Paralympian Trains At Horizon

Marcelle Ward, 48, from Chichester, is an International Para Dressage rider. She holds several national and international titles on her home-bred and produced horses.

Marcelle was born with a birth defect, congenital bilateral hip dysplasia, although not diagnosed until 2009, as well as suffering with rheumatoid arthritism, asthma and a heart condition.  Her disability is classified as a Grade VI for her Para Dressage Equestrian.

Marcelle and her horse, Pumpkins’, greatest achievement was being the highest ranked in her grade in England and being selected for the list of riders for the Tokyo Paralympics.

For over a year, Marcelle has been regularly attending Horizon Leisure Centre in Havant, and has praised the centre and its staff for helping to improve her overall wellbeing, as well as her ability to ride her precious horses.

 Marcelle says: “I’m not what you would call a ‘normal’ gym goer.  Before coming to Horizon, I really hadn’t given much time or effort to my fitness. I was overweight, sluggish and often in a lot of pain. However, I’ve found the atmosphere at Horizon Leisure Centres to be really friendly and welcoming.  Their team of instructors are informative and professional, and it even surprises me to say that I’m hooked!

 “I started coming to Havant Leisure Centre a year ago.  I had just had a hip replacement operation and I wasn’t in great shape.  My physiotherapist at the hospital recommended that I get moving and suggested a few exercises.  When I first started coming to Havant I used the toning tables – specialist power assisted equipment, which works by gently getting opposing muscles groups to exercise at the same time. It’s a fantastic bit of kit and is especially helpful for someone who is starting out or coming back to exercise after injury.

 “With time, I started trying some classes, including aqua aerobics and Pilates.  However, my real love is the Body Pump classes, which are so much fun!  I love the music, the energy and the sense of working out in a group.  Body Pump is a barbell-based workout, and although that might sound a bit scary, it’s suitable for all abilities.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be able do it, but the instructor advised me to start with light weights and see how I got on.  I loved it.  There is a great feeling of camaraderie in Body Pump and I never feel self-conscious.  It’s a really mixed group of people, with a variety of ages, sizes and abilities. Over time, I upped my weights and now regularly attend three classes a week.

 “These regular classes have hugely upped my physicality. I’m so much stronger now. I’ve lost weight and feel much better in myself.  You need strong legs and core to ride horses well, and I’m riding a million times better than I was before.”

 In October 2022, Marcelle had a second hip replacement operation and in less than 12 weeks returned to her beloved Body Pump classes.  Marcelle says: “I recovered so much quicker from my second hip replacement surgery in comparison to my first and my consultant believes this is because I was physically stronger before going into surgery.  I missed going to the gym whilst I was recovering, and as soon as the doctor gave me the green light to return I was back.  I’m riding again too, but give the horses the day off when I do my Body Pump classes!

“The team at Havant Leisure Centre have been amazing.  The instructors have been so kind, always encouraging me and giving me alternative moves or adjusting my body when necessary. They are genuinely interested in my health and wellbeing, with some instructors taking the time to contact me after my operation to see how my recovery was going.  You don’t get this kind of care and consideration from other leisure centres I have visited.  I’ve even encouraged some friends to join me and to come along to some of the classes.

 “I hope I can encourage and inspire other people, who may not feel they are ‘fit enough’ or ‘strong enough’, to come along to the Horizon Leisure Centres, as they really are ‘enough’ and there really is something for everyone. If I can do it, then so can they.  I’d love to be selected for the Paris Paralympics in 2024; it’s going to be a big challenge, but continuing to come along to Havant Leisure Centre means I will be the best I can be physically.”

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