My name is Tegan Vincent-Cooke, I am 18 years old, have Cerebral Palsy and I’m determined that I’ll be competing in the 2024 Paralympics after all anything is possible!
I was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy at birth, which means I have difficulty in controlling movements in my arms and my legs. Those who experience this form of Cerebral Palsy will not have paralysis of the muscles, but rather jerking motions that come from stiffness within all four limbs. I describe it as being as stiff as a tree. From a young age, my parents were told that I wouldn’t be able to walk and I’d be reliant on them for a lot of things. But we didn’t take that as an answer! And by the age of 2, I was able to walk with little assistance. Yes, I fell over many many times, but I soon learned to get back up!
I had my first riding lesson aged 4 and a half at Avon Riding Centre on a little white pony named TicTac in which I feel in love. Although it was just walking around, doing a few stretches and stroking ponies it was the best activity I’d ever done. It made physical therapy fun. When I was riding the pony the stiffness of my limbs would slowly fade, giving me the hint of freedom that I so desperately craved.
I continued riding throughout primary school which was also around the age I started competing in Dressage. To many including me at the time, dressage was simply walking around in circles and lines to music. But I soon learned Dressage is much more complex, it requires skill, accuracy, precision, teamwork. It is the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance, which I can tell you isn’t as easy as it sounds. But the challenge is what I love about it, it became my passion and from then on I said to myself that because this is my passion I have to be best I could be.
After a few years, I became one of the best. Winning nearly every competition I entered, winning national champion three times in a row, but I wanted to be better. I started to research where I can go and what I can do next. I was able to get the advice of Clive Milkins, a coach of Gold Medalist Paralympian Sophie Christiansen, and he told me about Sophie’s journey to how she got to the Paralympics. Instantly after hearing her story that is what I wanted for myself!! The first step to do so was to join the GB Dressage program. The program is something that riders are selected for when they are doing well and maintaining high marks. So I made sure that I trained and trained, every competition I wanted higher than the last. I’d actually get very upset if I didn’t get the score I needed even if I came first place, I was very hard on myself. Thankfully in 2015, my hard work paid off and I was asked to join the team. They only thing was, I didn’t have my own horse which made things very challenging.
Now at 18, I’m still training at Avon but I’m also on team South West British Dressage working my way up to getting my place to compete at the Paralympics as team GB in the near future (2024). There is one downside to being a BD rider and that is in order to compete, progress and be an Olympian you have to own your own horse, or at least have one available. I’m currently loaning horses from here, there and everywhere, which is incredibly unreliable and difficult but I’m desperate to get my own someday soon. In order to do though I hope to gain your support with the costs as I’m only 18 (I don’t have a lot), horses are very expensive creatures to keep. On top of that, I need equipment, to pay for competition fees, transport, etc…. But once I get my own horse that would remove the restrictions that loaning horses have and I’ll be able to train, compete and develop at a faster pace which then enables me to get that bit closer to my end goal, which is the 2024 Paralympics. I’m determined to make 2020 my year to becoming an international rider under FEI (a higher qualification). So if you are able to support me in any way, or know anyone that would like to support in any way at all I’d really really appreciate it!! And please don’t be afraid to get in touch.
A donation of the below could :
£10 could buy competition gloves/whips/comfort headcollar
£50 could buy reigns/bridle/saddle pad/grooming gear/competition fees
£100 could buy a body protector/stirrups/rugs/boots for the horse or me!
£150+ could buy a custom saddle/feed/stable payment/transport
You can continue to follow my riding journey on…
Facebook: Tegan VC Para Dressage Rider
YouTube: Tegan Vincent-Cooke (I post weekly)