Emily's long road to success

18 year old dressage rider Emily Hedger overcame huge obstacles to pursue her love of sport. Here Emily tells us her story.

Born to ride

If the saying 'born to ride' has ever been apt for anyone, it's 18 year old Emily Hedger. Emily fell in love with riding at aged just two after her Mum, Helen, a keen rider herself, first put her on a horse.

Emily was hooked and as soon as she was able, joined the Pony Club locally and began competing at shows.

Tragically though, aged eight, Emily fell off her horse and fractured her femur. She spent six difficult months recovering in a wheelchair before spending another three months on crutches learning how to walk again. Her strong love of riding drove her to get back on her horse as soon as she was out of the wheelchair and while still on crutches.

Emily said: "I was scared when I first got back on but I wanted to do it and see how I would feel."

Her determination saw her not only start riding again but competing and jumping in competitions. She decided to give dressage a try and at 13, went to a BYRDS (British Young Rider Dressage Scheme) training camp. The camp is designed for young riders (under-25s) and gives structured training opportunities.

Emily met her current instructor, local Derbyshire Dressage trainer Sonia Baines, at the camp and has since become a regular member of the Great Britain junior squad, representing her country at international competitions at Hickstead and Addington.

Emily also has competed at High Profile and Premier league competitions since early 2013, as well as the Under 25s Championships, where she won the PSG and Inter 1 Classes in 2014. After Addington International she was ranked 118th in the world and 5th in GB.

An eye on the future

Emily, a member of Dunston Park Equestrian Centre, Chesterfield, is training her horse, West (Cadalma) up the levels after the retirement of her international horse, O'Donner, last summer.

Emily said: "Cadalma is a relatively inexperienced horse compared to my international horse, O'Donner, but she has great presence and athleticism and we have very high hopes that she too will be competing at International level before too long - I am aiming to compete at PSG level by Summer 2016.

"Our long term aims are to compete at Under-21 and train towards Grand Prix under-25s."

Although studying Accounting and Finance at Sheffield Hallam University, Emily hopes to compete in dressage professionally.

The power of sport to change lives is apparent in Emily's story. Her will to ride again after a massive obstacle could help her realise her dreams and see riding as her future career.

Find out more

For more information about Emily, visit her website www.emilyhedger.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @EHedgerDressage

Has Emily inspired you to try riding or take up another sport? You can search for local clubs and activities using the Active Derbyshire club and ctivity search.