A YOUNG man whose world came ‘crashing down’ after being diagnosed with a degenerative condition is overcome with joy at winning a national rider of the year award.

At the age of 17, Darren Ashton was struck down with Friedreich’s Ataxia, forcing him to give up playing his beloved football. Eventually he was confined to a wheelchair as the strength in his limbs deteriorated.

In the next few years,

Darren suffered from depression and lost all hope that he would ever do competitive sport again. However, a year after his family moved from Watford in Hertfordshire to Trowbridge in 2015, Darren joined the Riding for the Disabled group at Widbrook Equestrian Centre in Bradford on Avon, and since then he has achieved success at a national level.

His meteoric rise meant that on Tuesday the 24-year-old collected the Riding for the Disabled Association’s rider of the year award to cap a remarkable turnaround.

“I was speechless when I found out and I still cannot really believe it,” said

Darren, who lives with his parents Helen and Steve in Albany Close.

“When I joined my balance was not very good which was frustrating as I am quite competitive but after five months I really got the hang of it.

“It felt like my world had come crashing down after getting the condition. It was so hard to have everything taken from me.

“So to overcome these hurdles is a great feeling. I want to thank the RDA for everything they have done for me. Now I want to do dressage at the Paralympics. I have come this far so why not go a bit further?”

Darren goes to the Widbrook centre every Monday for 30 minutes and every day for 15 minutes he uses his i-Hoy horse riding fitness training machine to improve his core strength.

“When he started there he was introverted, depressed and anxious but now the volunteers at that fantastic place have given him his mojo back,” said Mr Ashton.