A professional rider who was seriously injured in a horrific fall at Osberton horse trials last year and underwent surgery to replace a smashed vertebra has astounded everyone by competing at this year’s event.

Nicola Browne, 28, from Markham Moor, in Nottinghamshire, competed for Britain as both a junior and young rider. She was riding in the CCI ** event on 6 May 2002 and was half way round the cross-country course when disaster struck.

For some reason, the horse she was riding failed to pick up when going over one of the fences, so the pair were catapulted through the air and Nicola’s mount landed on top of her.

“It was a big bold jump with a decent drop on landing and I remember thinking as we approached fence: God his legs aren’t coming up,” recalls Nicola. “There were a lot of people on the landing side and I think he may have lost concentration for a split-second.

“It seemed to happen in slow motionand then I remember thinking: this is going to hurt.

“If someone had said to me I was going to have a serious accident, I never would have thought it would have been riding that horse.”

Until their accident, the pair had never had a problem cross-country and Nicola thought he had real potential as a four-star horse.

Semi-conscious and in a considerable amount of pain, Nicola was airlifted to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where she was found to be suffering froman exploded vertebra, broken ribs, fractured collarbone and a punctured lung.

“I am a physio so, when the accident happened, I knew I had done something serious, as I was in a lot of pain in my back and pelvis area,” said Nicola.

The following day, she underwent surgery to insert rods to stabilise her spine, then a week later she had an operation to replace her smashed vertebra with a fake one.

Just four weeks after her accident, Nicola took her first steps. “Pain managementwas really important in my recovery, so I would always make sure I had taken some painkillers before I did any physio,” she said.

In September last year, just four months after her crushing fall, Nicola started riding again. “I borrowed a friend’s pony and felt elated to be back on a horse.”

Following her consultant’s advice, she waited for the rods in her back to be removed before she started jumping again. Her appearance at Osberton was preceded by a warm up run at an opennovice, but her success at this year’s event saw her current ride Cassette upgraded to Advanced.

“To me, now it is like the accident never happened – I have blocked it out of mind completely and am now aiming for Burghley in September.”

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