SOPHIE Wells' London Paralympic adventure might be over, but after claiming her second silver of the Games yesterday the Newark dressage rider admits her time in the capital will live long in her memory.
The 22-year-old returned to Greenwich Park for her London 2012 swansong, the venue that had already seen her claim team grade IV gold and individual championship silver.
But Wells wasn't finished there, ensuring she said goodbye to London in style as she secured another silver riding her horse Pinocchio – this time in the individual freestyle test.
Wells' score of 81.150 was only just short of the gold medal, which went to Belgium's Michele George on Rainman with 82.100, but three medals on her Paralympics debut is not to be scoffed at.
And Wells insists her time in London has been a dream come true, especially since she got to share it with Pinocchio.
"Life will never be the same after this. We'll never be able to top the experience," said Wells.
"I do this work because I fundamentally love horses. I don't do it for the medals or anything like that.
"I will go home to my other horses – I love them to bits – but it's been great to share this with Pinocchio.
"He's so kind and gentle even though he's so big – nearly 18 hands high. I'm only 5ft 2in – so that doesn't help.
"He hears his music and loves it. The judges love it, we love it, so we keep it in.
"I lost my horse Touchdown with a foot tumour after Beijing. I'd heard 'Noki' was up for sale and rather cheekily asked if I could loan him.
"He'd just failed the vet because they said he had a heart murmur. I asked if he was sound – if he was fit and healthy – and I was given him on loan. It's been an amazing journey."
Despite being forced to settle for the silver, Wells still managed to produce a personal best in her final outing to ensure the good times carried on for Great Britain's Paralympic equestrian team.
And she is more than happy to help spread the word to the rest of the nation of the joys of the sport she fell in love with.
"It's weird – I never see myself as a role model," she added. "I get hundreds of messages via the internet telling me I'm their idol, and it's really hard to get my head around that.
"I just feel like a girl that loves riding ponies. It's a very humbling experience – if I can help people to enjoy horses half as much as I do, I'll be delighted."
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