I wrote to Rayna to get a personal interview with her, but never made contact.. kept running into dead ends. Her story .. and her influence on sidesaddle riding is just too rich not to share with you.. so all I will do is make a few of my own comments and tell her story in her own words as it is publicly published on her web site.
Reyna Matthews is an exceptional sidesaddle equestrian!
She has a collection of prestigious awards and honors under her belt..
..she is without a doubt one of the finest Costume riders I have ever seen and have run across her photos numerous times without identification of who she was or where the photo was taken.
..well there is more to Rayna's story than this.... a LOT more!
About Me (as written on Reyna's web site)
As a young girl, I was a keen and competitive horse rider. However, in my thirties I suffered a polio like illness and was unable to continue. Despite this difficulty, I never lost my interest or love of horses, and it was at the 1993 Horse of the Year Show that I came into contact with the Riding for the Disabled Association.
In 1995, they found me a place with a North London Group, but sadly I found it impossible to ride astride. At the trot, my legs went into painful spasms and I lost all control over the horse. At this point utterly frustrated I had given up the idea of ever riding again, but a chance introduction to 76-year-old Mrs. Cecily Fryer (a founder member of the Side Saddle Association) changed my life. I instantly found that this elegant method of riding suited me admirably and I did not experience any of the problems that I had while trying to ride astride.
Time passed and I progressed from horse to horse and instructor to instructor in pursuit of ever higher goals. However financial constraints prohibited the purchase of trained dressage horses, so I had to train my horses myself, bringing them on from almost complete ignorance to Medium Level in dressage. This is no mean feat for an able bodied rider, let alone a disabled side saddle rider as I am sure many of you will know!
Being a skilled musician I also devoted a great deal of effort to the Kur (dressage to music).
It was at the 1996 Side Saddle National Competition held at Malvern, that I became particularly excited by the Historical Costume Class. Having achieved a City & Guilds diploma in fashion design and tailoring, and with experience restoring costumes for Sotheby’s and Vestments at Westminster Abbey, I felt well qualified to take on this very lovely Side Saddle Class. My great attention to detail and research of the subject has placed me first in many national competitions including the International Championships in France in 1999.
I have also been invited to many high profile venues, such as National Polo Week at Cowdray Park, the Celebration of the Horse at Highclere Castle, Sotheby’s Open Day at Billinghurst and the Weald Historical Museum in Sussex, to give displays riding and also demonstrating Dressage to Music in my costumes.
Please go and visit Rayna's web site and read about her new adventure of helping other disabled equestrians get back into the sidesaddle! I hope one day to get to meet (albeit via the Internet) Rayna Matthews!