A DISABLED Trowbridge man has set his sights on competing for the UK at the Paralympic Summer Games in 2020 or 2024.

Darren Ashton, 24, was named the Riding for the Disabled’s National Rider of the Year in September following his success in its National Championships in July.

With just over 12 months’ experience of riding a horse, the highly competitive young man is now hoping to compete for his country at international level.

Riding a Welsh bay gelding called Caellyn Haf, with one side walker, Darren was placed second out of 32 competitors in the RDA’s Countryside Challenge.

Darren, of Albany Close, Trowbridge, said: “I am absolutely determined to ride in a dressage class. To get into the UK’s Paralympic team, I need to be competing internationally. I like winning and it gives me something on which to focus. It’s my dream.”

The RDA National Championships is RDA’s flagship event, bringing together hundreds of competitors of all abilities in events including carriage driving, countryside challenge, dressage and showjumping.

In previous years it has proved a springboard for the Paralympics, with many of the current Team GB having competed at the championships.

Darren was diagnosed seven years ago with Freidrich’s Ataxia, an inherited degenerative condition that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. He now rides with the RDA Saxon Group at Widbrook.

Group volunteer Kady Chatman said: “Less than six months after his first-ever competition, Darren was placed second in the Countryside Challenge at the Nationals.

“This was an unbelievable achievement, considering the problems he had with his balance and confidence when he started.”

Stephen Ashton, Darren’s father, says his son’s success and achievements with the Saxon Group has changed his personality for the better.

“He was introverted, depressed, anxious and the volunteers have given him back his mojo. We have seen him grow in confidence and engage with new people. He’s determined to ride in a dressage class at the Nationals next year.”