Paralympic equestrian Debbie Criddle talks about how knowing the weather can help her prepare.
"A forecast when I have a long journey coming up is actually really important. For me with my disability if I am driving the lorry in high winds it is more strain on my one hand, it can make the whole drive more difficult"
Debbie Criddle is used to competing at the highest level. A para-equestrian dressage competitor, she has been a part of the British team since 1991 and taken part in 3 Paralympic Games. This summer Debbie will represent Team GB with the 16.1 hand "Akilles".
Equestrian events test the ability of horse and rider to display both athleticism and elegance
Athletes with a disability have long taken part in equestrian activities, originally as a means of rehabilitation and recreation. Para-equestrian Dressage developed in the 1970s, with the first events held in Great Britain and Scandinavia.
Adverse weather can impact on preparation and competition for those with a physical disability
The weather plays perhaps a bigger part in Debbie's preparation than many others. An accident in 1985 changed her life after the right side of her body was badly injured and she lost the use of her right arm. After many years she made the difficult decision to have it amputated and now competes using her left arm only. She also has only "half power" in her right leg and a twisted spine which has been caused by the way she walks and rides with her injuries. For most of us the only time we see Olympic athletes is when they are competing but the day starts early for professional dressage riders.
Simply getting to the events can be tougher for Debbie than most - "I'm driving the lorry, if I am out in high winds it is a bit more strain on the one hand, it can make the whole drive more difficult. A lot of my trips can be three or fours hours so I really do want to be up to date with what is going on with the weather". Both man and beast need to be prepared for all conditions. As a result, working horses year-round in preparation for competitions is made more complicated by weather restrictions. She says, "I check the forecast [every night]... if it says I can expect frost, my ring might be frozen so I need to be on the phone to my trainer to reschedule or find some other way to exercise my horses because they need to do things every day." When competing in other climates, the forecasts are just as vital as she needs to prepare her horse for the conditions. "For London 2012 there is no acclimatisation. For Beijing it was vital we selected the hot days and went out and exercised the horse."
More information about paralympic equestrian dressage is available from the official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games website.
28 July - 9 August - Check the Greenwich Park forecast if you are planning to watch any of the equestrian events.
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