From the Weston, Worle and Somerset Mercury, 20 August 2011. Story by Bethan Evans
Britta Francis, aged 32, from Blagdon, has myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and scoloiosis, a curved spine, which is deemed too risky to operate on. These conditions make everyday life a constant struggle for her, resulting in mental and physical fatigue and depression.
Britta has had a passion for horse riding all of her life, which helps her posture and relaxes her muscles, but too much can cause her severe pain. But she is willing to ignore the pain to represent her country in the sport she loves.
After competing in a regional para-dressage championship, with her team finishing fifth, she wanted to take on a new challenge, and now her team will be representing England this month.
Britta said: “When I competed in the regional competition I was bed-bound for months and I’m still not completely over it.
“This competition will most likely make me bed-bound for at least a few weeks but I may never have a chance to train and compete for England again. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I’ve got to take it.”
Britta found out she has had ME while she was at the University of Central England in Birmingham, where she achieved a degree in health studies, and has dealt with spinal problems for the past seven years. She has trouble sleeping through the night because of her muscle pains and she now she lives at home with her parents, who are her carers.
Mum Katheryn, aged 69, and dad Rodger, aged 64, said: “Britta has always had the ability to see a horse, get on it and get it to do what she wants and when one remembers the disadvantages in her everyday life, the constant battle with pain, and lack of energy that she has to cope with, it makes her achievements even more remarkable.”
Britta will not have the comfort of riding her usual horse, Harry, as he is too old to compete. She now has to ride Magnus – competition name Moonbeam – who she has only ridden five times. He lives in Northhamptonshire, meaning she also has to deal with a five-hour train ride every time she wants to train. She said: “The journey is a nightmare. I have to stay overnight as I am too exhausted to train when I arrive.
“Normally the people who enter into these competitions have their own horses and can practise daily. But this doesn’t worry me and right now I don’t feel nervous.”
Three other people will be in Britta’s team and she said they are all feeling quite confident.
She added: “I hope we can do justice for the sake of the team, not to mention our country.”
The para-dressage home international takes place in Leicester from August 19-21.