Para Carriage Driving World Championships

Emma Golding

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My name is Emma Golding and I am an (currently the only one but we’re working on changing that!) Irish international para-equestrian carriage driver. Mine and my team’s aim for this season is to compete at the FEI World Championships for Drivers with Disabilities.

My Story

Every school has some girls who are obsessed with horses – I was one of them! I spent as much time as possible at my local riding stables. We couldn’t afford a pony of my own so would work in exchange for rides. After I finished school, I went to study equine science but 6 weeks in I had a fall which shattered three of the vertebrae in my back causing a complete spinal cord injury. I spent 10 months in hospital after which I worked on getting my life back on track. This involved a false start in university followed by a non-false start and attempting to ride again with the aim of doing para dressage. I persevered for about 18 months but, because of the level of my injury (T5), my balance wasn’t good enough to do anything more than walk with someone leading the horse and a person on either side. I was grateful to be able to do that but it wasn’t enough so, when someone suggested I try carriage driving, I jumped (metaphorically, of course!) at the chance.

Horse driving trials is essentially eventing with a carriage and this sport has given me back so much of what I lost after my accident. I started out driving a Welsh Cob stallion called Ianto who was the ultimate schoolmaster and belonged to Sarah Mullins who is still my coach and who my current pony lives with. After Ianto came Popeye, the most adorable little cob, who took me to two world championships and is now happily retired. Then came Lucie, who gave me a crucial confidence-building stepping-stone after the comfort of driving Popeye as well as my best result yet at a world championships. And now, there is Lilly. Lilly is a beautiful, grey Irish sport pony who is fun, brave and a bit quirky. We have been going from strength to strength together and are hoping to go to the 2018 world championships together.

The Plan

The 2018 FEI World Championships for Drivers with Disabilities will be held in Kronenberg in the Netherlands from 28th August to 2nd September. These championships are even more exciting as they are being held in conjunction with the World Single Horse Championships. The Irish team for the para championships will consist of me, Lilly, my backstepper Jasmine, a groom and chef d’equipe Sarah. The total cost of going to a championships like this is usually around €2,500 – ferries and fuel for the lorry and my car, accommodation etc. There are some logistical issues this time out that will add to it but Irish Ferries (plug for my sponsor!) have been providing us our ferry journeys to the UK since last season (something that has contributed massively to our jump in performance) so that leg is all taken care of so the cost will even out. As you can see below, me, Lilly and our team have already achieved a lot together. We have such a huge amount of fun as a team and representing Ireland is such a privilege. I would greatly appreciate any support you can give to help us compete at the 2018 para carriage driving world championships.

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9th at the 2014 FEI World Championships for Drivers with Disabilities

Driving Lucie, this was my best result at a world championship so far.

2016 George Mernagh Memorial Bursary Fund winner.

This was a €5,000 bursary. I used half to fund our travel to the 2016 world championships and half to provide opportunities for other people with spinal cord injuries to try carriage driving.

2016 Irish Novice Pony League Winner

Winner (out of 8 competitors) of the Irish novice pony league. All other competitors were able-bodied drivers.

7th in 2017 Novice Pony class at British national championships

Driving Lilly, I qualified for and came 7th (out of 13) in the novice pony class at the British national championships. All other competitors were able-bodied drivers.

Reserve Champion - 2018 British Para National Championships

Competing in a class of 7, we achieved a personal best dressage score of 48, came 3rd on the marathon and won the cones with just a handful of penalties to achieve 2nd place overall. This is our best result yet and a brilliant start to the season.

+Thank Yous and Updates

Thank you!

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported us so far! This weekend we had our last (of three) pre-season High Performance training weekends. We worked hard on some of the weaker parts of our dressage test - it was tough but we'll keep at it! Events start in June - really looking forward to getting out!

Reserve Champions!

The week before last we headed over to the David Broome Event Centre in Wales for what was (but wasn't intended to be!) our first event of the season, the British Para Championships and we finished as Reserve Champions! We have had three weekends of pre-season training with Wilf Biwman-Ripley and we have really started pushing to up our game. Dressage went really well and we got a 48 and saw some huge improvements based on the work we've been doing. Lilly felt brilliant and she gave me the absolute best she can give right now. For the marathon we had an obstacle walk with Wilf and decided to try going longer routes in the obstacles so Lilly could feel she could properly move on. When I was able to keep up with her it really worked and we were 2nd and 3rd fastest in 3 obstacles. Where I wasn't we were slower (4th in 2 and 7th in another where I missed a turn which had us in there forever!) but we know exactly why and what to do differently next time. Although it was our first event Lilly bounced her way back to the stables! We were 4th in dressage and moved up to 3rd after marathon and a clear round with a handful of time penalties in the cones moved us up to finish in 2nd. I'm absolutely over the moon - the work we have been putting in as a team is really paying off. Next event is Shanes Castle in Antrim next weekend :-)

North/South Challenge Cup Winners

Last weekend saw us travel to Shanes Castle, always one of my favourite events, and our first event at Intermediate level. Dressage wasn't as nice as Cricklands but that was down to me so theoretically fixable! We won the cones with just one down and no problem at all for Lilly making the faster time needed at this level - the second we do a couple of practice cones she's like a firework just waiting to be let off and all I have to do is steer her! Obstacles were our best ever. The change in strategy we started at Cricklands is coming together. We were forward, smooth and I wasn't annoying Lilly as much with lots of tight turns. We were about 5 penalties off the class standard which is a fraction of what it was before. It would have been 25 if Jasmine hadn't stopped me driving through a gate backwards! We finished in 2nd overall and more importantly, as we were on the South's team for the annual North/South Challenge, contributed our score to a win for the South!

Nearly There!

Thanks to everyone who has supported us on our journey! Since Shane's Castle we have had two events, one quite challenging (weather, ground conditions, tree-ey obstacles which don't really suit us, machinery issues) and our final warm-up event which went a lot better. Today will be spent with me sorting out some last minute bits and pieces, Jasmine and Lilly going for quick gallop and packing the lorry and then our journey starts tomorrow!

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