Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: ‘We were thrown into a real-life re-enactment of Casualty’

  • Hi all and welcome back!

    For those who follow my various social media channels (for which I applaud you for putting up with my sporadic posts and occasional between the ear shots with not much else in between), you will have seen that I have once again, been in the figurative injury camp of the war zone.

    One sunny and splendid day, I went to get my next horse of the day ready to go for a hack with my good friend Evie. The dreaded flies are back for their summer holidays, so I went to take off the fly rug. What ensued can only be described as a freak accident, that could happen to anyone, anytime, with any horse. I think as I touched his stomach to undo the straps, he got an electric shock from me and in his sudden alarm, kicked out with a hind leg and got me clean across the front of my thighs. I stared down in horror at the two hoof marks on my breeches where his hind foot had been and immediately started screaming. I managed a single step backwards before collapsing.

    Luckily (and perhaps unluckily), we had a three-day clinic running on our yard at the time. So while my Mum and sister were both out of earshot teaching, the lovely ladies who had only just arrived on the yard were suddenly thrown into a real life re-enactment of Casualty, as they had to support me out of the stable and fetched a chair from the nearby tack room to topple me into. The pain was intense – I couldn’t move either leg or stand. An ambulance was called, and I managed to perch on the end of a stool, while keeping full weight down my arms on the seat.

    One thing that did perpetuate my addled mind during that day was the scary new reality of the world. There I was, with battered legs that were rapidly swelling, partly in shock from pain and the man on the end of the 999 call had to ask me several questions about whether I felt warm, if I had a cough, if I had seen anyone who could possibly have had coronavirus symptoms. “No” was the truthful answer to all of these. But what would have been the case if I had answered “yes”? And how reliable are those who are in need of urgent medical treatment?

    Joanna Thurman-Baker dressage blog

    The aftermath of the accident

    The ambulance took over three hours to get to me, but I was very grateful when it did finally arrive and I got that sweet taste of gas and air. For all I then knew, I was floating off in a spaceship. My riding leggings had already been cut into incredibly fashionable shorts, but my yard boots also had to be cut off (RIP – but thank goodness I wasn’t wearing my De Niros!)

    I waved goodbye to my family from the spaceship (ambulance) and went off in a state of delirious giggles to A&E, where my legs were then X-rayed. The miracle of the story is that somehow I escaped without any breaks, just severe bruising to my left knee and a nice big hematoma on my right thigh. Several long hours later (including overcoming my fear of needles as one had to be jammed into my arm for morphine – every cloud), I was free to go. Upon trying to stand, I promptly fainted, and was then given a moving throne (aka a wheelchair) in which to vacate the hospital.

    Delirium – and celebrations

    The next week or so was spent in a weird sense of delirium. I hobbled down to the yard when I could, then regretted it wholeheartedly as my legs would ache from the mere 100 steps travelled. I tried writing this blog, but quickly realised my brain was still off in the spaceship and wasn’t up for normal function. I also received my Pfizer Covid jab, which gave me a completely dead arm for two days. So, temporarily, I only had the one fully-functioning limb, much to the amusement of everyone.

    However, then came reason for celebration. I received a wildcard for the re -scheduled Winter Dressage Championships with Sirocco, having scored 70% at the regionals in the elementary gold three days prior to my accident, after qualifying for it back in February 2020. This was the motivation I needed to kick myself into gear – from that point I had exactly 21 days until the championships.

    Joanna Thurman-Baker dressage blog

    Joanna and Sirocco at regionals three days before the accident

    To kick-start my rehab, I went to see the wonderful Andy Thomas, biomechanics extraordinaire. He released my thigh muscles that had been in contestant spasm, taped up my bruises and showed me some simple exercises to get my brain working with my legs again. The beginning was tough as I was terrified of the pain, but with mind over matter I was able to walk again.

    As the saying goes, don’t run before you can walk – or in my case, start riding as soon as you can walk. I felt capable of sitting on, as I’m worse when weight bearing so theoretically riding would be okay. With help to tack up, I used my sweet boy Sirocco as a crutch to get down to the arena and after a few grumbles of “pull it together Joanna”, I got myself into the saddle, which is no mean feat as Sirocco stands at 17hh and I only had a wobbly fence post as a mounting block. Perhaps I got on sooner than I should have done, but the mental benefits of actually doing something far outweighed any negatives, for me. My main problem is the lumps and bruises above my knees – exactly where the leg presses against the knee block of my dressage saddle. But Sirocco is as smooth as a calm sea and looked after me completely.

    In my new love of competition mindset, I figured that if I could ride – I could compete. So off we trundled with Sirocco to get some advanced medium points for the summer regionals, which we did. A nice 67% was pretty good considering my preparation. My legs felt pretty useless and the right is still very swollen, but I have surprised even myself with the determination I have.

    I’m still a long way from my normal “skips down the stairs” self, but I’m super excited for the championships next week. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me and kept the horses going – it really does take a village.

    Until next time,

    Joanna x

    You may like...