Pearson primed for pleasant shock

Gifted British rider has overcome surprise at selection to press for success in Sydney.

Gifted British rider has overcome surprise at selection to press for success in Sydney.

Despite the many obstacles he has had to do battle with, Lee Pearson can count one special blessing. He is a gifted horseman, blessed with natural balance and an intuitive feel for getting the best out of any horse he rides.

Next Wednesday, the 26-year-old rider from Staffordshire will be hoping to use his talent effectively when he rides a borrowed horse in the dressage tests at the Paralympic Games in Sydney.

Pearson will be one of seven British riders competing against 23 other nations for nine sets of medals - one for the individual championship and another for the freestyle to music in each of four grades, plus the team medals. They have a reputation to live up to since Britain's 1996 team won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals in Atlanta.

Pearson suffers from a rare condition called arthrogryphosis multiplex congenita, which meant that the muscles in his arms and legs grew as scar tissue in the womb and in turn bent the bones in all four limbs, a condition which necessitated 14 major operations by the age of five and another when he was nine. Having spent the first five years of his life in a wheelchair, he says that learning to walk - with full-length steel and leather callipers - "was a long struggle".

The positive attitude of his parents - David, who is a lorry driver, and Lynda, who is the manager of a psychiatric hospital - Pearson was encouraged to participate in a sport. He chose riding, which he loved from his first lessons at the age of nine.

It was when he started riding horses owned by a local school teacher, Elsie Wilkinson, that Pearson (then a teenager) began to be aware of his own potential. "I owe a great deal to her," he said. "She pushed me and gave me the confidence to realise my talent. I did cross-country and long distance rides with her - and my first dressage test on a horse called Tacky."

Pearson contacted the Riding for the Disabled Association about two and half years ago in order to discover whether they ran any competitions. His extensive riding experience had led the Association to believe that he suffered just a slight disability, so his appearance at their offices in full-length crutches was quite a surprise for them.

But when Pearson discards the crutches and is helped up on to a horse, the transformation is amazing. At a distance he could pass for John Whitaker schooling one of his horses on the flat. He is quiet, totally focused and in harmony with his mount.

Disabled riders are divided into four grades with Grade I being for the most severely handicapped, as Pearson was classified after tests by two physiotherapists."I wasn't only surprised, I was upset because the Grade I test is limited to walk and trot."

Although he would like the test to include canter, Pearson has come to appreciate that some Grade I riders would not be able to cope. Walking and trotting, though, are areas in which Person excels. "I have quite a lot of strength in my back, but the commands I give with hands and legs are obviously lighter. I have to get on the same wavelength as the horse and let him know I still mean what I'm telling him."

Pearson's record in RDA competitions includes a clutch of gold medals (team, individual championship and freestyle to music) at last year's World Championships in Denmark. He seemed an obvious choice for the Paralympics but, with 13 possible riders being reduced to a squad of seven, he found the trials quite fraught.

"I knew I had a fighting chance, but I was still very shocked when they told me I'd been chosen," he said. Now he is hoping for a few more equally pleasant shocks in Sydney.

GREAT BRITAIN EQUESTRIAN SQUAD FOR PARALYMPIC GAMES (Sydney, dressage tests 25 to 28 October): A Dunham, D Criddle, K Gebbie, J Jackson, L Pearson, N Tustain, D Tubbs. Chef d'equipe: A Cutcliffe. Travelling Coaches: J Goldsmith, D Foale.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine