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Equine student Sarah defies the odds to win National Championship selection!

Posted on Monday 25 June 2012

Myerscough College Equine student, Sarah Underwood, 33 from Bolton in Lancashire, has been selected to represent the North-West of England at the 2012 Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships1 held at Hartpury College in Gloucester, from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th July.

Sarah successfully completed the Preliminary and Elementary test events at the RDA regional competitions, held at the Crow Wood Equestrian Centre earlier in the year. The Crow Wood Equestrian Centre is a specialist, purpose built centre and home to one of Myerscough College's specialist equestrian education centres.   

Now competing as a grade IV para-dressage rider, Sarah's disability is the result of complications experienced during routine surgery to repair sporting injuries in 2007. Having endured 25 separate surgeries since 2007, as well as extensive rehabilitation, Sarah narrowly escaped leg amputation which would have ended her dream of riding top level dressage. Due to sustained nerve damage however, Sarah will require further surgery to her left leg, both hands and wrists in the coming years.

Speaking about her selection, Sarah commented: "I am so excited to be representing the North West at the RDA Championships and I am determined to work hard to learn and improve as much as possible. I have been overwhelmed with the support that I have been given and I hope I can do the College proud at the Championships, even though I will be competing against Team GB para-dressage riders and squad members!

I would not have been able to get this far if it hadn't been for the support of the team at Myerscough and Wrea Green and particular thanks must go to Christine Pollitt at Wrea Green Equitation Centre, Sam Baysal at Myerscough Crow Wood for helping me turn Max out on the day, and to Jennifer Fitzpatrick from Myerscough Crow Wood who worked so hard to help with my training prior to the competition"

Currently studying towards her BHSAI (British Horse Society Assistant Instructor Certificate) at Myerscough College's specialist equine education centre in Preston, Sarah is the only competitor at her grade to have qualified to represent the North-West region. Sarah will represent the Seaside Venture RDA group, based at Wrea Green Equitation Centre in Preston.

Sarah qualified for the National Championships earlier in the year following successful trials at both the Preliminary and Elementary tests, during the RDA Regional competition held at the Crow Wood Equestrian Centre earlier in the year. The Crow Wood Equestrian Centre is home to one of Myerscough College's specialist equestrian centres.

Sarah's selection to compete at the RDA's flagship event is an incredible achievement, and demonstrates her remarkable show of strength, resilience and refusal to let a disability stand in the way of her dream of competing as a dressage rider at the highest level.

A former Senior Associate Clinical Psychologist with the NHS, Sarah's commitment to achieving sporting excellence is not limited to equestrian events. Whilst Sarah has also trained for Team GB in wheelchair fencing and disability target shooting, further surgeries prevented her from realising her dream of competing for Team GB at the 2012 Paralympics Games.

Sarah qualified for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships with her partner for the day, Max, a horse owned by Myerscough College's Crow Wood Equestrian Centre. Max and Sarah had only a few training sessions prior to the day, which makes Sarah's achievement all the more remarkable. 

Sarah will continue her pre-championship training using horses supplied by Myerscough College and Wrea Green Equitation Centre horses, but is hoping to borrow a horse near to the Championship Gloucestershire base, when she competes for the North-West in July.

Speaking of Sarah's achievement, Julia Gray, Head of Equine at Myerscough College, commented: "I was more than happy to support Sarah in her quest to qualify and I am thrilled that she has achieved her aim. She is a very dedicated lady who has overcome adversity in her life with a positive outlook and should be admired for this. I hope that she manages to gain the sponsorship she needs to fulfil her aim of competing at the National Championships and Myerscough College will continue to support her sporting ventures"

Photo (right), show Sarah competing at the Preliminary test event with her horse, Max.

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