The 14-time gold medal winner Sir Lee Pearson, from Staffordshire Moorlands, was presented with another trinket for his trophy cabinet as local rider Lindsay Green presented him with a commemorative medal to mark the opening of the Helen Atkin Building at Buxton Riding School, Fern Road, on Saturday, April 23.
Janine Frost, chairman of Helen Atkin Group Buxton Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), said: “We are extremely grateful to Lee for giving up his time. The arena has been up and running since last October and has transformed the way we run our riding sessions.
“It was a great honour for some of our riders – ranging in age from primary school pupils to adults – to have the opportunity to show him how riding is helping to make a massive difference to their lives.”
Lee was accompanied by his horse Styletta, and together they delighted a crowd of riders, volunteers, supporters and sponsors with a demonstration of the skills which earned Lee medals at the Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio games, and the unofficial title as ‘the godfather’ of British Paralympic dressage.
He said: “RDA is unbelievably important, and it’s fantastic to see how proud everyone involved in the Helen Atkin Group is of this fabulous arena, and how they are reaping the benefits of having such a beautiful and safe space in which to ride.
“Riding is still a huge part of my therapy mentally, and my body wasn’t made to do any other sport. Horses are amazing, humbling animals which only accept kindness and clear direction – an important lesson for children to learn, whatever their differences or riding ability. To combine that with physical and mental therapy, what could be better?”
Another special guest was Buxton RDA’s former chairman Wendy Howe, who masterminded the fundraising appeal to build the arena. Lee presented her with an award from the national RDA, marking 30 years of volunteering.
Wendy said: “Although at times we felt we would never get there because of the financial target, the challenging ground this building stands on and the planning and legalities it entailed, the driving force was the belief it would bring huge benefits to the riders.
“Thanks to the incredible support and encouragement we received we made it in the end. Riding for the Disabled has a motto – ‘It’s what you can do that counts’ – and you all made it count. I wish the group every success as it grows and hope it manages to keep the same friendly and welcoming ethos it has always had as it achieves new goals in the future.”
The arena is named after the late daughter of the group’s treasurer, Pat Atkin, who helped to found the group with her late husband John 35 years ago.
Key contributors to the project were Sport England, the estate of David Hammond administered by Brooke-Taylors Solicitors, Tarmac Ltd, Lomas Distribution Ltd, Howdens Kitchens, Fairfield Builders Supplies and Dave and Louise Thompson, owners of Buxton Riding School.
Janine said: “We could not have done it without their vital support and contributions, and are hugely indebted to them all.”