A FORMER international dressage competitor with the neurological condition Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is hoping to raise enough money for a treatment in Mexico which is not available on the NHS.

Tessa Thorne, who has competed at international Grand Prix level and has coached hundreds of equestrians over the years, was diagnosed with the progressive condition nine years ago and has had to stop riding several years afterwards.

After being forced to sell her horse in 2012 because of her illness, she qualified as a dressage judge. She is now often called upon to coach judges and works as a freelance dressage trainer.

The condition has affected Tessa’s balance, meaning that she now needs support when walking. She is becoming weak to the point that she has difficulty pushing her feet into shoes.

If untreated, the the 59-year-old from Kingscote, near Tetbury could be forced into a wheelchair.

Speaking of the effect the condition has had on her dreams as a dressage competitor, she said: “I was diagnosed nine years ago. What I noticed was my balance was a bit peculiar.

“For a long time, they thought it was just an inner ear problem, but it didn’t affect my riding, which at the time was the most important thing in my life.

“I stopped riding when I could no longer keep my feet in the stirrups. They kept slipping out. It was like there was ice under my feet. My core strength also started to go.

“I have ridden internationally for Great Britain, and nationally as well. I’ve trained a lot of horses to an advanced level.

“When I stopped riding, it was horrendous. It was dreadful because it was my life. I had a good horse that was about to go to the Grand Prix and I wasn’t physically able to do it.

“Before I was diagnosed, I was very very fit and healthy, riding a lot of horses and running. I was always healthy and active.

Tessa hopes to undergo a 28-day treatment called HSCT (Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation). The treatment works by ‘resetting’ the immune system to stop it attacking the central nervous system. It uses chemotherapy to remove the harmful immune cells and then rebuilds the immune system using a type of stem cell found in the bone marrow.

She said she was hopeful the treatment would help with her condition: “40 per cent of people get better and 41 per cent don’t deteriorate, that leaves 19 per cent with no difference.

“That’s enough for me. Otherwise, I’ll be in a wheelchair which is horrendous for me, because your life changes then.

“I cope with my condition because I have to, but I find it terribly difficult not being able to walk without support. But now that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I feel a lot cheerier.”

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Tessa said she has received “fantastic support from the dressage world” and hopes to raise £50,000 for the cost of the treatment and flights to Mexico, along with a carer.

She explained that the treatment was expensive in the UK and was not available on the NHS. Meanwhile, Mexico is a popular place to go for the treatment.

She is also considering selling a horse that had been in the European team, but said that it would be difficult to know how long it would take to sell the horse.

Her friend Nikki Hand has helped Tessa set up a JustGiving page. At the time of writing, the JustGiving page had reached £4,780 of its £50,000 target.

To support the appeal, visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/givetessaherlifeback