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Dressage decision for Shelby

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By Fiona Reid
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Dressage decision for Shelby

WORLD Record holding para-athlete Shelby Watson has switched disciplines after feeling like she ‘wasn’t getting anywhere fast’ in wheelchair racing.

The 24-year-old from Johnstonebridge took up wheelchair racing back in 2012, competing in the T33 classification and is a five-time world record holder and world champion.

But now she is swapping the track for the dressage arena and has started to train, ride and compete in para-dressage.

Speaking to the Annandale Series about her sporting switch, Shelby said: “With my racing there’s been so many setbacks over the years and I just couldn’t justify training at a Paralympic level without any guarantee that I would be competing at the highest level possible. And whilst having the world records is amazing, it’s not enough to continue in the sport.

“I like the structure that training gives me but I wanted a complete switch from racing and I had seen dressage on TV at the Paralympics so I thought I’d give it a go, even though I have no experience with horses.”

PARTNERS . . . Shelby and Norrie

Shelby began training twice a week in Moniaive with a pure breed Highland pony named Norrie last month and had her first dressage test over the weekend.

She said: “The first time getting on the horse was quite scary obviously since my body doesn’t work in the same way an able bodied rider’s does, but Norrie is such a gentle pony, it’s almost like he can sense what I need from him to help me stay on.

“When we competed together for the first time on Sunday we got really good marks for me being a novice, but Norrie was a little spooked so I gently sang some Taylor Swift to him to calm him – but the important thing is I didn’t fall off!”

Now Shelby and Norrie will be training for their summer programme of events as well as working on their partnership. Looking ahead to her future in the new sport, Shelby said: “Right now I want to spend this time enjoying the sport, I feel like my spark is back and I want to get to know Norrie better whilst taking my training bit by bit.”

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