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Emma dressage

MS, para dressage and me

Emma Stevens

I was diagnosed with MS in June 2007 after experiencing symptoms like sensation loss, overreaction to touch and blind spots in my vision. I was 23 years old.

Recovering slowly from my relapse

In 2017 I had a serious relapse which left me with marked weakness in my arms and legs. At the time, I was broken, weak, out of breath trying to climb the stairs and living under a heavy cloud of fatigue.

To begin with, any amount of exercise wiped me out for the rest of the day. I would have to get into bed and rest.

But slowly the improvements started to show and soon, after a nap, I could get back up again.

Even now, two years later, I’m still exhausted on an exercise day, and it takes me time to recover. So I aim to exercise every other day or leave at least 1 and a half days between sessions.

National Para-dressage classification

My exercise of choice is horseback riding. I've ridden since my childhood and felt that enjoyment would make the exercise more bearable!

I’m lucky to have my horse, an extraordinary boy called River who I bred myself. He arrived just 8 days after I received my MS diagnosis. He’s now 12 years old and looks after me well.

In July 2019, I put myself forward for National Para-Dressage Classification. Classification is an assessment by two physiotherapists who class the disability in various areas of your body. They then award you a grade from 1 - 5, with 1 being the most disabled and 5 being the least disabled.

Once classified, you compete in your grade against those of the same grades doing dressage tests adjusted for that grade.

Emma Stevens
In August 2019, I went to my first para-dressage competition and performed my first para-dressage test. I have lots of plans for the future and hope to one day ride for the British team. And I won’t let MS stop me.

Changing my goals

The classification day was hard as I had to demonstrate repeated movements in my limbs and trunk. However, the physios were lovely and put me at ease. I received my grade by email in the week after my classification. I had been classified as a Grade 2 rider.

My original goal when I decided to venture into para-dressage was to qualify for the Winter National Para Championship at the bronze level. To do this, I needed to gain five para points. This was awarded depending on my score at each competition.

In August 2019, I went to my first para-dressage competition and performed my first para-dressage test. I was awarded a score of 69.12% and gained the five para points I needed.

My revised goal for 2019 is to now qualify for the Silver level too, and at the time of writing, I am 2 points away from doing so.

I have lots of plans for the future and hope to one day ride for the British team. And I won’t let MS stop me.

You can follow Emma’s story on her website.

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