my goal, but let’s try for 2020.

So that’s my story, if you’ve made it this far thanks I hope that gives you some insight to who I am and my journey to hopefully one day getting a gold medal for Paralympics GB.

Before I go I want to thank some people, Helen mostly for being my groom, my wife and my carer without whom most days I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. To Clayton my biggest fan and person who drives me to be better every single day. Moira my coach who gives up her time to make me the best I can be. Finally, to all the owners who have let me ride their horses, Nikki, Lisa, Natalie and Foxes Riding Centre. I’d also like to thank Irving’s Law of Liverpool who saw a piece about me in the Wirral Globe who have kindly sponsored me for the National Championships.

To everyone who has wished me well or donated to me I can honestly say I’m humbled and honoured. But remember this is just the start, I aim to be the best.

If anyone would like to help in the future please get in touch with me or you can donate via my Go Fund Me page here

Written by pegleg5125

22/06/2017 at 11:57 am