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Natasha Baker

Natasha Baker is a Grade II Para-Dressage rider who has suffered from transverse myelitis from an early age, Natasha has fought against her illness and has achieved great things in the sport of dressage, below we you can watch a documentary detailing her story from a child through to equestrian champion

Natasha Baker
Natasha Baker, Paralympics Grade II freestyle Dressage
Below you can watch Natasha Baker winning gold and breaking the freestyle record at the 2012 paralympics in London.

Natasha Baker
Meet Natasha`s horses, see her yard and horsebox.

Natasha Baker
Natasha Baker Grade II Para-Dressage Rider and am on the World Class Development Programme. I am based in Uxbridge, Middlesex in West London and live on my parents and grandparents farm. I completed my A Levels two years ago in English Literature, Business and Sociology and am now at home with my horses.

Horses have always been a huge part of my life. I am very fortunate having grown up on the family farm; I was surrounded by them from a young age. My mum rode competitively in the showing and eventing world and my dad used to motor race, so there was no doubt I was going to be competitive!! I was sat on a horse before I was able to walk; my first ride took place using my mums old pony and her basket saddle when I was only 6 months old, I used to sit with a lolly in one hand and a drink in the other!

My disability…
When I was 14 months old I contracted a virus, Transverse Myelitis. We don’t know what caused it but it is very rare, especially in babies. It is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level or segment of the spine. It damages or destroys the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibres which causes nervous system scars and interrupts communication between the nerves in my spine and the rest of my body. My disability is permanent however I don’t know any other way, I was brought up to believe that I can do anything I want, maybe just not in the conventional way and I truly believe this. Anything is possible and I don’t let anything hold me back.

I always used to ride ponies at home but it was very spasmodic, some just were not suitable. I used to go for weekly sessions with my physio Catherine who treated me from a very young age and all I used to talk about was horses, horses, horses!! I was desperate to ride and she thought it would be very good for my disability. Catherine gave us the details of our local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and suggested we have a chat with them. My parents called and I went for an assessment. They were so busy that I had to take any cancellations in any classes to get a ride but after a month or so I maintained a regular slot.

It was clear to them that I had such a passion for my riding and the dedication that I started to enter small competitions. When I was 9 I entered the R.D.A handy pony competition on my favourite, Forrester. We did it for a bit of fun, however I ended up winning the RDA National Championships! The head trainer then took me under his wing and started giving me private lessons and that’s when it all started…

In 2000 I watched the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics. It was the first time that Paralympic Dressage had been shown on the TV. I saw Lee Pearson, Deb Criddle and all the other members of Team GBR and they had a real impact on me. I wanted to be like them, do what they do, get my horses to go as beautifully as they did. That was my dream and that’s when I decided I wanted to win a Gold Medal! I told my parents and my instructor and soon after I met Lee. He was such an inspiration and made me feel that if I put the hard work into it, I would get to where he is one day; he made my dream come alive.

The move from RDA to Para-Dressage…

Gosh what a BIG move!!! I carried on going to the RDA a few years after 2000. I went for my classification and came out as a Grade II which meant that in my tests I could only walk and trot however in my freestyle I could canter. I competed at the RDA National Championships on several occasions and did rather well. In 2002 I was talent spotted by Jane Goldsmith, who was chief selector at the time. She put me forward for the World Class Programme that was selecting riders for their pilot year. I went forward on Forrester, and was selected onto the Start Programme. This meant that I had support from Lottery Funding, World Class Vets, Nutritionists, Physio’s, Psychologists etc but most importantly trainers.

Over the years Para-Dressage moved on so much; the horses got bigger, more impressive and powerful. The standard of horses had gone up tenfold compared to when I was selected on my little Forrester, so we went out searching for my first horse. One of the World Class trainers came across a horse Pammy Hutton had for sale. He was called Never-the-Less (Charlie) and was Pammy’s son’s horse who he had outgrown. He was 16hh, 6 yrs old, bred by Pammy and was by her Grand Prix horse Amanti. I went to ride him and he was perfect. After several rides we brought him home and stabled him at the RDA. I went to several Para competitions with him and did amazingly well however after a few months everything started to go downhill. He found out that I didn’t have the use of my legs to push him forward and would refuse and buck. We knew his routine had to change.

One day when my mum was teaching at a friend’s yard she met her old school friend Sacha Hamilton. Cut a long story short, Sacha ended up riding Charlie. The time was right to bring Charlie home, we had just built a new outdoor school and Sacha started to train me. This was the first huge step of my journey from RDA competitions to Para-Dressage.

Having maintained my place on the World Class Programme, Charlie and I went out and was placed and won many International competitions including the Overall Under 21 International Championship in 2005. The following year, whilst at an International competition, Michel Assouline called me and told me of a horse that was coming up for loan. We jumped at the chance and went to have a look. He was Wald Minor (Woody), who was being competed at Inter 1 with Ulrik Molgaard and is owned by Mrs Jean Scharf, a list 2 judge. Woody soon came home and that’s when my dream started to become a reality. In 2007 Woody and I were selected to compete at the FEI World Para Dressage Championships at Hartpury College as a non-medalist for qualification for Beijing 2008 and simply for experience. WOW!! What an amazing experience it was. Had I of been eligible for a medal I would have won individual bronze. It was very hard in the prize giving having to watch another rider receive my medal!

The standard was still rising and it was time for me to sell Charlie to enable me to buy my next horse. It was heartbreaking but I knew I had to do it. Then the search started… 22 horses and 3 trips to Europe later I brought Lazardo (Ludo) from Ulrik (who used to ride Woody!! Small world!!) He was amazing, had real star potential, all the judges and selectors loved him, but not quite as much as he loves himself!! Unfortunately, Ludo injured his hind suspensory ligament and has been off for over a year now. We are hoping that he will make a recovery.

Because of Ludo’s injury, Woody had to put his dancing shoes back on and re-take his place as my top ride. We continued to be successful but he got older and we knew that we couldn’t rely on him forever. So the search was on…. Again!! After many unsuccessful trips we went to go and look at a few horses at a Grand Prix rider’s yard, none of the horses were for me however he rented his yard from Christian Landolt an FEI judge, event and dressage rider. One of his horses walked past to go onto the walker. Sacha, mum and myself all looked and remarked on such an amazing walk (a vital part to my test). We found out that he wasn’t going to make a top eventer because he wasn’t bold enough cross country and Christian was lending him to a Para Swiss rider for an International competition at Hartpury, where I was also competing. We left our details in the hope of a phone call.

Nearly two weeks later, I was in bed with sinusitis and I had a phone call from Christian saying that he got my details and would I like to come and ride him. It was love at first ride!! He was an incredible horse, so willing with amazing paces. He was my perfect horse. After he competed at Hartpury (where he was a superstar!) he came home with me.

We have had amazing success both Nationally and Internationally and I have every faith in him for the future. Let’s hope he fulfils my dream and we can win our Gold Medal together!

British Para-Dressage Rider | Para-Horse Rider | Disabled Dressage Riders

Natasha Baker Horses

Natasha Baker Competition Results

Natasha Baker Para-Dressage RideNatasha BakerNatasha Baker
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