Ex-horse riding champion shares words of wisdom ahead of Paralympics

Carolyn Wilson with trophy she won at Special Olympics in 1996

Carolyn Wilson won 51 medals over a 13-year horse riding career, where she took part in the Special Olympics. Pictured is Carolyn holding a trophy she won in 1996. - Credit: Daniel Mason

A former Special Olympics gold medallist who claimed 51 medals over a 13-year career has told disabled athletes bidding to reach the top to simply “go and enjoy it”. 

Carolyn Wilson of Wimblington won 33 golds, 12 silvers and six bronze medals as a horse rider after joining the Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture in 1993. 

“Train hard, look to win, and don’t be disheartened if you don’t,” she said. 

Carolyn, who has learning difficulties, spoke ahead of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo which take place between August 24 and September 5. 

After joining the college, Carolyn competed across the UK and abroad, taking part in competitions such as dressage, equitation and horse care and knowledge before retiring in 2006. 

Carolyn Wilson after Special Olympics 1996 Brussels, Belgium

Carolyn pictured in 1996 after winning the trophy for best overall horsemanship and dress in Brussels, Belgium. - Credit: Supplied

“There was a competition at Knight's End in March; that was my first introduction to the sport and it developed from there,” she said. 

“Judith Walker MBE then managed to get me into the college. She was in charge of the college at Milton and took us for disabled riding lessons.” 

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As well as in the UK, perhaps some of Carolyn’s most memorable victories were at the Special Olympics in Belgium, where she took gold and silver in dressage and gymkhana events. 

She also won a trophy for best overall horsemanship and dress in Brussels. 

“It felt great to reach the Special Olympics, but Judith was one of the best instructors you could get,” said Carolyn. 

“I didn’t expect to be recognised, but it felt good to be acknowledged.” 

Carolyn Wilson of WImblington with horse Tillie

Carolyn with horse Tillie at an event at Wimpole Hall. - Credit: Family

Upon success, Carolyn had received an influx of cards and messages congratulating her on her achievements. 

The Special Olympics provides year-round training and competition in various Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.   

Carolyn, who was close to joining the Team GB Paralympic squad in the late 1990s, also took up polo later in her career. 

Carolyn Wilson with Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture members

Carolyn pictured with other members of the Riding for the Disabled Association group at the Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture at Wimpole Hall. - Credit: Family

But it is the hard work she is keen to stress to aspiring disabled athletes that can be the difference between wanting to win and achieving glory itself. 

“I would like to thank Ann Cooke, the late Judith Walker MBE and all the helpers at Milton who were there during my 12 years there,” she said. 

“The motto of the Special Olympics is ‘let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’.   

“For those wanting to reach the Paralympics, just go and enjoy it and try your best in whatever sport you’re doing.” 

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