Natalie South, a para dressage rider from Romford in Essex, finished first in her class at the Para Winter Championships, thanks in part to the assistance of her TGA Maximo scooter.
In what is her most prestigious dressage victory to date, Natalie’s achievement is all the more impressive given she experienced a bad fall in last year’s tournament, resulting in a last-place finish.
Determined to put right those events of 2018, this year was a different story for the 29-year-old and her horse, Hugo. "I felt confident on Hugo this time and was determined to win,” she said. “As I am only five-foot high and Hugo is 16 hands, my previous fall was quite upsetting, however I am now over that.
“[This year] I scored 70.5% which was enough to beat all the other competitors by a clear margin. I was ecstatic.”
As well as clearly having the determination and resilience to succeed this time round, Natalie attributed some of her success to her new TGA scooter, saying: "My Maximo is amazing! I can honestly attribute some part of my recent win to owning it.
“This is because I was able to conserve energy before competing as I did not have to struggle trying to walk around the event. I haven't owned my TGA scooter for very long however I already intend to take it to all competitions in the future. Each round is only five minutes in the arena but it takes lots of concentration and precision movement to score well – which is quite tiring. I felt fresh mounting Hugo this time and it paid off with first place. I am so chuffed."
Being able to sit on the Maximo was also a massive plus during the winning ceremony for the Chigwell Riding Trust member. “Standing for extended periods of time is really hard for me but this time I could relax in comfort as my prize was announced. Getting into the middle of the sandy arena was no problem for me."
But after the celebratory period of this latest achievement, Natalie will continue to train hard at the riding centre with a view to being selected for the Elite Squad – which opens up the possibility of competing in the Paralympics.
"Back at my RDA centre, I will be using my Maximo more in the stables, arena and surrounding fields," she says. "If Hugo is ok with it, I should be able to lead him around whilst driving my scooter as it is quiet and smooth. On delivery, I drove it around the arena and on grass without any problems. I have seen other riders use scooters in a yard so I'm hoping I will have more independence as currently I have to rely on stable staff for some tasks.
“My partner always travels with me so getting it in and out of the car is easy, even I have mastered the simple folding technique!"
Natalie has been in the saddle regularly since the age of five after being introduced to horse riding by her physiotherapist as a therapeutic activity to help with her Cerebral Palsy. Riding at the Chigwell Riding Trust, which is part of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) network, she quickly developed a talent for dressage.
Her RDA horse, Hugo (who is owned by Chigwell Riding Trust), has competed with her at various tournaments which has led to selection for Great Britain at a 1* level.
Away from horse riding, Natalie works as a Project Manager for Attitude is Everything, a charity which supports festival organisers so their events are accessible and where she plans to benefit from her Maximo when the festival season starts.
“I guess I am not your average horse rider!" she says. “My day job involves advising venue owners and festival organisers on accessibility at events. It's a role I revel in as an avid music (particularly rock and heavy metal) lover. With my Maximo I will be able to whizz around during set up at festivals such as Download and Glastonbury, making my job much easier and ensuring more disabled people have a good time."
The Maximo is a popular 4mph mid-sized folding scooter that is transportable and fits in the boot of larger cars.
Range: Up to 12.5 miles
User weight: Up to 21 stone
Max speed: Up to 4 mph