Going for gold!

By KUE DAVIS

THIS Christmas was the best that Dale Johnston has ever had.

Dale, 18, who suffers from multiple disabilities, is a long-time equestrian competitor that has long had his sights firmly set on the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

That dream became closer to becoming a reality on Christmas Day, when Dale was given "the best present ever" a stunning four-year-old bay thoroughbred gelding, Willow. What made this gift so special was that it was not from his mother or father, but from his instructor, Linda Rider.

"We told Dale that Linda needed help feeding the horses on Christmas Day, and brought him out (to Horsing Around at Lower Bucca). We blindfolded him, and put the lead rope in his hands," his mother, Karen Spring said.

Dale thought he was getting a puppy until his mother and instructor removed the blindfold.

"I was shocked out of the blue!" Dale said.

"It was the best present ever."

As a result of meningitis when he was a child, Dale has had a stroke which has left him with limited use of his right hand, is deaf, suffers from learning difficulties and is classed as a brain injury victim.

"Dale has been riding since he was 11, and it's just been amazing therapy," Mrs Spring said.

"Linda, as an instructor, has enriched Dale's life.

"Her ability to think outside the square, and the modifications she has made to both her teaching methods and equipment really has changed Dale's life."

Mrs Rider was modest.

"Dale's got the potential to get to where he wants to go, but if we really wanted to be serious about it, he needed his own horse," she said.

Dale and Willow, who will compete in Dressage, will now be training between three and five times a week in preparation for the long road ahead.

"Now Dale be focusing on qualifying for the Paralympic Preparation Program," Mrs Spring said.



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