Double paralympic gold medallist launches charity night

DRESSAGE champion and double paralympic gold medallist Natasha Baker is to join horse enthu-siasts from across the Cotswolds for a charity event in aid of disabled riders.

Natasha won gold for Great Britain at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and is also a triple European Gold medallist.

The 24-year-old rider will be at Whatley Manor at Easton Grey near Malmesbury, on February 27 to open an auction to raise funds for the Cotswold Riding for the Disabled Association. She will be joined by 50 guests from the region’s equestrian community.

The event has been organised by wedding and lifestyle photographer Jo Hansford to mark the official launch of her new equestrian photography business ( www.johansfordphotography.com ).

Jo said: “I am thrilled Natasha will be there on the night. She’s a true champion and an inspiration to so many people. Her presence at the event should also ensure some excellent fund-raising.”

Jo has been passionate about horses all her life and has seen how they can bring confidence and comfort to the disabled.

“After leaving school I worked with young adults with learning difficulties and we regularly took them riding. It was an amazing experience, seeing how these youngsters came alive in the saddle and how sensitive and patient the horses were to their needs. So when we started planning our equine launch, it was great to think we could help Cotswold Riding for the Disabled too.”

Jo, who has spent many years in the Cotswolds photographing some of the region’s finest wed-dings, is thrilled to now also be turning her lens on horses and their owners.

“I’ve long wanted to study and photograph the essence of the horse. They are so unique in their shape, their majesty and beauty. Whether it's a 16 hands thoroughbred stallion or a tiny woolly Shetland, they all have spirit. I just wanted to truly capture that spirit and I can think of no better place than the Cotswolds in which to do this. The region’s love for horses and equestrian pursuits is unquestionable.”

Jo hopes next month’s auction of equine memorabilia and donated products will raise hundreds of pounds for the riding charity which is based at Cheltenham Racecourse and provides lessons for both disabled children and adults.

Riding centre manager Mo Begg said: “We have over 200 riders supported by around 150 volun-teers every week throughout term time which equates to some 7,000 lessons per year. All the riders are physically disabled or have learning difficulties and all receive positive help and a real boost to their confidence.

“We desperately need to raise half a million pounds to extend our indoor facilities and provide a warm waiting area for these riders, many of whom can’t take part in the winter because it’s just too cold for them. This event will be a great boost to this much needed fund-raising campaign.”

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