Outstanding equestrian canters closer to Paralympics dream

The Central North Island regional team won bragging rights at the recent Mitsubishi Motors Paralympics NZ National Championships at Hamilton,  regaining the team trophy they last won 20 years ago.

But it was a mainlander, equestrian Frances Dick, who won the Mitsubishi  Motors Trophy for the championships’ most outstanding performance. Frances, who has a condition called hemiplegia - paralysis to one side of the body and  impaired muscle function - finished with gold medals in four events.

Frances trains six mornings a week with her thoroughbred cross Oxford Belle and coach Rachel Thomas on her family's property in the Pig Valley, near Wakefield, before heading  off to put in some time with the YMCA’s after school care programme or Nelson CCS.

Her dream of competing at the 2012 London Paralympics is getting closer to being  a reality: she has already qualified (at an event in Hartpury, England earlier this year) and now needs to maintain her form. To make the cut, she needs to be ranked  among the top riders in her grade worldwide.

The bubbly 28-year-old is not short of confidence that she can make it. "I'm always  good with goals – if I know what I've got to do. I'm quite structured like that, so  that helps me."

The bi-annual championships, which attracted 160 athletes from across the country,  has shown itself to be a breeding ground for future Paralympians.  Frances is determined to be one of them.