The para vaulter: Injuries, carpet burns and looking to the future

After defending her title at the national British Vaulting Championships, Lizzie's back at home, trying out new moves. Unfortunately though, not all is going to plan... 

At the end of my last post, I talked a bit about the year ahead and said, “I’m sure I’ll be hurting more, hitting the deck (even) more and being even tougher on myself, but hopefully I’ll have some fun along the way too!”

As it turns out, I haven’t had to wait long for this prophecy to come true!

After an over-exuberant dismount, my right knee has taken on a hue and sheen that I can most accurately describe as ‘aubergine’; after a simple twist at gymnastics my right ankle has inflated again; and my left shoulder now spontaneously (and without warning or precipitating action) falls out of place with a sickening crunching gravel noise.

The fact that I’ve missed three vaulting sessions for a BHS course makes it all the more impressive that I’ve managed to do all this and more.

In one session last week, I managed to fall off twice in the space of one minute.

I was working on a new move – which will hopefully look amazing when I get it right! – and I fell off to the inside, remounted, tried again, then shot off to the outside. No pain, no gain!

   
  
   
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    Neatening my roll off

Neatening my roll off

Many of the moves I’ve been working on are still very much ground based.

One is a forearm balance – like a headstand, but with your head off the ground, balancing your weight on your forearms.

I struggle with spine control at the best of times, and upside-down is even harder. Unsurprisingly, then, many of my attempts at this move have involved face planting and carpet burns to the face and neck…

Probably the most ridiculous ‘injury’ I’ve sustained in the last few weeks has been a straightforward muscle strain in the muscles under my sternum.

It turns out that these muscles do a hell of a lot apart from facilitating a workout that doesn’t involve ankles: they hold you together when you sneeze, they help you to twist and turn, and they help you go to the loo – who knew?!

Although I’d struggle to find evidence for this, I haven’t just been busy injuring myself –  I’ve also been trying to get inspiration for new freestyle moves.

   
  
   
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    Learning free kneel in canter (third attempt, plenty to improve!)

Learning free kneel in canter (third attempt, plenty to improve!)

One of the great things about vaulting is that you can get this inspiration from almost anywhere.

Vaulting videos are good, of course, but I also like watching gymnastics, figure skating, synchronised swimming, dancing (I’m now a Strictly fan!), yoga, and, basically, pretty much anything which involves a degree of creativity.

I love watching what people can achieve with their bodies and trying to figure out how it’s done. The results are often messy, but I’m having fun trying and sometimes I actually achieve it!

Speaking for the RDA

Alongside vaulting, I’ve been quite busy with RDA lately. I was a speaker at the RDA AGM at Saddlers’ Hall and was immediately surprised by the presence of HRH Princess Anne.

Fortunately, Alastair Stewart went first and showed me the right way to address the assembly! It was lovely to see friends again and to hear updates on what is happening in RDA on a national scale.

   
  
   
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    Speaking at the RDA AGM, Saddlers’ Hall. Photo: Louise Clarke, Catchlight Photography

Speaking at the RDA AGM, Saddlers’ Hall. Photo: Louise Clarke, Catchlight Photography

It was also good to see volunteers receiving awards, including Gay Redman (East Region chairman, and the chairman of my RDA Group when I first joined) who won the award for top Regional/County volunteer.

Margaret Morgan MBE (outgoing Chair of the RDA Vaulting Committee) was also rewarded with the Birt Spooner Cup for her lifetime of effort, much of which has gone into vaulting.

It’s hard to imagine what UK para vaulting would be like without Margaret’s input – it quite possibly just wouldn’t exist.

I’ve also just started volunteering at my local RDA group, and they are being really encouraging in my ambition to become an RDA coach.

Alongside my BHS training (I hope to start working towards my Stage 2 soon), I’m learning lots of different ways of thinking about riding, which is definitely good for my riding too!

So, the plan for the next few months really is to keep working hard, keep trying new things, keep trying to do this without ending up in A&E, and keep enjoying it. So far, so good. I hope I haven’t just jinxed the A&E bit…