Meet Nicola Naylor, Para dressage rider  Meet Nicola Naylor, Para dressage rider Nicola Naylor Para Dressage

Meet Nicola Naylor, Para dressage rider

Riding a dressage test can be daunting enough, but imagine doing it in the pitch black. Charlotte Anderson met blind rider, Nicola Naylor, to find out how she does it…
When I went to visit Nicola in Kent, I wasn’t expecting the kind of reception I actually received. Nicola, who is completely blind, bar a small amount of light in her left eye, greeted me, shook me by an accurately aimed hand and moved nimbly around the yard with no obvious signs that she can’t see. Nicola is a petite blonde with a sharp sense of humour. When the photographer asked if she wanted to fix her hat hair before having her portrait taken, she simply replied: “Why? I won’t know if it looks bad in the photos!” Her confidence and complete ease with her disability was mirrored by her obvious ability as a rider. Although she had help tacking up her horse and preparing him for our photoshoot (plaits are hard enough with 20/20 vision, let alone if you’re completely blind), the way she rode independently into the arena and started warming up was astounding. 
Having always been partially sighted, she assumed that her passion for riding would always be restricted. Indeed, when she went totally blind in her early twenties, Nicola gave up riding completely. It wasn’t until her daughter’s riding instructor suggested she try her hand at dressage that the passion was reignited. Now she trains every day with dressage rider Daniel Watson and has three horses based with him. So how does she do it? Nicola explains…
The collecting ring at competitions is the scariest time for me. Dan has to communicate with me by radio mic because it would be too dangerous if there were trainers or helpers in the arena as well. It’s pretty scary having other, often preoccupied, riders sharing the space and I know Dan finds it really stressful, too. He’s usually more of a wreck than I am!
In any new environment, I have to go into a zone to keep my focus. If I’m riding a sharp horse who leaps away from the flower pots or spectators, it throws my perception of where I am. Even when I’m not riding, I don’t enjoy going to new places, so competing presents lots of challenges for me. 

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