Blind dressage rider hopes to notch up ninth victory

Inspirational: Mandy and Ben at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2009

Inspirational: Mandy and Ben at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2009

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A BLIND dressage rider is hoping to canter to victory – with a little help from her friends.

Mandy Schofield started riding in 2002 after a friend recommended her to try out horse riding.

Now, nine years later, she wants to compete in her latest three-day national competition in Gloucester.

Mandy, who has never had her sight, also struggles to hear and has hearing aids in both ears.

Without her sight she relies on her instructor Anna Taylor.

The pair practise three times a week at Middleton Park Equestrian Centre.

Mandy has to visualise the routine in her mind, while Anna stands in the middle, directing her towards different points.

She guides her round the arena telling her through a loop the letters she is approaching.

At each letter Mandy guides her horse Ben through certain moves including 20m circles and 10m circles.

But for Mandy, 38, it’s more than a hobby.

“It’s like having my sight when I’m riding,” said Mandy, “It’s great. I love it.”

This is her ninth year competing, and she has titles in both disabled and able-bodied competitions.

“Ben and I have worked closely together and we have got a bond with each other. He’s a bit silly sometimes but I know what he’s like,” she said.

To get to her latest competition, Mandy needed help to raise the £200 to cover stabling and accommodation costs. Her friends at the Queensbury Singers group dug deep and organised a baking sale during their Friday night rehearsal.

“They’re a fantastic group,” said Mandy, who has been a member since they started in April 2010 years ago.

“They’re really supportive and they have done everything they can to help me.” She hopes to defend her title with two routines.

Her four-minute freestyle routine will take place to a medley of the Can Can, Pink Panther theme, The Entertainer and Singin’ in the Rain.

Inspirational Mandy is hopeful for victory. “I’m going to try to win,” she said.