AMANDA SHIRTCLIFFE GRADE III INTERNATIONAL RIDER
I’m Amanda and I’m a Grade 3 Para dressage rider. I was officially diagnosed with Dystonia in Feb 2012 and started my Para dressage journey rather late in life, at the age of 31.
As my Dystonia progressed my body pretty much decided for me that I couldn’t continue to hare about the countryside on horseback. My days of show jumping and cross-country riding were well and truly over. If I wanted to carry on riding horses, I’d most definitely have to find an alternative route.
I watched the London Paralympics from the comfort of my sofa and remember witnessing the brilliant British Para Equestrian Team grab a gold medal. My passion for riding was reignited and I promptly got myself classified to compete in Para Dressage. Although I was now certified to compete as a Para athlete, there was one minor problem, I didn’t have a horse! A good friend of mine very kindly offered to help me get back in the saddle and suggested I tried riding her horse. Honestly, when the day arrived, I was absolutely bricking it. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Millie, was an absolute saint of a mare and didn’t put a hoof out of line the entire time I was onboard.
In January 2013 Millie and I competed in our first ever Para Dressage competition and went on to win the Talent Development competition later in the same year. From here on in I was hooked on para dressage and spent every spare moment I had in the saddle. In 2014 I represented Great Britain at my first international and a couple of years later I was selected onto the World Class Programme, I haven’t looked back since!
Having tried it, I now appreciate there is much more to dressage than just sitting pretty in the saddle, and like many others before me, I have succumbed to the spellbinding ways of dancing with your donkey. As the years tick by I have become more involved with the technical aspect of our sport. I now hold an RDA dressage judge qualification and I’m currently listed as a BD trainee judge.
There have been many super steeds that have helped me to pave my way through Para dressage. Those that follow my journey closely will know that I started my competitive career riding Grey horses but have since switched to a team of Black beauties. I can absolutely empathise with anyone trying to recognise which horse I am riding; I admit that my current horses all look incredibly similar and from a distance even get I confused.
Horses encompass my life, there’s little time for other hobbies. I’m not sure you could count eating as a pastime (not necessarily the best thing to do when you need to fit into white, skin tight dressage breeches) but I am incredibly fond of food and would go as far as to say I’m a now a cheesy chips and cheesecake connoisseur. I work hard to control my calorie intake but I can’t ever envisage being supermodel slim; to me, a balanced diet is a chocolate muffin in both hands!