Hi Max, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Helen! Well, I live in London with my girlfriend and our cat, I work in the finance industry in the City, I ride horses every week in the Hyde Park Barracks and I have lived with Cerebral Palsy for my whole life. Oh, and one other thing – in April this year, I’ll be riding to Everest Base Camp on a horse!
How do you experience your impairment?
My Cerebral Palsy affects my life in many different ways. It makes my muscles tight and difficult to control, especially the muscles in my hands, arms and legs.
This means that I use an electric wheelchair to get around, and I need help to do almost everything in my life – washing, getting dressed, going to the loo, eating… I need 24 hour care.
What is your Riding Everest project about?
I started riding horses when I was 5 years old, because my parents saw an advert for the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) in the newspaper. Now, RDA are building a national training centre in Warwickshire to allow many, many more disabled people like me, as well as people with learning difficulties, and a whole host of other conditions to access the amazing benefits of riding, both as a social activity and as a physical therapy.
I’ve always wanted to do something crazy like ride a horse up a mountain, and when I heard about RDA’s plan for the national training centre, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to raise money for a charity that has done so much for me.
What I’ve found since starting it though, is that it has been amazing to have a social impact too, and change people’s perceptions of disability while I’m at it. So many people with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities have got in touch with me to tell me what an awesome project it is. I’ve also heard from lots of parents of young children with disabilities, and I think my story gives them hope for their kids, hope that they will be able to live independently and happily when they are adults.
What is involved in your training?
Training has been tough so far, and in the final stretch before the trek it’s only getting tougher! Lots of endurance riding, around the countryside with my team, mostly!
Also, for parts of the trek, such as bridges or steep steps, I’ll have to get off the horse and walk with the help of two Nepalese Sherpas. To train for those bits, I’ve been climbing the stairs in my block of flats with physiotherapist and my girlfriend. It’s not quite Everest but it sure feels that way sometimes!!
What do you wish there was more awareness of when it comes to disability?
For me, visibility is awareness. There aren’t enough disabled people in the media – Paralympians are amazing, but they seem to be the be-all and end-all of disability representation on the TV. I’d like to see more disabled people in drama and comedy, more disabled comedians make it to the mainstream, and for more stories about disabled people in Hollywood – stories where we are the heroes and stories that don’t focus on tragedy!
That’s why I’m so excited about the documentary film that’s being made about this trek! I’m looking forward to creating an opportunity to show the wider public that disabled people are diverse and interesting and do amazing things!