Born with a disability called Cerebral Palsy, life through a variety of challenges. Aged 2, my physiotherapist suggested that riding would be a good therapy for me to develop my balance, core stability as well as the movement in my hips.
Throughout my childhood, my love of horse grew as did their benefit to me. By the age of 16, I was frustrated at the things that my disability prevented me from doing and I really wanted to achieve in my riding - but I just didn’t know how. It was at this point that my instructor introduced me to the sport of Para Dressage.
In 2004 I was selected onto the World Class Para Dressage Podium Potential Squad and was promoted onto the World Class Para Dressage Podium Squad in 2010.
My career highlights include: 2009 - European Championship Title, 2010 - World Championship Title, 2011 - European Team Championship Title
I am now promoting myself as a Motivational Speaker:
I have been delivering Motivational Talks since 2005 and my audiences have included HRH The Princess Royal, Business Groups, Disability Groups, Young People, Recreational Groups and Schools
The Motivational Talks that I offer, include:
- ‘From Therapy to World Champion’
– ‘There’s No Such Word As Can’t’
Emma Sheardown - International Para Dressage Rider and Motivational Speaker
From the day that I was born, life threw a variety of challenges for both my parents and I. Complications at birth lead to me suffering from brain damage and at fourteen months old, I was diagnosed with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy affects my balance, speech and the co-ordination of all four limbs, I didn't walk unaided until I was six years old.
At the age of two, it was suggested by my Physiotherapist that riding would be a beneficial thing for me to do as an extension of my Physiotherapy program - this is because riding can help with core stability as well as the horse emulating movement in the riders hips. Soon after this suggestion, a Shetland Pony called Dusty Bin arrived curtesy of my Occupational Therapist - luckily I lived on the family farm.
Aged 7, I was keen to learn to ride and so it was lucky that our local riding school also ran a Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group. Throughout my childhood I rode with the RDA, in which time whilst my therapy continued, I was also falling in love with horses and also learning to ride.
By the time that I reached my mid teens, I was keen to progress with my riding and frustrated at the things that my disability prevented me from doing, things that my able-bodied peers could do, things like being able to canter and jump or ‘off-horse’ do things with my pony on the ground - so this was when I was introduced first of all to RDA Dressage and then onto the sport of Para Dressage.
Para Dressage gave a purpose to my life and to my riding - for the first time I had a career and a real goal to aim for. In 2004 I was selected onto the World Class Para Dressage Development Squad and after gaining experience representing Great Brittain at international competitions, in 2009, I received my first ’championship team’ call up to represent Great Brittain at the Para Dressage European Championships in Norway riding my own horse, Purdy's Dream (Eddie). Here, I exceeded expectations by winning a Silver medal in the individual test and a Gold medal in the freestyle to music test. The following year, 2010 Eddie and I flew to Kentucky, USA where we secured a Bronze medal as well as a Gold medal and the World Title. This was an absolute dream - to become World and European Champions felt amazing!! My success during 2009 and 2010 lead to my promotion onto the World Class Para Dressage Podium or Performance Squad.
To top Eddie’s career off, we helped Team GBR secure the team championship title at the European Championships in 2011 as well as adding two Silver medals to our collection.
The goal from that point was the Paralympic Games in London!! To represent Great Brittain at the Paralympic Games on home turf would have been pretty special and to add a Paralympic medal to mine and Eddie's collection would have been the icing on the cake. This however wasn't meant to be, the devastating loss of my father in March of 2012 meant that the world class program and the selectors felt that I wasn't in the right frame of mind to take on such a big challenge as London. I however felt that they were wrong, continuing to focus and train towards my goal would have really helped me during those first few months of grief and I would have liked to of had the chance to make Dad proud once again.
Eddie retired from Para Dressage in 2013, and the arrival of a young horse, Essentially Beowulf give me an exciting future.
Essentially Beowulf (Wolfie) was only a baby at just 6 years old - he was so, so talented and yet also had a temperament to die for. I could do things on the ground with Wolf that I have never been able to do with any other horse before. Sadly, this dream was short lived as in January 2015, Wolf suffered a tragic accident and as a result had to be put to sleep - I was heartbroken!
With the Paralympic Games in Rio taking place the following year, I had to battle against my grief in order to re-focus on Rio, so the search for a star began again.
This search lead to the arrival of a horse on loan, Donna Charisma. In the later part of 2015 into 2016 I focused on creating a partnership with Charisma and eventually began our competition campaign. Unfortunately, when it came down to selection for the Paralympic Games, realistically my partnership with Charisma was still too new, so we weren't selected.
At the end of last year (2016), I was told by the squad manager that I was being taken off the World Class Program due to not competing at championship level since 2011.
This decision was set to change things - the harsh reality was that with no UK Sport / Lottery or World Class funding, unless I was was able to secure some sponsorship and/or employment I would have to let Charisma go back to her owner and give up on the horses who I love and who have done so much for me.
I have been looking for a job for the best part of a year now, however, as I have concentrated solely on my sport for the past 10 years, I have found that I don't have the work experience that employers require, even though in my time as a world class athlete I have gained lots of valuable experience.
I am so determined to find a way to enable me to have horses again and get back into representing Great Britain once again.
I am now promoting myself as a Motivational Speaker having shared my experiences with various groups throughout my years on the world class program.
My speaking engagements have included giving the final speech at the RDA National Conference in 2005 in front of HRH The Princess Royal and 250 RDA members, the Kleeneze Business Conference in 2006 and more recently the Grantham Business Club in July of this year ….. and lots more in between.
I have two Motivational Talks available:
whatever life throws at you, there is “No Such Word As Can't”