I’ve always wanted to go hunting, and for last Christmas as my present Mum arranged me three days out with the Cotswold Vale on a hireling. The theory was that it would help my confidence and bravery. I’d learn to care less what I looked like and getting a good competition result and more about being effective and getting my horse in a good spot to help itself.
My first two days out were on a lovely little bay mare called Lara. She was nippy and keen and great fun to ride. She would get a little frustrated waiting for fences, and I found her a bit unnerving to jump – but that’s probably because I’m very much a one horse rider so jumping anything different is always a bit of a shock, and I was totally out of my comfort zone in the field so generally a bit cautious. I jumped pretty much everything though and was having a lovely time with a very welcoming pack.
It was working pretty well until the last day of the season (24th March – there’s a date which will stick with me), when on a brilliant hunter I managed to have a run out at a hunt jump. Freddie the horse was giant and white, I felt like I was sitting on a knight’s charger and he was seriously sporting. Everything I had pointed him at he was jumping so easily and I was feeling increasingly positive and thoroughly enjoying myself. At a small little stick pile hunt jump, he did a sudden duck out – I think he could see the rest of the field following round to the right, and tossing his head around as he was keen he didn’t see the wire fence which blocked his idea of a little shortcut. He jumped sideways, chesting the barbed wire which broke (thank God) but brought him down onto his knees and catapulted me over his head. It was just one of those things, I couldn’t have been on a better horse, no-one was crowding me, and I didn’t mess up the stride. Maybe if I had been faster reacting and more determined I would have been able to hold him straight. I hate blimmin wire fences at the best of times. Unfortunately its a risk we take crossing the country on a large animal with a mind of its own.
I broke both of my arms, one at the wrist and the other at the top of my humerus by the shoulder. The wrist needed surgery and now has a plate and pins and a beautiful scar. Incidentally I’ve heard online from other people with metalwork in their wrists that winter can make them very cold and painful – going to investigate some magnetic bracelets and nice long gloves, fingers crossed they help. Some wonderful people on the ground that day got me to A&E, bunging me on the back of a quad bike to get me to the road, looking after the horse, contacting my family and driving me to the hospital. We are lucky that when the chips are down, kind people will show up and help you get on your feet. I was at my most glamorous that day…
I took a full two months off work, luckily they were supportive and made everything easy, although there was a comment in my formal year-end review about the need to improve my riding – tell me something I don’t know! For the first three weeks I needed full time care as I couldn’t do anything for myself – eat, drink, wash, change, go to the loo… I’ll owe my mother and boyfriend for a long time for all they did for me in those few months, they dealt with a lot of tears and sleepless nights. Freddie needed some stitches and a shot of antibiotics but he was quickly back in full work and sound. I took a trip to visit him when I could drive again and fed him a lot of polos as I was never able to thank him for the day out he had given me (until that point!!).
It also meant that I missed the 2018 eventing season and my two regional final tickets, which has been gutting. I started riding again for the first time at the end of July. The first horse I sat on was Lulu and she had been on a long holiday and was only just backed before that. Not what the doctor would have ordered, but you take your chances! To get back into practice and keep my riding and confidence ahead of the level Lulu is at, I’ve been going up and borrowing Tim again from Mum for some practice flatwork and I’ve been really pleased with that progress. I’ve been working on my position to get more secure and balanced, and Tim has been going fantastically. We are so fortunate to have found such a generous sweet horse and I thank my lucky stars Mum is kind enough to let me borrow him. I hope I can carry some of that positivity through to jumping when I start properly again. I also went for a ride out with a friend I made the day I fell off (she was the first person to scrape me off the floor and a total godsend) and we had a little jump which was such good fun. They weren’t big, and when we put up an upright which was about 90cm with a filler underneath it I bottled out, but it was good to leave the ground. My plan is to go for a few lessons this winter on Tim to help get my jumping mojo back, and maybe to sneak in a few more days hunting and bury those demons. All that work will do me the world of good for dealing with a baby horse too.