As a 10-year-old Jodie Thorne took up riding, following in the footsteps of her mother, a keen equestrian.
Two years later she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
"At first it didn't affect my riding much," Thorne says.
"I couldn't get on my horse from the ground, that was all. I could still walk, trot, canter and jump"
She rode until she was 16, stopped when she went to college, and then moved from the UK to New Zealand when she was 22.
Four years later she got back on a horse.
"It was so different. By then I was walking with a stick, but I thought 'I've just got to get on and it will be the same as it was before'.
"It was at Riding for the Disabled in Tauranga. There were people on either side of the saddle holding me on. There were two more behind, waiting to catch me. I lasted five minutes at a walk and by then I was so exhausted I couldn't stand up.
"It was amazing to be back on a horse but so depressing that I couldn't do what I used to."
Thorne persevered, taking part in the Riding for the Disabled programme and then becoming registered for para dressage.
"Tauranga dressage coach and judge Betty Blundell came out of retirement, aged 80, to coach me. I bought my own horse, Tech, and I competed him for seven years."
Thorne, who is now in a motorised wheelchair, sold Tech last year, saying "he had done enough".
"When I am riding my horse has to look after me. Muscular dystrophy affects my whole body from my eyelids to my toes, I have no core strength to balance, it's a huge mental strain on the horse."
It's not easy for Thorne either, although she puts most of the credit on to her "crew".
"The most important thing is my amazing crew. They look after my horse, tack him up and warm him up before competitions.
"I have a portable ramp that travels with me. It takes two people to 'walk' me up the ramp, then they put my leg over the saddle and put me on. They put my feet in the stirrups and strap my legs to the saddle with Velcro straps.
"I have handlebars on the front of the saddle that I hold, and because my fingers don't stretch any more, my helpers put my hands into loops in my reins."
The horse has to stand still throughout. If it moves before she's ready, Thorne will collapse forward and cannot right herself without help.
When she trains at home, two of Thorne's helpers stay close in case she collapses. In competition, they have to stay outside the arena.
"They are good at spotting a problem. Little things can tip me over - a sideways step, the horse scooting forwards, kicking at a fly - things people wouldn't normally think of. If you see the girls running, something's gone wrong.
"I know there's a risk of falling, but we try to negate the risk as much as possible. I'm more wary than scared. The girls on the ground are more scared than me."
Para dressage riders are graded according to their functional abilities. Thorne rides and competes entirely at a walk.
"People ask me if I get bored at a walk. I don't. You are controlling every step - stride length, rhythm. An eight-metre circle has to be precise, you need to be straight on the centre line, then there is the lateral work ... walk pirouettes. It's not boring."
Thorne trains about four times a week, more if she can get enough help. She loves it.
"I ride because I enjoy it. It gives me goals to work towards - getting better scores, trying to qualify for overseas competition. I get to compete with people facing the same challenges.
"Then there's the social side, going away to shows like HOY. Para riders are like a big family when we travel to shows. We all look after each other.
"The exercise is also amazing. MND is a degenerative disease, it's only going to get worse and I'm sure I am better off because I ride.
"Then there's the mental side, being able to make a connection with a 700kg animal with a mind of its own. That trust and bond is something to aim for.
"I'm able to do something I enjoyed as a child, and that's special."
Jodie Thorne and her fellow para dressage riders will be competing on the Polo Fields, Ellwood Rd, Hastings, on Thursday. Go to www.hoykiwi for details.