Autism Together client John Carson has won a gold medal for equestrianism at the Sheffield Special Olympics, held earlier this month.
John Carson has previously competed in – and won – multiple British Dressage National Championships, making him one of Wirral’s most decorated para equestrian athletes.
The Special Olympics is the country’s largest multi-sports competition for athletes with a range of conditions, including autism. John showcased his expertise in dressage, horse trials, horse care and horse knowledge.
Typically training once per week at the Wirral Riding Centre in Neston, John’s training intensified in the weeks leading to the event to ensure that he and his team of fellow equestrians achieve to the very best of their ability.
His journey to the games was not without its challenges. He said, “You have to be confident. Riding a new horse can take weeks, it can take months. Sometimes I would get frustrated, and then the horse would get really frustrated and then just do its own thing. Because I was anxious, I wasn’t giving the right signals.”
However, training for the equestrian Special Olympics team has also delivered great joy to John, especially when riding his favourite horse, Liquorice. Liquorice competed alongside John at Hartpury’s para-dressage Gold Championships, where all equestrians wishing to compete in any Olympic team must ride in order to qualify.
John benefits greatly from the supportive environment at the Special Olympics. He said, “The best thing is that we always have a meal together and a disco on the last night, which is great because some of the guys cannot communicate, so that means that some of them are using the opportunity to dance in order to communicate.”
He attributes his skill and success to the support he receives from his team, his family and his coach Pippa Norman from Coleg Cambria. John said, “I think that that’s what gets me through it. I don’t think I would have been as successful if I did not have the support from everyone else.
“I am so proud to be part of this. If I have had a really bad day, or a really difficult meeting, or I come into training and I feel really down, the minute I get on the horse, I’m on cloud nine. It has that effect on you.”
John continued, “If you’ve got a sport that you enjoy, do it. You can achieve absolutely anything.”