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Blind rider’s double Olympic dream

Blind dressage rider Verity Smith’s dreams of becoming the first rider to compete at both the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2020 have been revived after being dashed when her beloved horse fell ill.

Despite being blind, Nîmes-based Verity, 45, is ranked 12th in France at Elite Able-Bodied level. Her only concession is the use of a team of nine “Scoobies”, who call out the letters positioned around the arena.

In 2017, Verity and her horse Szekit were selected for the French dressage Paralympic squad and had a realistic prospect of competing in both games in Tokyo, but those hopes seemed over when the horse fell seriously ill.

Verity, who is British but has lived most of her life in France after moving here as a teenager, has spent many months by Szekit’s side at a clinic in St Etienne. Due to their bond, Verity felt her career as a rider was finished. Then her trainer said she had found a new horse: a 10-year-old Hanoverian mare called Daizy. Former Team GB rider Verity said: “At first I didn’t want to think about it because it felt like being married to someone and taking a boyfriend.”

Valuable training time has been lost so they must work hard to be selected for the national team on February 4, but Daizy is already competing at Grand Prix level and Verity is confident.

The only obstacle left is finance – to buy Daizy, Verity needs to raise €200,000 by the end of this month. To support her, visit bit.ly/2TYDqJf.

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