Saddle up! Teesside teenager Emily Clarke Attwood and her “best friend” – horse Gadget – are riding into the 2018 dressage season with confidence after winning support from a local charity.
Emily aims to build on a successful 12 months that saw her crowned the Northern Region Novice Champion with success at the National Championships this April.
The 18-year-old and dancing partner Gadget have been boosted by a bespoke new saddle made specially for the pair after Emily was diagnosed with a painful condition called scoliosis as well as degenerative spinal discs.
She was able to purchase the £2,500 saddle after receiving a £500 boost from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’s FAST Fund – Financial Assistance for Sportspeople on Teesside.
“This is a really big year for me and Gadget so it’s fantastic that the Foundation has been able to help me buy this specialised saddle,” said Emily, an A-level student at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in Darlington.
“The scoliosis means I really struggle with my lower body strength, so I’ve worked with a specialist company to look at how my pelvis is tilting and ways to minimise the pain.
“The saddle is what I really needed, as it’s designed to be a perfect fit, both for me and for Gadget. It will be a big help for my posture when riding.”
After starting to ride at the age of five, Emily initially competed on ponies before focusing on dressage, winning local and regional championships and gaining selection for England.
Last year, riding six-year-old Gadget, she again represented England in the BYRDS Home International, became the Northern Region Novice Champion and took third place in the Junior Novice Championship.
Now she’s focusing on the forthcoming Winternationals at Hartbury College in Gloucestershire in April and aims to move on to the British Equestrian Federation platform.
“It’s a very exciting time and I am loving every minute,” added Emily. “I’ve created such a special bond with Gadget – he’s my team-mate and probably my best friend too.
“But he is treated like an athlete – he gets physio, heat lamps and magnet rugs to increase his blood circulation. I sometimes think he’s got a better life than I do!”
Philanthropic Foundation patron David Carter of Stockton firm Carter Steel helped Emily win the FAST Fund support, having previously sponsored her himself.
Dozens of talented Teesside sportspeople including swimmers, athletes, wheelchair footballers and cyclists have received a share of around £60,000 from the Foundation’s FAST Fund.