Thursday 1st of June 2023
Para Power

Para Power: Laura Gulliver, Part Eleven

We catch up with Laura Gulliver, Para rider as she continues to make great progress on her inspiring journey with her horse Natalia.

Four years after my original International Para rider classification process it was time for a review. I underwent much prodding, poking and assessment by International classifiers (and boy are they tough on you!) and then an agonising wait for the results.

These turned out to be not what I was hoping for, My condition has deteriorated to the point where I have now dropped down a grade- so from being a grade V rider (formerly known under last year’s rules as grade IV) I am now a grade IV (formerly known as Grade III, just to confuse everyone!)

This news was extremely hard to take as despite my body telling me, doctors and recent scans all reporting the same thing, it was not until it was documented in” horsey” context that I had my reality check.

I am only 21yrs old, to know 5yrs on from my original diagnosis, after taking a ridiculous amount of medication on a daily basis including trials of 4 separate biological agents my condition is far from being under control  is hard news to take in.

Feeling lower than ever, I’ve shed many tears over the last few weeks and lots of people have rallied round trying to point out the positives (thank you for all the kind words and support).

For me I have to stay strong and it feels a bit like a race against time (without rushing of course) to train my horse to the top before it’s too late. It’s this goal that keeps me going.

My trainer Simon Battram has been a godsend with his weekly in hand work and every time I see Natalia doing her half steps (working towards passage/piaffe) I can see my vision getting closer.

My change in Para status means a change in tests and in theory these should be a little easier for Natalia (so I am sure she will be relieved). I just have to hope at this point they suit her and I don’t have to look for another horse.

Natalia has been so good lately and really proving to be reliable at helping out when I have ridden her and not been feeling well at all.

Once I pulled myself together enough and realised I could transfer my qualifying points to the new grade I took the decision not to take the course of steroids my consultant was desperate for me to have (sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do and needs must !!). I actually thought I was going to completely break at one point and wouldn’t be able to hold off them any longer but competing is what I love and unfortunately this is under strict rules.

Off we trundled to our competition and I’m ashamed to admit that with my head all over the place I really wasn’t prepared which is definitely not my usual style and the test ended up being very much a run through however with luck on our side we managed to pull off a win and 67% which was a lovely tonic for me (well that and the fact that I could finally get my steroids down me to help settle all my inflammation).

So we are back on track and I will finish my medication in time to allow me to compete in the championships at the National Summer Festival of Para’s at the end of August as planned.

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