The urge to prove yourself

Her muscular disease does not stop second-year student Maud de Reu. She trains hard to be selected for the Paralympics in 2020 with her horse Webron. “My illness has made me stronger.”

The 20-year-old Maud thinks it is really cool that she is this close to her goal. As a child, she had always wanted horse riding to be part of her life. The Law student has since become one of the best in the Netherlands in the field of horse training and dressage. She’s even in a kind of pre-selection for the games. Through observation competitions, it will be determined who has the best chance of winning medals and can, therefore, go to the games in Tokyo. Maud: “I have to work hard; I have to train with Webron five times a week. A normal person has one hundred per cent energy, I only have about sixty per cent. Yes, that is disappointing sometimes, but if I hadn’t been ill, I don’t know if I would have achieved this much.”

Mentally strong
Because it is her willpower that keeps Maud going. She has had SMA type 3 muscle disease her whole life. “I have less muscle strength than others, especially in my arms and legs. I have less balance and am tired very quickly. But by resting a lot I can put all the energy into the sport. That is the most important thing for me. I have the urge to prove myself: the bigger the challenge, the better. My illness has made me mentally stronger. I wanted to keep getting better, to prove that I would be able to practise horse riding at a high level. I believe in myself: I am not nervous at all during competitions.”

At a young age, she discovered that dressage is a sport that suits Maud well. “Other sports were difficult for me because I can’t run. Horse riding was perfect for me. I liked it and got better and better at it. In 2015 I was invited to a talent day, where I discovered para-dressage: high-level horse riding for people with a physical disability. That was great: I always wanted to reach the top but with regular horse riding that would be difficult.” Her dream became a reality. “I started to participate in competitions and got better and better: eventually I won third prize at the Dutch Championship this season.”

Slowly getting worse
To be able to ride intensively, Maud does need some adjustments. “There are loops attached to the reins because my hands have less strength. There are magnets in the stirrups that you put your foot into. And under my boots an iron plate. That way my feet stay in the stirrups.” Maud also does strength and endurance training twice a week. “That way I stay as strong as possible. With my physiotherapist, I am still looking for the limit and sometimes we consciously cross it. “

Maud knows it won’t get any better than this. “My body is slowly deteriorating: ten years ago, I was in better shape. But this disease is unpredictable: one person can still climb stairs when he is 40, another will already be in a wheelchair. In that respect, I am not that concerned with the future, I will just wait and see. You can’t plan it anyway. At least I get the best out of life while I’m young.”

Get Maud to the Paralympics
Maud has started a crowdfunding campaign because reaching the top is expensive. “Registration for competitions costs a lot of money. In addition, I also have travel and accommodation costs, for example, I pay for horse storage. Webron is a lease horse, so that is expensive as well. I use my savings to pay for things because I put all my energy into training and my studies. I do not have any time or energy left to work. “

Do you want to help Maud? Send her an email on this address: mauddereu@gmail.com

Text: Silke Polhuijs
Photo’s: Gerben Rink

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