I first started talking to Katherine through a friend of a friend. We've been good friends now for quite a while, even if we do both drive eachother slightly mad! I thought you'd all enjoy a little interview, to get to know her too!
"I'm Katherine Cooksley, I started riding at the age of 4 after suffering from two bouts of pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia at 21 months and again when I was 4. Leaving me with amputations to my fingers and cerebral palsy. I have also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I started riding for physiotherapy and it grew from there. I started para-dressage in March 2011 after being spotted whilst showjumping, of all things? It grew from there, I competed for GB and came third in my first year and it became addictive. I wanted to do more, achieve more and win more!!"
I think Katherine's attitude towards her disability is something so positive, not letting it consume her life but going out there and making something of herself. Once in the saddle, you'd never even notice that she had anything that would affect her movement. I think alot of people could take inspiration from her acheivments in their own lives, even if they don't have a disability themselves: anything is possible if you put your mind to it!
You'll have noticed a big handsome ginger horsey that I've been photographing recently - Rohan!
"My main competition horse is Roh-Gold or Rohan to his friends, he is a 12 year old Hanoverian gelding . He joined the team in 2012 after an unfortunate injury to my previous competition horse, Gemset (Gem). Together we have competed successfully for GB winning the Grade 3 young rider section in 2012 and again in 2014. We also won the Grade 3 Restricted Winter Championships in 2013 and were placed first and second at the Hickstead Summer Chamoionships of the same year."
"There have been many highlights of my riding career but the best was being selected onto the World Class Development Programme 2012-2014."
In the future Katherine has a number of goals, including breaking her homebred horse, Garnet, to ride. Hopefully he will become her competition horse one day. He's certinally one stubborn boy - good luck Katherine!
"My future aspirations are ultimately to ride at a Paralympic Games and in addition I would love to compete at the World Equestrian Games and European Championships as part of Team GB. Shorter term plans though are to make the step up to 3* level and compete for GB abroad"
What’s been your favourite horsey moment?
"My favourite horsey moment has to be when I got my first horse after years and year and years of parent nagging, now look at me, 5 horses later"
Who’s your idol?
"I don't really have an idol. I am inspired by less fortunate people that go out there to achieve something and don't let their circumstances or disabilities get in their way."
Rohan certinally knows how beautiful he is. Every time I'm at the yard he's ready to pose for the camera! He's a diva! I was recently photographing for some other people at Katherine's yard; Katherine was leading Rohan out of the barn and he stopped and stood to pose! "We all say that Rohan is particularly special, he has some funny habits that just make him even more adorable. Rohan is actually a musician and whoever gets the pleasure of mucking out his stable each morning gets to do it to an accompaniment of Rohan playing the lips (bangs his lips together very loudly), playing the bars xylophone (running his teeth up and down the bars to his stable) and the foot scrape whilst he tap dances to his tune!!!!"
The first time I met Katherine was at a local show jumping competition with Gem: "I used to show jump and have a love of jumping so if it wasn't dressage I would probably go back to showjumping or even eventing! Before I got spotted for para-dressage, we brought an event horse for me to event and I never went as I went down the dressage path, however I love the thrill of going fast and jumping....."
Katherine is based in Emmer Green, Berkshire (Reading) and is available for riding and excercising horses. She is also happy to house sit and instruct all levels and ability of horse and rider. Keep up to date with Katherine's daily training, her horses (including Elf and Olaf, two adopted ponies who are soooo cute!) and her competition diary by following her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/KatherineCooksleyParaDressage