As Irish para dressage rider Heather Lemmon heads off to Addington in the UK on Sunday for her first international competition, we hear the different perspectives from Heather herself as well as her mother and groom.
My Family and Freya have kept me going throughout my illness and disability. My diagnosis and treatments were a lonely experience as they happened during Lockdown but thinking about everyone kept my spirits up.
I started Para dressage last year to have fun and compete with Freya. I never imagined in my wildest dreams we'd get here.
We're not your standard dressage partnership but we hope to represent more than just our country. We want to represent the everyday, the struggle, the determination that everyone can achieve their dreams with kindness and support. I'm blessed to be surrounded by an amazing community both locally and online. We're determined to do our best and have fun doing it!
When Heather first became affected with MS - even in those first terrifying weeks and months before she was diagnosed, her main concern was that she would still be able to ride Freya. As a family, we were determined that her illness and disability would not make her passion for horses and for Freya in particular inaccessible to her.
Since then, Heather’s strength and bravery have been awe-inspiring.
As parents, we have always been proud of Heather’s achievements. As a fellow horsewoman, I have always been impressed by her talent, her depth of knowledge and her dedication. Now, as we prepare to head off to her first International Para Dressage competition, it is impossible to adequately express my admiration and respect for this amazing woman, my daughter.
Over the past few weeks we have been overwhelmed by the goodwill and generosity of people who are helping Heather and Freya in their amazing journey. We thank each and every one of you.
What does MS stand for?
When it comes to being around Heather Lemmon I have learned that those two letters stand for many things and not just for her condition:
Heather is incredibly inspiring. She has stood firm against so many challenges. As someone who is a coach and a rider herself, Heather has had to readjust her dreams and ambitions considering her diagnosis – something she has done with a dignity and determination most of us can only hope for in such a situation.
Despite her own challenges, she is always the first to ask how you are or to lend an ear. Her sense of humour is simply brilliant and always makes me laugh.
I am travelling to the UK to be there for Heather when and how she needs me. We are both perfectionists so she can trust me to uphold the standards she sets for herself. I firmly believe that this is just the start of a very big adventure for Heather and Freya and I am very happy to be part of the team for chapter one.
As Heather's diagnosis has prevented her from working, she has set up a go fund me to try and cover the costs of her international competition plans. Between travel costs, entry fees, stabling and fodder the cost of competing are significant and any and all donations are so valued as they will go towards enabling dreams to be achieved. If anyone is in a position to help, however small, please see the link below. Thank you!
You can also continue to follow Heather's journey on Instagram