So a new week a new blog… This week’s blog post will be about our New Sponsored Para Rider 'Rowan Crosby' which we are very excited about!
We are delighted to have Rowan be a part of the Horzehoods Sponsor Team, a Grade 1 Para Dressage Rider who has impressively represented Wales 3 times in the Para Home International. This isn’t all for Rowan also representing Great Britain for the CPEDI
So.... a little more about Rowan’s horses; up first we have a 6 year old Class 1 Grey Connemara called Tiger Lily who is trained by Rowan herself; using her voice to train Tiger from basic movements to rein back.
This year Rowan is gearing up for the season ahead and can’t wait to get stuck in!
I also had a little chat with Rowan about Para Dressage and what is next for her.
Introduce yourself and what you do.
Hi, I'm Rowan, I am 15 years old and I am a Grade 2 Para Dressage Rider.
Explain more about Para Dressage?
Para dressage means that people with physical disabilities can compete in an equestrian sport. Para Athletes are classified according to the level of their disability so the competition is as fair as possible. Riders are assessed by physiotherapists and are scored for range of movement, co-ordination, balance and strength to determine a place in one of 5 grades, Grade 5 being the least disabled to Grade 1 which is the most severe. Grade 1 riders are walk only. Grade 2 and 3 are walk and trot only and Grade 4 and 5 can walk, trot and canter. The grading determines what compensatory aids and adapted tack can be used. There has been a big increase in the number of competitors and the amount of interest in Para dressage since the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
How did you get in to Para Dressage?
I was born with microcephaly and periventricular leucomalacia, which is a type of brain damage, and started going to the RDA just before my 3rd birthday. From the start I loved competing, especially at dressage. I competed at local RDA level, then at the National Championships, which I won. When I was 9 the centre manager told my parents that it was time to buy me a horse. My parents were completely non-horsey and went out and bought me the first horse they saw, an Arab x Welsh pony who was genuine but not an easy horse. From there I joined the Welsh Para British Dressage group and was able to train with them and then start to compete.
What level are you at currently?
The system for para dressage is a bit different to able-bodied dressage. We go from Intro tests, which are Bronze level, through to Novice, which is Silver. Then the Team Test and Individual tests are Gold level. At the moment, I am doing the Novice and the Team Test out but three weeks ago Tiger and I won the National Silver Championships for Grade 2.
You’ve represented Wales 3x and Great Britain once … so far, tell us how that came about and it was like for you to represent.
Once I had Tex, my Welsh x Arab, I started competing in 2013. I got the scores to put forward for selection to represent Wales at the Home International at Novice level by 2014. I was only 11 but it was my twelfth year so I was allowed to compete. There is no distinction at para between junior and adult so I didn't expect to be selected. I was so excited to be selected and when I first wore my jacket with the Welsh flag on it I felt incredibly proud. It feels such an honour to compete under your country's flag. So far I have represented Wales three times now, twice on Tex and once on my new horse, Tiger Lily. It never feels less of an honour.
Last year I got the scores to put forward for my first CPEDI to represent Great Britain and when I was selected for that I really couldn't believe it. I think it felt even more incredible because I had only had Tiger 10 months by then and in that time she had been amazing. She was only 6 years old when she competed at Bishop Burton and in the first year she started doing Para dressage with me she competed in two national championships, represented Wales and she was now representing Great Britain.
When I started competing there was a fashion for everything to have Union Jacks on because of London 2012 but my mum said I wasn't allowed to wear the Union Jack until I had earned it. I think it felt so much more special to wear the flag because I knew that Tiger and I had worked to get there.
I felt so proud of Tiger on the first day at the trot-up. My coach trotted her up and I looked down from the stand at my pony as the tannoy announced 'Representing Great Britain, here is Kilimazing Tiger Lily!'
You have Dystonia and Paroxysmal Dyskinesia, with this does it affect or change things when you’re riding or learning and how do you adapt to the different techniques?
I developed the Dystonia and Paroxysmal Dyskinesia in 2012, so after I had started riding Tex. Dystonia and Dyskinesia are neurological movement disorders so any of the muscles in my body can spasm and I have loss of strength down my right side.
For riding this means that to Tiger it's like having a different rider every time because it’s never the same group of muscles that don't work. My coach, Claire Cooper Wyatt, always starts the session by asking me what isn't working today and then we work out a plan from there. I am a Grade 2 rider, which means that I walk and trot only.
It is vital to get as much consistency as possible with a body that isn't very consistent so we use some adapted tack. I use a bar rein, toe stoppers and a whip to represent my right leg because I have no lateral movement in that leg.
Other than that, we train Tiger to voice command and to very slight movements in the saddle or on the rein. Tiger can do all her lateral movements and turns to voice command, as well as changes of pace. We do lots of hacking to keep Tiger walking out and straight and my coach also regularly rides Tiger to check that she is not becoming stiff because of compensating for me. We have to think creatively to get the end results we want because some of the traditional methods of training are not suitable for Tiger and me.
What’s your next goal in Para Dressage?
I am currently looking for a new horse because Tiger is only 14hh and I need a horse that is minimum 14'2 to apply for World Class Programme. It takes quite a bit of time to train up a new horse because they have to get used to all the tack and training adaptions.
With Tiger, I am hoping to qualify again for the CPEDI. I have to get the scores for that by the beginning of May, I think, so Tiger and I will be out competing to try to qualify for selection.
Thank you for having a chat with me Rowan, we will look forward to seeing more of you and supporting our brand.
Good Luck Rowan and welcome to the Horzehoods Sponsor Team