I’m looking back on a year that I can only describe as life-changing.

2015 was life-changing for another reason than that of 2012, when life-changing took a whole new meaning following my accident.

2015 was a year that I can only smile about, and realise and have faith in the fact that life can change, even if it takes a different path to the one originally planned.

It feels surreal to even think about how incredibly far I have come over the past few years, from not knowing what the future held for me, to a life that feels exciting.

I am so grateful to the number of people that have believed in me and have helped me to accomplish my aims and ambitions. This includes my family, friends, the team at Talland, sponsors and my phenomenal medical team I have supporting me.

I started competing in para and able-bodied dressage competitions in January/February last year and from then on I have never looked back. Both horses (Amo and Abira) have helped me to win my first national title, compete in three internationals, gain a place on the Excel Talent programme, go on my first hack, perform my first demo and compete in my first able bodied advanced test and qualify to compete at Prix St George.

It’s been a year of firsts not only in the saddle, but delivering my first talk to the Mid Devon Riding Club, then last week rounded everything off with meeting the Wiltshire Air Ambulance team that rescued me.

Of course it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Sometimes it’s like riding a rollercoaster. This couldn’t be truer than for the end of 2015, which certainly didn’t go according to plan. I nearly made a whole year without any emergency trips to hospital, however I got pipped to the post.

I had a very scary allergic reaction to a new type of medication. I certainly didn’t look my best and it seemed to escalate very quickly. I was very lucky my housemate Martha was around and was not adverse to the impromptu wakeup call and trip to Cirencester hospital, which then resulted in me being rushed by ambulance to Swindon Hospital.

Needless to say, I am not going to let this frustrating blip take away from what has been one hell of a year!

Goal setting time

As Christmas and New Year has passed by in a blur of food, friends and festivities, it’s now time to knuckle down. The goal setting and aims of 2016 have begun and I am looking forward to the season ahead, knowing that this year the system won’t be quite as alien or as daunting to me. Fingers crossed!

With Amo after my first advanced test

With Amo after our first advanced test

Any goals you set need to be open to change, especially as there are a higher number of variables in any equestrian sport. You’re not just having to keep the athlete on track, but also the horse. As everyone knows this is easier said than done.

There are short-, mid- and long-term goals, however they all have to pose the same attributes. An acronym I learnt at a long time ago at school was SMART, which you can apply to all aspects of life:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time bound

One of my aims for this year, among many others is to look for my next up and coming para horse to run alongside my current rides. I am looking for a special horse to aim towards the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, and international championship teams.

This could be the right horse on loan, or for an owner, or forming a syndicate to buy. I will require a horse with a very good walk and trot, as I am a grade II para rider where these two paces are the ones we perform in our tests. However, three good paces is a must, with a genuine attitude.

Please contact me via email if you think you may know of the right horse: suzannahext@hotmail.co.uk

A run of emotional firsts

Competing Amo in my first advanced test

Competing Amo in my first advanced test

We did it! To add to my run of first time experiences in 2015, I had a fantastic time on Amo competing in my first able-bodied advanced dressage test.

By the end of the test I was smiling from ear to ear and I’ve got to say I felt quite emotional. I would have been excited to have competed in an advanced test prior to my accident, let alone now!

Another huge part of the whole occasion was dusting off my tailcoat for the first time since my eventing days. It actually fitted!

Amo was fantastic, you could feel her go up a gear and really enjoy herself. We managed to qualify for Prix St George, which is another goal on my list for 2016.

Willberry Wonder Pony, my first hack and the incredible Hannah Francis

Out hacking with Hannah Francis

Out hacking with Hannah Francis

I will honestly never forget this day, it was not only my first venture out into the wilderness on a pony who I can only describe as a superstar called Tommy, but it was with someone who has inspired not only me, but hundreds of people; Hannah Francis.

Hannah is suffering from a form of cancer called ostersarcoma. She is just 17-years-old and a keen rider. Her ability to keep fighting in face of such hardship is just phenomenal and her fundraising efforts for cancer charities has been breathtaking.

The pair of us didn’t stop chatting from the minute we walked out of the yard, to when we got back! I don’t know where the time went, we were out hacking for far longer than we had anticipated.

The lifesavers

Last week I met the Air Ambulance team that saved my life when I had my accident. It was a day that carried high emotions. I wondered whether I would remember the faces of the

Meeting the Air Ambulance crew who saved me

Meeting the Air Ambulance crew who saved me

crew that rescued me or not. Needless to say I didn’t, or not so far as I am yet to meet the final member of the crew that was on board that day.

The whole day really helped me and has almost completed the final piece of the jigsaw. The work they do is easily summed up in one word: “Life saving”. However, it’s not just the crew that keep the Air Ambulance afloat. They rely on the team behind the scenes gaining support via charity and volunteering to keep the lifesaving service alive.

I can’t wait util I can meet the final member of the crew, and the plan is to fundraise for them as soon as possible.

Life does throw us some unexpected challenges, for this reason it is all the more important to look after the people around us, grab hold of every opportunity and believe in yourself.

“The best view comes after the hardest climb”

Suz