CP Sport have collected a range of profiles from people with CP that participate in sport. We will be posting these profiles daily throughout CP Awareness Month (March) to celebrate positive stories and inspire people to take part in the future.

Name: Isadora Barefield Role: Coach Club/Recreational Group/Centre: Freelance Equestrian Vaulter and Coach The sport I participate in: Equestrian Vaulting – the art of gymnastics and dance on horseback.
How did that opportunity come for you to start participating in your sport?
I have been involved in the vaulting world since my 16th birthday in 2013. I had been vaulting for just shy of 2 years before the opportunity arose for me to become a coach and start to work with the younger children of the group. I have continued to coach many young vaulters in a group setting since 2014 and started to work with Lily 1-2-1 in late 2022.
When Lily and I started working together I had no understanding of cerebral palsy or any specialist training in this area. I went into this somewhat blind and I must admit I was slightly terrified in fear of doing something wrong or not doing Lily justice as I knew just how big of a dream this was for her. However, in my past I was coached by an amazing lady called Katherin Townsend (known to me as Mother Katherin).
She always taught me to vault using feel and gave me a greater understanding of using my body and listening to it. I approached Lily’s coaching how I too was approached all those years ago. We had an initial session where we played around on a barrel just so I could gain an understanding of how Lily’s body and mind works. From this first visit I learnt a lot and since then we take each session as it comes. We tailor each session to her and adapt things where they need to be adapted and train things which I believe she can achieve in time. We also took and continue to take advice from Lily’s neurophysio and the routines were run by her to make sure they are appropriate and helpful for her physio. Lily’s mum has been fantastic at keeping all of Lily’s coaches and physios in the loop for the benefit of Lily and her development.
What skills have you learnt or improved from participating in sport?
From a coaching perspective, it has helped me improve my problem solving and communication skills. Especially since working with Lily as we often break down each move or sequence in a clear and concise way. One thing you don’t quite realise in vaulting is how many different elements there are to what is a seemingly simple move!
I have really learnt to appreciate how what may only seem like small wins from the outside are in fact monumental. I shall be eternally grateful to Lily and her family for giving me this opportunity to work with such an amazing young lady!
As a vaulter I have also taken inspiration from Lily as she has such unwavering confidence and determination. When we have been to competitions before I have been at the sideline waiting my turn and absolutely bricking it. Whilst Lily is calmly eating a mountain of olives without a care in the world! I hope to be as cool, calm and collected as her in this year’s competition season. We all need to be a bit like Lily in life!
How have you benefited from participating in your chosen sport? Psychologically, in my own journey as a vaulter it has helped me push the boundaries of my own mental health issues. After years of trying and failing, I am now finally starting to find the beauty in my own development and working on being less self critical which in this day and age I find is incredibly easy to do! Physically I have become stronger, more flexible and found a new sense of confidence.
Whilst horses have been a huge part of my entire life, vaulting has given me a whole new level of respect for how amazing these animals are and just how lucky we are to have them!
In Lily I have found that vaulting has drastically improved her strength and flexibility. Her ability to bear weight in her wrists grows stronger by the week which I now know is a huge feat for someone who has CP. In the last few months I have really noticed a huge development in her confidence and fearlessness. Sometimes, as her coach, I have to dial that back a bit as she will literally throw herself into things! It’s lovely to see but she certainly keeps me on my toes!
What are your ambitions in sport? I would love to have my own little group one day where I can create a safe, inclusive and healthy learning environment for all to learn more about this fantastic sport.
I also bought my own horse last year who I am hoping to transform into a vaulting horse. Working with him and training him with a goal in mind is so rewarding. He has a long way to go but Lily is his biggest cheerleader and we are so excited for what the future holds.
A relative of mine, Cloudy Meredith, used to do a lot of work for the RDA back in the day (alongside Mother Katherin) and like them, I would love to be able to continue to contribute to this amazing sport that has done so much for myself and Lily in any way that I can.
2023 marked Lily’s first year of competing and she performed incredibly well at national competitions, placing 2nd in her class at the RDA Nationals held at Hartpury college and 1st in the RDA virtuals. We are well into our winter training and already preparing for the competition year ahead. We hope to have another successful season and our aim is to find a horse for her to compete on consistently.
Why should other people give your sport a go? Equestrian vaulting is an incredibly beautiful and expressive sport. It helps budding vaulters learn body awareness and how to use their own body, along with improving their overall flexibility and strength. It also helps to instil respect, self discipline and teamwork.
If you are lucky enough to vault on a horse and you truly respect them, you really get the chance to form a unique and wonderful relationship with them.
Are there any further opportunities you would like to see be made available in your sport? In the wider sport I would love to see more para-vaulters. Every competition has a para-class but it is so rare that they actually have anyone entered in them.
I think there is a big misconception that vaulting is inaccessible which is a stigma I would love to break. Vaulting of course comes with risks, but it is actually considered one of the safest equestrian sports. Working with Lily has sent me on a massive journey in my own coaching and made me realise that I will coach anyone as long as they listen and are passionate – just like Lily!