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Scottish horsewoman saddles up for success thanks to eye surgery

A Scottish horsewoman is set to compete for a second prestigious British equestrian title after undergoing laser eye surgery to restore her vision.

Rhoda McVey, 54, from Milton of Campsie, near Glasgow, is competing at the GB TREC Championships of Great Britain. This year, the event takes place at Gorebridge, near Edinburgh on August 14-16. She and her horse, Fizz, previously won the British Championships in 2009. 

TREC was developed in France in the 1970s to improve the skills of trail riding guides. Competitors in the international equestrian sport are marked on three stages including orienteering on horseback, completing a cross country obstacle course and demonstrating control of the horse’s paces. 

Rhoda has been a senior figure in TREC for several years but was almost forced to give up competing in the sport when she contracted an eye infection which left her unable to wear contact lenses. Glasses were not an option because they were unsuitable for the orienteering stage of TREC, which can demand reading maps in mist and rain.

“I had a couple of bouts of iritis which causes very dry eyes,” Rhoda explained. “My eyes felt nippy and uncomfortable, and I had to rely on glasses which are no use when you are on horseback, riding over long distances for six to seven hours and consulting a map.

“I didn’t want to give up on my favourite sport so I started thinking about laser eye surgery. About 15 years ago, I had been told I wasn’t a candidate but I knew that the technology had improved. A number of people, including a TREC world champion, had also recommended the procedure.”

Rhoda booked in for a consultation at Optical Express in Glasgow in December 2012. Less than two weeks later, she underwent laser eye surgery on Boxing Day. 

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Without the procedure it would have been practically impossible for me to continue at TREC – especially in Scotland, where we are no strangers to rain. 

“Another benefit is that I can now see the computer at work. I previously had problems looking at my screen while wearing lenses but I no longer have to worry about that either.”

Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at Optical Express, said: “It’s great to know that laser eye surgery will help Rhoda compete in a sport which she clearly loves.  

“Even if Rhoda didn’t require to look at maps as part of TREC, as a horse rider she would experience tremendous benefits from undergoing laser eye surgery.  Those who take part in sport, or generally like spending time outdoors are among the groups that gain most from having great vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses.”

Rhoda added: “I remember saying to the optometrist afterwards, ‘Is it really that easy for everyone?’

“The result have been amazing and I really do wish I had undergone the procedure years ago. When I think of what I spent on glasses, contact lenses and solution over the years, it would also have saved me a fortune.

“I don’t think I would be competing if laser eye surgery hadn’t revitalised my sight.”