Panning for Gold.
At the age of three, after my complete lack of talent at ballet became unignorably apparent to both my Mum and Teacher, due to my inability to avoid slaying my fellow taffita toting tots with my far from graceful but enthusiastic whirling, I was stripped of my tutu, hammered into a riding hard hat the size of a nut and driven to the local stables, where I was to spend every Saturday morning from then on. This is where my love affair with horses began.
Horses were my passion even before I lost my sight at the age of 8, but as I gradually went blind they became my freedom. The more my blindness crept in, the more my spirit galloped away to the sanctuary that these beautiful creatures gave me. To the Doctor's surprise, when told I was going blind, my reply was, 'thats OK, my horse can see for me'. I was aware even then, with the simplistic clarity of a child, that horses had the ability to untangle the complexity of my disability. The physical restrictions of my encroaching blindness, melted away when I was in the saddle , leaving me free, like every other child of my age to stride out without consequence and without inhibition. I became like a little centaur, immovably fused to my beloved horse, and the hope and possibility that he gave me was allowed to gallop through my veins. Much to the relief of fraying friends and family, I did however make one concession to my sight. I made a switch from show jumping to dressage as the dressage arena provided the perfect platform for me to compete on equal terms with sighted competitors.
Having represented Team Great Britain in the Para World Championships when I was 18, but having had my London 2012 hopes dashed through the death of my beloved horse from cancer, I am now back in the saddle, going for gold and looking to earn my place back on Team GB for the 2016 Rio Olympics. However finding the right horse is a little like finding Mr Right - you have to ride a lot of frogs before you find your prince! I have spent the past few months speed dating, only without the glass of wine or the bell. It's been a lot like panning for gold, for although all the horses have been handsome charmers, like all girls, I have been looking for that special someone. Being blind I needed to find a horse with the talent to be the best but with the personality to be a best friend. Dressage horses are like Prima Ballerina's and often as highly strung, so to find my dream man, who had both sense and sensibility was a bit like trying to find a white cane in a snow storm.
Then, when I least expected it I met Szekit, my perfect partner. Like all love affairs, it started with a bang, as I quite literally walked into him in the stable. It was love at first insight and he had me at hello. He is magnificent and the colour of dark chocolate, which is unfortunate as he blends perfectly with the dark wooden walls of his box, which renders him invisible to my contrast hungry eyes. I think he has worked out that there is something wrong with my vision, especially after I offered his bottom a carrot in a particularly shadowy corner of his stable. Nevertheless, like a gentleman he accommodates my quirky foibles, treating me with the gentility of a mare with a slightly clumsy foal. He's incredible and when I ride him it's like flying, my feet don't touch the ground; he really is 'The Kingdom's Horse' and I know with a lot of hard work, we have a good shot at bringing home a gold.
Uffa's note: Szekit may be big and he may be beautiful but like David and Goliath, I will always win the battle for Verity's heart.