Nana Dalton’s ‘getting back on my feet’ blog: a large, unwelcome challenge

  • I talked about ‘challenges’ in my last blog — little did I know that I had a large and pretty unwelcome one waiting just around the corner for me!

    I signed off my last blog feeling full of positivity and excitement for the charity race I was due to ride in a couple of days later. I had a weekend without my son so on that Friday evening I took Hamish, my Labrador, for a walk. Knowing that I need to up my fitness, I broke into a jog and despite wearing jeans, woolly hat and a couple of jackets. I ended up running further than I have done in years! It was exhilarating to realise I was fitter than I thought and that everything is back to resembling full working order.

    On the Saturday I was feeling fairly virtuous heading off showjumping with the two younger horses and Miley to do a couple of the bigger classes. Showjumping on a surface with established horses — how dangerous can it be? Unfortunately one horse made a freak misjudgment in the one-strided double and didn’t take off for the second part, pummelling us both head first into the ground.

    My nose was bashed and cut, I lost a tooth, broke my necklace… But having had a head injury last year, I was just so relieved that my head was absolutely fine plus having landed heavily on my front, my new boobs stood up to their airbag duties, and so it was further relief that they were also thankfully fine!

    I did jump one class on Miley after the fall, but decided to head home for a hot bath rather than hang around to jump the 1.30m. I had a terrible stomach pain on Sunday but by Monday, although I was generally feeling a bit sore with bruised ribs etc, the stomach pain had eased and I drove Miley off to do his fitness work up on the South Downs. I put my stirrups up extra short for practice for the charity Flat race the following day and all felt good.

    Miley out competing

    I was pretty uncomfortable on Monday night, but after many months of this charity race being a real focus for me and with the kind support and sponsorship of so many people, I drove to Hereford Racecourse on Tuesday hoping it was a passing thing and everything would be ok. A couple of Nurofen and having sat in the car for three hours to get there, I actually felt a lot better. But once up on my feet, it didn’t take long before I started to go downhill and by the time I went to walk the course I was vomiting. I knew categorically then that there was no chance of me riding in the race so went to see the medics who said I needed to go straight to hospital.

    Although it presented like it was an appendicitis, a CT scan showed that I’d bruised my kidneys so badly in the fall that they had then got infected. I was proper poorly and ended up staying in Hereford hospital for four days.

    I was gutted not to be able to do the race but congratulations to fellow event rider, Louise Harwood for winning and to my intended ride, Marquis of Carabas for coming second with his trainer, David Dennis substituting for me. Also it was an amazing effort from all the riders involved in the race to have raised a whopping £47,000 for St Michaels Hospice.

    With only a couple of horses now, I don’t have any help at the yard so I’m enormously grateful to my lovely old groom Candice for stepping in and looking after them while I was in hospital. Also to my amazing sister for looking after my son, Toby, and not forgetting my incredible mother who came down from Scotland to help me for the week.

    Miley was due to have his pre-Badminton prep-run around the advanced at Belton that weekend, but we obviously had to be shelve those plans. Novice horse, Fiddle was due to run at Portman on the Tuesday and South of England on the Saturday — although I wasn’t feeling strong enough to compete her, I decided to substitute Miley in to her entries. Slightly left-field but it worked brilliantly. Although he hasn’t jumped a novice track for six years, it was a great non-pressurised way of giving him some exercise on perfect ground, trying out a new bit and most importantly of all, having some much needed fun! He was double clear at both events and I was touched to read a social media post from the cross-country starter that the highlight of her day was seeing us finish the cross-country with a massive smile. Neither Miley or I could disguise our enjoyment!

    On the South Downs on Miley overlooking the sea, where we do our fitness work

    There are times when I’m really disappointed and disheartened by people and their behaviour. Recently however, I have been genuinely moved and truly humbled by some people’s humanity and goodwill.

    I met racehorse trainer Kerry Lee for the first time the day of the charity race as she was also riding in it. Due to feeling pretty ropey, I’m guilty of not being overly engaging when she introduced herself, and yet she then made the effort to come and visit me in hospital and bring me a copy of Horse & Hound, among other things. She had no need to drive the one-hour round trip to come and spend some time with me but, by god did I appreciate it.

    Today, I was on the way back from doing some pre-Badminton fitness work with Miley. I stopped for fuel and then for whatever reason, the lorry wouldn’t start again. I was tinkering with the battery and waiting for breakdown recovery when a random lady came over to me and gave me a packet of Percy Pigs which she’d just bought for me in the hope it would help cheer up my day. And soon after that, another lady came out and gave me a coffee! Again, they simply didn’t need to, but this show of compassion really lifts my spirits and is an inspiration/motivation moving forwards.

    My Easter holiday little helpers grooming Miley for me!

    Toby is on his Easter holidays now so doing the horses over the next couple of weeks will entail lots of hacks together. This weekend we’re loading up and heading to stay with my best friend in Dorset — on the Saturday we are going to combine competing Fiddle in the novice at Bovington with taking the kids around the tank museum there! Then on the Sunday the Portman Pony Club are running a little Easter show so Toby is all geared up for his first jumping competition — we’re aiming for the 25cm lead-rein class with his wonderful pony Prince! Miley will come along for the journey and will grab some exercise where we can.

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    Miley’s next planned event is the open intermediate at Bicton on Easter Friday, and then it’s a waiting game with regards to whether we get the chance to compete at Badminton again. We’re currently 13th on the wait list with three weeks to go — it could go either way, but I’m an optimist so will continue prepping and hope we get to run.


    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday.

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