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February 2013 Two-Time U.S. Paralympian Equestrian Rebecca Hart and Her Journey with HSP

Article by Lindsay McCall from the United States Para-Equestrian Association with excerpts from Rebecca Hart.

“My parents were both amazing throughout my childhood,” recalled Rebecca Hart. “They never let me think of myself as a disabled kid. It was as simple as ‘Katie (my sister), Jordan (my brother), get on your coats, Becca get on your braces we are going to go.’ My parents never made it a big deal, it was just one more thing to do in preparation to leave.”
Born with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, Rebecca’s childhood mimicked most children’s. She participated in multiple sports including ballet and gymnastics, went to school, and she was always looking forward to trying something new. Rebecca noted, “As a small child I thought that I would grow out of HSP. Every time I tried a new sport or hobby I thought if I at least put on the uniform, I would dance or tumble like everyone else.” As Rebecca continued to mature she found a friend in her father Terry. “My dad has the same disease and it has been great to have an ally. He was always the most positive person growing up and he was able to relate to me like no one else could because he had gone through it too. He knew the challenges of having HSP as a kid and worked to reduce them. He understood the late night muscle cramps and the taunting that can happen at school. He taught me to be the bigger person and not allow the other children’s words to affect me. For the most part they didn't, but it could be exhausting to be at school and constantly have your disability pointed out to you and shoved in your face. Luckily my sister went to the same school. She is my best friend, mild-mannered and wickedly smart. She gave me tactics to handle those situations and in return she taught me confidence. My mom and dad taught me the importance of being proud to be an individual; they told me everyone can be "normal" it takes guts to be unique."
Her positive outlook and confident attitude were just two attributes that began to shape Rebecca into a future Paralympic athlete. Rebecca explained, “I was always a bit of a perfectionist. If I started a hobby or sport I didn't just want to be respectable or stand in the back row of the recital. I wanted center-stage and I wanted to be the best.”


September 2012 - I conquered the London Marathon for HSP

My journey to the finish line started back in November 2011 when I discovered I had been allocated a place in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon. Having run the race the year before, I knew a little about what was in store!!!!! My training started just after Christmas and for the next 16 weeks, I spent my weekends and evenings pounding the streets running (albeit some weeks harder than others!). They say that in running a marathon….. The real marathon is in the training, and the race itself is actually the reward! As odd as it sounds, it’s definitely true. I decided to make my training efforts worthwhile and raise money for charity - I chose the HSP Support Group as my mum suffers from HSP and I know what great work the charity does to support those affected by HSP. So far I’ve raised over £700 and my employer will match my fundraising, which will total over £1500 including gift aid! If you would like me to help raise even more money, please visit my fundraising page at