Chris sets sights on Paralympics

Rifleman Chris Howard with Winston in the stables at a Battle Back riding course
Rifleman Chris Howard with Winston in the stables at a Battle Back riding course

A WAR hero who ploughed his compensation money into a funeral parlour is now considering horse riding in the Paralympics.

Rifleman Chris Howard, together with his mother Donna Payne, opened Payne and Son Funeral Parlour in Seaside after losing a leg and three fingers in a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2009.

As part of his rehabilitation at Headley Court, Chris has taken part in a riding for rehabilitation scheme for servicemen and women at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst and enjoyed it so much, he is thinking about entering the Paralympics as a rider.

Chris spent a week at the academy in June and says it was a steep learning curve.

“I really wanted to try riding and needed a hobby, but, because of my injuries, was limited in what sports I could do,” said Chris.

The soldier was in Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion The Rifles in August 2009 when he stepped on an lED while on foot patrol.

He lost his right leg at the hip, as well as three fingers on his left hand, which limits movement and his grip on the reins.

“As soon as I was on the horse it was fine and a lot easier than I’d thought,” said Chris who also said he found it more comfortable to stay in sitting trot than rising.

He found riding a relaxing break from his usual gruelling physio regime, and a great workout.

“Balance comes from the glutes and all amputees work on building good glutes,” he said.

Bitten by the bug, Chris took part in a second Battle Back riding course in November and plans to ride at his local riding school.

He has also been in touch with officials to discuss Paralympic competition and is hoping to ride in the Heroes Cup on Royal Artillery Gold Cup Day at Sandown in February.

“Riding has really helped with my rehabilitation and I’d advise any amputees to do it because it’s great physio. Cantering’s definitely the best bit - it’s a pukka feeling!”

Mum Donna is extremely proud of her son. “After the accident in Afghanistan I was sitting by his bedside and thought he was going to die,” said Donna.

“But he has soldiered through it all and come on in leaps and bounds. I am so proud of him.”