Becoming a para rider: "I was so excited, I almost kissed him!"

Sallyanne updates us on going to Badminton, grooming horses and how seeking a second opinion has put her a step closer to getting back in the saddle. 

An X-ray of my back

An X-ray of my back

So much has happened lately that I don’t know where to start!

I’ve been persistent in following my dream to get back in the saddle, despite a knockback.

I received a letter from my spinal consultant from Salisbury hospital advising that she doesn’t support me riding because of the risk. Let’s just say, I wasn’t impressed.  

Every day I take huge risks, like when I transfer out of bed into the shower or onto my wheelchair into the car. Out socialising with friends is one of the main risks (especially after a few Proseccos!).

I know about the risks of riding, and I am – according to the A&E report at least – an extreme sports woman.

The letter delayed my access to the RDA, so I set about how I could get a supported second opinion.

The head of therapy at the RDA put me in touch with a Professor of Spinal Surgery in Oxford and after a lengthy referral process, I finally got an appointment.

Following a very thorough consultation and review of the X-rays, he concluded that I have three mobile segments below and above the fixation that are in good alignment and there’s no evidence of any loosening and malalignment of the spine.

My first simulator ride with the RDA

My first simulator ride with the RDA

The L1 fracture has healed up and is solidly fixed. This has been fixed at two levels above and below the fracture and he thinks this is entirely stable and there’s no evidence of any loosening or failure.

In his view, he thinks that the fracture is absolutely stable and if I were to fall off again, this part of my back would be stronger now than it was before.

All in all, he sees no concerns with me riding again and competing within the para dressage discipline.

I was so excited, I almost kissed him!

As soon as the confirmation came through, I told the RDA and I was soon invited for an assessment on their horse simulator.

I’ve also started having weekly lessons working on strength and core balance. I’m so excited.

Onwards and upwards

Another bit of really exciting news is that Severn Vale Riding Club, Downend Round Table and Pearce Brothers Mobility have all donated money towards a lorry hoist and it’s now all funded.

Now the fun starts! We’ll have to teach Super Flynn to stand very still while the hoist moves over him, and I’ll be looking for volunteers for this as I won’t be mounting until we’ve cracked it.

My friend Beth trying out the lorry hoist

My friend Beth trying out the lorry hoist

I had a big spend at Badminton Horse trials 2017. I bought a Hit-air air jacket, (sponsored by Severn vale riding club) and a lovely Charles Owen Charlotte Dujardin navy riding hat (sponsored by Long-time family friends Gordon and Pat Butters).

I feel so lucky to have such amazing support to get back in the saddle. I thank you all so much.

I’m not getting back in the saddle without an air jacket and good all-round bubble wrap!

While at Badminton, my friends and I volunteered to help with Event mobility, the official charity for the event.

Event mobility makes you mobile at large events by offering you the opportunity to hire a manual wheelchair or electric scooter for the duration of the day, this enables individuals with mobility or health problems to access the event and enjoy the day.

I really enjoyed the day and helping others enjoy such a massive event was great. The sun was shining and we enjoyed some Pimm’s!

Getting in training 

My physio sessions are still continuing to challenge me; I’ve bought a balance cushion to use at home and also an equi trainer.

The balance cushion I can sit on and try and hold my core while wobbling about! And the equitrainer is a gadget I won on eBay for £50.

This is a bit like being in the saddle as you have to mount on top and sit balanced while the machine goes through a series of settings, from a warm up, up to a top speed like a trot/canter… I haven’t done this setting yet!!

Hopefully these gadgets will help me balance better and are training my core to be strong, which will help when I get back up on top of super Flynn…

Spending time with horses 

Me and Flynn bonding! 

Me and Flynn bonding! 

My daughter Stella now has a horse on full loan, so this keeps me and her very busy.

I spend time on the ground grooming, putting on rugs, doing hay nets and feeding. I’m also trying to get Super Flynn the and the other horses used to me wheeling around them.

I’m really pleased the weather has now improved as I was getting a bit fed up of being wet and muddy all the time.

Perhaps I could be a fair-weather rider, or one day ride in an indoor school. I’ll keep dreaming for now!

Thanks for reading.