It was on 13 June 2011 that Felicia Grimmenhag’s life changed forever. The Swede was riding a moped aged 17 when she was hit by a car travelling at more than 100km/hr. Despite sustaining horrific injuries, Felicia survived, but both her legs had to be amputated above the knee.
“When I woke up in the hospital one of the first things that came into my mind was that I wanted to ride horses again,” said Felicia, now 23, who finished seventh in the individual grade III at her debut championships for Sweden.
“I had ridden as a child, just at a riding school, but I stopped in my teens. I have no idea why the idea came to me while I was lying in the hospital, but I started Googling and watching videos on YouTube. I came across a video of Angelika Trabert [the multi-medalled German para rider who was born without legs] and she really inspired me. I thought that if she could do it, so could I.”
Unbelievably, Felicia was back on board a horse within three months of her accident.
“It wasn’t really planned; my siblings went riding, and I just forced everyone to put me on a horse,” recalls Felicia. “It was nerve-wracking and scary, but also fantastic.
“It was very hard to adjust to riding without legs – my balance was completely off. But it got easier, and I work very hard on my strength, especially me core, to help my balance. I train in the gym three times a week.”
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Felicia’s partnership with her Gothenburg ride, the 14-year-old Swedish warmblood Tarot E, only began in January this year.
“My last horse wasn’t right for me as it didn’t really work without having legs. However, after more than a year of searching we found Tarot, and he really tries for me,” says Felicia.
“We still don’t know each other that well, but he works so well for me. Competing at the Europeans was not the goal this year – back in January I never thought I’d be here now. We are total newbies now, but I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen over the next few years.”
Don’t miss the 31 August issue of Horse & Hound, with full reports, analysis and expert commentary from the para dressage, dressage and showjumping European Championships in Gothenburg.