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Riding instruction .. National Equestrian Academy graduate Olivia-Rose Cooke, of West Melton, rides retired standardbred racehorse KC Pedro during a riding lesson with Becks Nairn at Swannanoa. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPPĀ 

By SHELLEY TOPP

Olivia-Rose Cooke, who will graduate from the Rangiora National Equestrian Academy next week, hopes to become a specialist riding teacher for people like herself with specific learning issues.

Olivia-Rose Cooke, aged 20, of West Melton, who has dyspraxia, mild autism and slight dyslexia, switched to the academy at Community College North Canterbury in July to complete her Equine Skills Level Three course.

Olivia-Rose, who is a visual learner, will graduate from the course next Tuesday.

“The tutors were really supportive. They pretty much told me that anything I wanted to do I could do if I put my mind to it.”

Olivia Rose’s mother, Tracey Cooke, said she was proud of her daughter’s achievement. “She has a huge heart, with animals and people,” she says.

Her daughter’s long-term goal is to become a specialist riding teacher for people like herself with communication, co-ordination and balance issues, or other specific learning issues.

She hopes to eventually have her own riding school.

In the meantime, Olivia-Rose is working towards becoming a dressage rider with help from Swannanoa riding instructor Becks Nairn and her retired standardbred racehorse called KC Pedro, who won four races.

Olivia-Rose’s time at the equestrian academy in Rangiora has given her new-found confidence to pursue another dream of representing New Zealand at the Special Olympics in dressage, and with that goal firmly in her sights she is also taking the Special Olympics classes at Amberley’s Sandown Riding School.