Darren Ashton

A highly competitive 24 year old, Darren competed at his first RDA National Championships in 2017, coming second in his class only six months after his first ever competition.

“It’s been a good year,” says Darren. But it hasn’t always been the case. Aged 17 Darren was diagnosed with Friedreichs Ataxia, a progressive condition that effects the nervous system. “All I wanted to do when I was young was play football,” says Darren. “I played football in the garden. I played for my local team. And then it had to stop. It really hurt me for years and years.

“I guess the light at the end of the tunnel was when I started doing my riding.”

Since then, his strength, balance and core stability have all improved. Having started on a lead rein and with support from volunteers on both sides, he has progressed to becoming an independent rider – hungry for competitive success.

The impact is more than just Darren’s physical improvement, as his RDA Coach Kady Chatman explains: “Darren embodies everything that RDA stands for. The progress he has made in his riding ability and technical ability, the success that he’s made at competition. But more than that is the progress he has made in himself – coming to terms with his condition and what he can do.”

“I think I’ve learned that I haven’t lost my competitive edge,” agrees Darren. “That I’m resilient, and that whatever’s thrown at me I can overcome it if I just try. Instead of focusing on the bad – focus on the good. And everything will work out in the end.”

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