Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery: 2 years on

  • Suzanna was competing at 2-star level eventing before an accident while riding a young horse at home in 2012 changed her life

    I’m slightly lost about where I should begin this blog. You wouldn’t think that much could have happened since my last blog, when I achieved the major milestone in getting back on board, but it has!

    It’s all quite overwhelming at the moment. I keep pinching myself to check I’m not dreaming. After two years of continual setbacks and operations, it’s hard to believe anything can go right. But hopefully that’s something I can get used to from now on.

    While the good news keeps on coming, it has been balanced with making some difficult decisions and the anniversary of a day I’d rather forget.

    Two years since my accident

    I think sitting in a padded cell would have been a good plan for the date that sends a shiver down my spine. I certainly wasn’t going to go and ride that day and I kept everything I did to a minimum.

    The dreaded date was 26 July 2012. I can hardly believe it was two years ago. It was a split second that changed my life forever. That morning I had been running around at the vets, trotting up horses and living the dream, then suddenly life was very different. I remember having so many thoughts running through my head: Will I ever walk again? Ride again? What does life hold for me? I was absolutely terrified.

    I remember the moment when the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance arrived. They took control of the situation and helped keep me calm. I have them to thank for my prompt medical treatment in the arena and for getting me to the John Radcliffe Hospital. There’s going to be a lot of fundraising on the cards as soon as my life has settled down a bit. We couldn’t be without the lifesaving service they provide.

    It’s been a journey through hell and back: 8 operations; approx 178 days in hospital (including Christmas, birthday, graduation); going through detox off the opiates and wanting to scream the hospital down; then becoming bionic with a battery pack inside me! But I finally feel as if life’s heading in the right direction…

    The most incredible feeling

    I still feel like an over excited child before each riding lesson, and I tend to tire myself out before I even get there! Will this feeling of delight ever end? I’ve been riding three times now, and I relive every special moment after each session.


    Mark with Buster and I

    I can’t stop smiling from ear-to-ear before, during and after I ride. Mark [Cunliffe of Lakefield Equestrian Centre in Camelford] must just think I’m completely bonkers as I go around grinning to myself. Then I drive home with a constant smile on my face.

    It’s such a natural feeling for me to be sat on a horse. From the age of six, riding has always been the highlight of my day. I also feel ‘normal’ when I am sat on Buster and I’m treated on a level with everyone else.

    In my lessons we’ve been working on adapting to not having the full use of my left leg. I use a schooling whip as my left leg and I’ve been surprised how much your upper body positioning can tell the horse about where you want to go. Buster is very responsive and is ideal for me to learn these new skills on.

    Suz-Hext-In-SeaThe spasms are an ongoing problem and something I will have to learn to cope with. I need to find the best way to relieve them when they start. My left leg didn’t particularly appreciate the fact that I had been wading in the sea (pictured left) before my last lesson!

    BBC Spotlight

    BBC Spotlight filmed my first time back on a horse, which was slightly daunting. I was almost speechless. You can watch the programme below.


    The day after the clip aired, BBC Spotlight read out some of the comments that had been left on their Facebook page. I was totally blown away.

    Off to Oaksey House

    Next week I am off to Oaksey House for some intensive neuro-physio with the ‘Hobbs’ team. I’m really looking forward to pushing forward to the next step and having their fantastic facilities and expertise around me for two weeks.

    I’ve been very lucky to gain some help towards funding my time at Oaksey, from the Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund (MDIRF). The fund is invaluable and supports people who have suffered from an accident around horses when other relief is inadequate or unobtainable. This support could not be given without us supporting MDIRF, so please click on the link above to find out how you can be involved and help support the fund.

    The help the fund has given me will enable me to have an adequate amount of time up at Oaksey working towards the next stage in my recovery. This is another charity I am planning on fundraising for in the future.

    Back to work

    Last week I had a meeting at B&W Equine Vets in Gloucestershire, and I am delighted that I will be going back to work at the end of September/beginning of October. I can’t wait to have a structured routine back and get stuck into the job I enjoy so much.

    I am so very grateful to the practice for being so understanding about my situation and keeping my job open for me.

    Difficult decisions

    Any decisions made about the horses are tough for me. Even with the excitement of my life going in the right direction, it doesn’t make it any easier. I find some comfort in the fact that I know they are the right decisions.

    Woody being ridden by PhoebeWoody, my event horse has gone on loan to Phoebe Clunn (pictured right). They got on brilliantly when she came and rode him and I know they’ll look after him and love him lots. He has settled in well in Staffordshire and I will be up to visit as soon as I can.

    Milly, my five-year-old mare by OBOS Quality, has just been put up for sale. She is seriously smart and very talented. If the circumstances were different then she wouldn’t be going anywhere.

    I have so many future plans coming together and although I’ve still got a long way to go recovery wise and life will never be quite what it once was, I’m now back doing the sport that I’m so passionate abou. The only way is up now, which feels a million dollars and slightly surreal.

    I think this two-year mark is going to be a real turning point!


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