I’m Izzy Palmer, I’m 15 years old and a brand ambassador for Toggi and Champion.
Firstly, I would like to tell you a bit about myself and my journey into para dressage.
I was born with cerebral palsy causing right hemiplegia, I first started riding when I was only two years old, initially it helped me with my balance and coordination but it soon became an obsession. My mum has always been a horsey person so I must have picked up the riding bug from her.
When I was 11 I was classified by the RDA as a grade 3 rider for para dressage and I began competing in para dressage in 2013 after being inspired by watching Sophie Wells MBE and Pinocchio at London 2012 Paralympic Games.
I first met Sophie when I asked for a photo with her at a winter qualifier at the beginning of 2013, I was so excited (and nervous) to meet her, she was my biggest inspiration and my idol. At the para home international in 2013 she spotted me as one to watch in Horse and Hound and shortly after that Sophie offered to mentor me. For me this was so surreal and I couldn’t actually believe it. Since then Sophie has given me invaluable help, teaching, support and advice. She’s been there for me every step of the way, helping me with the ups and downs, while I’m growing up, juggling being on the world class programme and fitting this all around my school work! I think because Sophie had been through it herself she has a great understanding of what it’s like being young and managing it all.
When I was 11 years old I was very lucky to get Coco, a 14.3hh Welsh thoroughbred, on loan from Alison Duck. Coco had spent 5 years in the field and had a foal, I never expected to achieve what I did with her… She is a one in a million pony!
When we first began in 2013 we were the Para Talent Development Champions scoring 88% and we came first in the grade 3 class at the Para Home International. Coco and I also got onto the BEF excel talent programme that year, which was amazing!
In 2014 we were the grade 3 restricted summer and winter national champions. We also came 7th out of a huge class in the medium restricted at the able bodied summer regionals and later on that year we were selected onto the world class programme, which was an incredible opportunity for me.
In 2015 Coco and I came 4th in the grade 3 open class at Hickstead and won the team and individual test at bishop Burton CPEDI 2*, after bishop Burton Coco went home to retire, we had spent 3 incredible years together and she was 19. I was so lucky to be able to ride such a willing pony that just kept on giving, she will always hold a very special place in my heart!
Sophie then gave me the amazing opportunity to start riding her 2008 Beijing horse Touchdown. He is teaching me so much and I’m so grateful to Sophie for letting me ride such a super talented horse, he’s like the Ferrari of horses! He is absolutely adorable with big Googly eyes and lots of nicknames. Then in January 2016 I also began riding Pinocchio, Sophie’s London 2012 gold medal winning horse. This was so surreal and a dream come true for me. I am very grateful to Sophie and his owner Dr Jackie Walker for giving me the opportunity. We had to spend a bit of time getting to know each other and we have had an amazing year so far. In June we won the KBIS gold semi-final, which directly qualifies you for the KBIS final at the National Dressage Championships, which was very unexpected! I then did my first ever 3* international at Hartpury. We came second in the team test, first in the individual and second in my first ever freestyle… A lot of firsts for me!
We then went to bishop Burton CPEDI3* at the end of July and won the grade 3 classes on all 3 days! Just recently we competed in the KBIS para class at the National Championships, it was a bit different to usual as Sophie wasn’t there with us as she was in Rio and it was the first time she hadn’t been to a competition with Noki in 7 years! We managed 2 training sessions over Skype from Rio which was fantastic, the power of technology hey! I’m so grateful to Sophie for giving up her time to help me whilst at such a prestigious event, it just shows how dedicated she is.
Noki and I competed on the Friday, I was very lucky and grateful to have world class coach Nina Venables there helping me in the warm up. We scored 71.42% in the individual championship test and won the grade 3 national title (although we ended up being the only ones in it!) and we were third overall.
Now it’s on to qualifiers for the winter championships at the start of next year and world class podium potential selection trials for the 2016-2018 cycle (fingers crossed) also the proper school stuff starts, year 11 GCSEs here we come. (nooooo!!)