Catch up with Paralympic dressage riders James Dwyer and Philippa Johnson-Dwyer
Written by Arabella Clegg
Firstly, please introduce your horses;
Benedict is a 23 years young Hannoverian gelding. He was my (Philippa’s) brilliant horse, who won me my two silver medals at the Athens Paralympics and two gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics. Although he is now retired he is still going strong and I was using him as a teaching horse until about 15 months ago when he was taken over by one of my pupils who has started competing with him again! Obviously this has been highly influential by the use of the haygain steamer, keeping the old boy going!
Verdi is a 14 year old, KWPN gelding I compete internationally at light tour level. He has competed at two World Equestrian Games with Philippa, Kentucky 2010 and Normandy 2014.
Games with Philippa, London and Rio.
Fleurette is a 12 year old, Belgium Warmblood mare whom James got four years ago. He bought her from the breeders and although they had done a fabulous job producing her they had never competed her, so in that respect she is still young. James is hoping to qualify her for next years World Equestrian Games!
1. How has the 2017 competition year been for you both so far?
It has been a bit of a quiet year for both of us. James had a few wins at the beginning of the year with Fleurette. I decided to give Louis six months off after last year as it had been a very hard twelve months on him so I felt he needed time to be a horse again. That left it up to Verdi who just keeps getting better!
2. What is your favourite venue/competition of the calendar year?
One of our favourite venues this year was Al Shaqab, Doha which is a fabulous competition.
3.What has been the main challenge this current year?
The biggest challenge and I think this is true for all rider's is being disciplined enough to give your horses time off especially when it is a lighter year competition wise knowing that the time off will do them more good.
4. How do you keep your horses fit and healthy to compete at this level?
Besides good basic training with the help of our trainer, we are lucky that we have a fabulous team of professionals helping our horses, from the farrier, vet, massage therapist, Osteopath, saddle fitter and then of course a good diet. This includes using the best hay which is made even better by using our Haygain steamers. The steamer is so important especially when we travel as we don't know what type of hay we will get at different venues.
5. Explain a typical day on your yard and your facilities;
We still have our horses at our trainer, Chris Haazen's, yard so it is made up of grooming, saddling, putting horses out, riding, bringing horses in, feeding lunch, making up food for dinner and the next days breakfast. We then return home for lunch and start work on our new place which includes getting the stables up and running, sorting out the arena and other jobs.
6. Main aims for 2018?
The ultimate goal is for us to both qualify for the World Equestrian Games.
7. Highlight of 2017/ any personal bests?
It has to be at the Flanders dressage event when in the Dressage Battle (a fun thing that had been organized by the organizers of the event) Verdi won the first leg of the competition with just under a 72% in the Inter 1 Freestyle, which was our personal best score in able-bodied competition.
9. Are you OCD about anything in particular, or would your groom/s say either of you have any quirks?
We balance each other out but I'm very OCD about looking after my own horses and not letting anyone do things with them and James is super relaxed as long as his horse is in the right place at the right time!
10. Last holiday destination?
South Africa, but it was half work, half holiday, as I had to compete in the SA Dressage Championships!!
11. Do you or your groom/s have any other use for the haygain products?
The first time we used it, it was a very cold day and when we opened it there was a lot of steam, unfortunately this gave our next door neighbour a huge fright as he thought our hay was on fire.
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