Kirsty Logan, Miss Coventry

PUBLISHED: 14:02 15 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:49 20 February 2013

Kirsty Logan, Miss Coventry

Kirsty Logan, Miss Coventry

Kirstie Logan, age 20, is a quite amazing young woman. Despite suffering from a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis she is representing Coventry at the Miss England finals this month and has set her sights on becoming a top side saddle rider.

Kirstie Logan, age 20, is a quite amazing young woman. Despite suffering from a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis she is representing Coventry at the Miss England finals this month and has set her sights on becoming a top side saddle rider. Kirstie tells her story.

I am the current Miss Coventry and am the first Miss Coventry to have ever got though the semi-finals of Miss England. I was one of 12 girls picked from over 70 to compete in the ational finals (at the NEC, 31st August-2nd September). I am ecstatic and overjoyed and want to clinch the title of Miss England!

I'm a little bit different to the other regional winners . . . for a start I am disabled. I suffer with Rheumatoid Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis, and have to constantly battle the illness. My disability affects my immune system to the point where I have to receive regular hospital treatment (it has started to ruin my digestive track and results in my internal organs swelling) but it has given me this unchallenged drive to succeed, and out-prove all my competition.

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two years ago. I have since come to terms with it, but it wasn't always like this. At first I was confused, unsure, not quite certain about what the future holds... would I be able to walk in ten years, have children? But most importantly . . . will I ever be able to ride again?

Riding has always been a central part of my life. I have grown up showing Welsh, Palominos, hunters, Coloureds, working hunters, Arabs and show-jumping. I have no fear I will jump any fence! Give me 5 foot and I'm happy!

However, my consultant warned me that severe bone erosion was becoming evident in my hips and pelvic bones (small cheese-like holes), as a result of wear and tear. "You won't be able to ride in two years time," I was told. My world crashed down. How could they say that? They have no idea what it's like. "Okay," I said.

That night I had a show-jumping event and there was no way I was not getting on my horse. While I sat waiting for the jump-off, I pondered what it would be like, not doing this. Sadness and despair surfaced. When you love something so much, you don't want to let go. Looking at my beautiful Welsh four-year-old, I wept for the things I would never accomplish with her, my dreams of Horse of the Year Show were shattered.

After that I became a little distant from my ponies, for there was no way I could keep the same connection. When I rode, I had to take painkillers afterwards. The searing, bone-crushing pains in my legs and hips overwhelmed any sense of enjoyment and accomplishment.

My mother, Christina, was British Palomino Society's National Side-Saddle Champion in 1996 as well as Supreme Champion having ridden all disciplines at the European Championships. She is also disabled, having broken her neck, and finds side-saddle the only answer as it's too difficult to ride astride It wasn't until I was watching a video of my mum when she appeared on BBC's Tracks, that I thought: Hey, I could do that!" Mum has always maintained that side-saddle riding is extremely rewarding, much more comfortable to sit to, and less painful for the back. Thinking about my hips, I thought it might help if my legs weren't spread over a fat horse it wouldn't hurt half as much, and wouldn't cause me any more bone erosion.

I saddled up my Palomino and took him for a canter around the field, side-saddle. I was amazed at how easy it was! I felt no pain, my back was straight, my legs were gripped around a soft leaping head and I was away! Hip trouble what hip trouble? Mum sent me over to the legendary trainer Roger Philpot at the Midlands Side-Saddlery Centre in Kineton. Roger teaches side-saddle all over the world and I was honoured to be taught by him.

Within ten minutes of my first lesson on Rogers huge Coloured Cob Geoffrey, We were outside looking at a show-jumping course. "Thats more like it!" I exclaimed. I learned that when you jump side-saddle you have to find a point of balance which is slightly more forward than when astride, and lower. You lean a bit more forward to go with the momentum of the horse.

When in a jumping position, you fold to the right not ahead. This is because of the leaping head being in the way but at first I completely forgot, and so when I went hurtling over these two foot three inch fences, I hurtled a bit too much and became the flying jockey! I completed a rather nice somersault before landing on my feet. I found this hilarious... especially as I had decided to record it for my Miss England talent DVD. All you can see in the video is me howling my head off and having a great time, mouthing the words "I fell off!"

I'm not the only young woman from Coventry to have ridden sidesaddle! I decided to tie in my talent video for Miss England with the legendary tale of Lady Godiva, how she rode naked through the streets of my city to campaign and protest about taxes.

I am not campaigning about taxes but I campaign for the understanding of Rheumatoid Arthritis the disease which 2,000 young people, like me, in the Midlands. I want to set an example to other people and show that RA does NOT affect the real things in life. I will not let it wreck my life, there's a way around it, and disability should not be deemed a problem. The day I let the illness get in my way is the day all my determination goes out of the window. I was put in this position for a reason and it's so important to me to use it for the benefit of others.

These days, I ride side-saddle four times a week. I doubt I will achieve the same success as my mum, but it's nice knowing that she has believed in me.

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