Bert will ride for Canada as she aims for Rio 2016

Para-equestrian rider Roberta Sheffield'Photo courtesy of www.aloeride.co.uk

Para-equestrian rider Roberta Sheffield'Photo courtesy of www.aloeride.co.uk

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A para-equestrian rider from Bourne is set to compete on the international stage - but for faraway Canada rather than Great Britain.

Roberta Sheffield holds dual nationality and has chosen to wear the Canadian maple leaf despite riding for Great Britain last year.

It was not an easy choice but a logical one, explains the 32-year-old who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis.

“I was riding for Great Britain last year but to develop I need to go abroad and compete.

“I have been limited with my opportunities to compete abroad because Great Britain is the best in the world.

“They have won gold at every level and it’s a difficult team to break into. Canada is still an emerging nation in this sport.”

As a result the ford High School student can boast number two ranking for her nation.

“I am very lucky that I have dual nationality and will join Equine Canada this year. My international career is so sheltered that I have no idea how I will do.

“It’s a huge step and has taken a lot of soul-searching. Every weekend I compete against the best but I need to experience different atmospheres.”

Para-equestrian riders are split into four groups depending upon the level of their disability with grade four the least disabled.

Sheffield is a grade three rider and her long-term aim is to compete at Rio in 2016. But before that she hopes to qualify for the World Equestrian Games which will be held in Normandy in 2014

“I have been riding since I was about 5 - it has given me this enormous opportunity.”

Sheffield, who trains at Laughton Manor, rides with specially adapted equipment including air-cushioned stirrups to help prevent her joints seizing up.

“I was supposed to be in a wheelchair when I was 20,” she adds. “And I do only have a certain amount of energy.

“One thing about a chronic illness is that it can feel like there is nothing to get up for. To spend time with horses has been a life-saver.”