From a very early age Anna-Mae had a love for horses, nagging her parents to take her riding was a daily occurrence regardless of the answer always being a no. Anna spent most of her time when she was young, in a wheelchair hence the decision from parents and doctors always being no when it came to horse riding as there were far too many risks. Before horses were a part of Anna’s life she did a lot of swimming as this was non weight bearing so helped to strengthen Anna without causing too much pain. Anna also managed to complete the Ten Tors Jubilee Challenge 4 times despite her disabilities.
At the age of 11 Anna had to have major surgery which had a long recovery, as a treat and to reward her bravery Anna was allowed to go on an hours hack with her mum at a local riding school. It took a while to find one that would accept Anna for Health and Safety reasons but I think it is safe to say that the reward hack as an 11 year old has never ended.
After finding a riding school that would accept her Anna joined the Pony Club at Haldon Riding Stables and loaned her first ever pony, Harvey. Harvey soon became too small for Anna and together with help from her mum they managed to persuade Anna’s dad to buy her a pony claiming they were cheap, little did he know!
Shortly after this Anna joined Silverton Hunt Pony Club where Anna was given the same chance as everyone else and never treated differently. Anna took part in the cross country, show jumping and working hunter classes and like most other children found dressage very boring. It was soon a long running joke how many fences Anna jumped with the horse and how many were jumped without her with a record number of 14 falls in 1 camp. This never knocked Anna’s determination, it only made her get back up and try harder.
Anna enrolled at Bicton College in 2013 to study the Level 2 Equine course and stayed to complete her Level 3. The yard manager at the time suggested to Anna the idea of Para Dressage. Within a month Anna was assessed and was given a grade 2 classification and asked to compete for Somerset at the Inter County Challenge.
To continue the Para Pathway a suitable dressage horse was needed, this is when Molly joined the team. Anna bought Molly, Molly was 21 years old but had been there and got the t-shirt. Exactly what Anna needed to start her journey. Within the same year Anna competed at the RDA Nationals, Para Home International and the Summer and Winter championships. Anna soon outgrew Molly and was in need of a new horse, along came Mr Darcy.
Late 2014 Anna had to again go in for major surgery, a week before, Anna found a horse she liked. She was discouraged from going to view him until after her surgery but Anna knew she could not miss this opportunity and made the appointment anyway. The day before Anna’s surgery Mr D joined the family.
In 2015 Anna and Darcy competed at the Para Home International, Inter County Challenge, Summer Championships and were selected for the England Excel Talent Programme.
In 2016 Anna and Darcy competed at the Para Home International, Inter County Challenge, Summer and Winter Championships and their first 2* International for Great Britain.
Anna was then selected for World Class Podium Potential Squad but unfortunately Darcy had torn his suspensory ligament and was out of action. Again Anna needed to find a new horse.
Anna found a horse she liked in Cheshire and before long Dan was welcomed to the team. Anna fell for Dan’s lovely kind nature and took a bit of a gamble and bought him home, Dan had previously show jumped and was now about to be asked to be a para dressage horse. Anna and her Dad collected Dan and took him straight to her first squad training, nothing like throwing him in at the deep end. On arrival the saddle fitter came to see Dan and when Anna revealed she had only had Dan for 1 hour they were shocked, they had never had someone turn up to training before with a horse they had only known for a matter of hours. Dan is proving to be a star in the making although Anna has had a very up and down year with him. Dan had grade 3 ulcers and is also very accident prone, let’s just say he is very well known by the vet.
In 2017 Anna and Dan have competed at the Summer Championships, Home International, Bishop Burton 2* International and were Champions at the Inter County Championships. Their success is continuing into 2018.
Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT) is Anna’s 1st condition, this is a form of muscular dystrophy; it is a muscle wasting degenerative disease that primarily affects her arms, hands, legs and feet. It affects Anna’s day to day living such as balance, strength, co-ordination and some days she needs to spend the day in her wheelchair, despite this Anna remains focused and is determined to be the best that she can and not allow her disabilities to hinder her progress in Dressage. At the age of 2 Anna was still not able to stand and this is when tests were carried out. Anna has had 2 surgeries to lengthen the tendons in her legs to enable her feet to get to a 90 degree angle so that she could walk. This was initially successful but the muscle wasting condition continues, which in turn compromises the foot position, this can result in her whole body being put out of alignment. The CMT causes Anna to tire very quickly and this coupled with the poor balance means that she suffers many falls and has to rely on another person or an object to pull herself up. CMT is not compatible with her second disease.
Cherubism is Anna’s second condition, this is where her face is made up of many facial tumours meaning that Anna has to be aware and careful so she does not hit her face because the tumours could become malignant. Cherubism is an extremely rare condition. The bones in Anna’s face, including her teeth have been absorbed by hundreds of benign tumours. Anna has had many operations over the last two years to enable her to have teeth, as her original teeth were reabsorbed by the tumours. Although these tumours are currently benign, we know that they must not suffer trauma as there then becomes a risk of malignancy. Very little is known about Cherubism as it is so rare, 5 years ago there were less than 100 people worldwide with the condition.
The CMT means that Anna falls a lot, while the Cherubism dictates that she must not suffer trauma.
Anna says ‘Since becoming a Para Dressage rider I have gained a new found confidence in myself which I didn’t realise existed. This confidence makes me want to achieve more and become the best that I can be, not just for myself but also for my team.’