Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery: Back to work, para plans and swimming in the sea

  • Blimey, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind. They also seem to have been pretty manic and I am an emotional wreck (in a good way)!

    A new chapter and journey of my life is looming and I can’t wait. It seems quite surreal after everything I’ve been through. I’ve actually managed to get the majority of my original life back, with some alterations and in a slightly different direction, which is equally as exciting.

    Practicing mounting

    Practicing mounting

    I don’t think I ever anticipated getting as much of my life back as I have: riding, work, friends, and independence. This is all down to having some incredible help and support along the way.

    Everyone believed in me and gave me huge amounts of confidence. That meant I was never going to give up, however many times I was knocked down.

    There was a moment in time when I felt as if all facets of my life had been taken away from me and that I would never get these back. I didn’t feel as if that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ would ever become clear. I was just treading water or having constant setbacks. The crazy thing is it wasn’t even that long ago I was last in hospital.

    If my accident has taught me one thing it’s life is what you make it. You can go around being miserable and feeling sorry for yourself or enjoy life and the people around you, no matter what. Everyone around you ultimately wants to help, so embrace it.

    Breakthrough Lesson

    Actually achieving the breakthrough took some guts, but Mark Cunliffe had got this idea in his head, and my God did it work!

    marley at lakefield1

    Riding without stirrups

    I used to stop when the spasms got really bad and lift the leg up out of the stirrup, then carry on. Now I am working without stirrups and my leg is in extensor spasm a large proportion of the time, but it means we don’t have to do anything to help it. I also find that as I ride for longer, the leg and the left side of my body relaxes slightly more as I go on.

    I have also achieved a major goal that I had been working on at Oaksey House. I can now get on and off Marley the correct way with a bit of help! This makes me much more flexible in terms of where I ride from now on and what I ride, as I don’t require the lift anymore.

    I had another incredible lesson with Pammy Hutton on Tuesday. We were working on my seat and using my body and shoulder to tell the horse where to go in the canter half-pass. It’s all about adapting and using what you have to override the parts of your body that don’t function quite as well. Pammy was very pleased with how much my fitness had improved since I last saw her a month ago.

    The time has come to put the word around for a potential para horse. Sadly my finances won’t allow for me to buy one at the moment, so I am be looking for a horse on loan, lease or to ride for an owner/owners.

    I am looking for quite a specific horse — no bigger than 16.2hh, no older than 10, good paces (with a trot that is easy to sit to) and safe to handle on the ground and on board! Please let me know if anyone has any possible horses in mind.

    Back to work

    After over two years, I go back to work at B&W Equine Vets in Gloucestershire next Tuesday (14 October). I can’t quite believe it and I am so excited. It’s a dream come true for me. I can’t express how grateful I am to the practice allowing me to come back after such a long time.

    Suzanna Hext

    With the B&W team

    I am frantically packing my things to come back, which makes it all feel quite real. I feel like I’m leaving home all over again!

    I know I’m ready for this next challenge/chapter, but it is quite daunting all the same! I’ve even had Mum trying to teach me some cooking skills — I did managed to cook a fantastic Thai green curry. Although, in the process I must admit that I managed to burn myself and get chilli in my eye — I think it must be said that I’m just not a natural!

    I don’t think my housemate Georgie Thomas is going to be particularly impressed with my cooking skills, but I’ll work on it.


    This week in particular has been an emotional rollercoaster. I feel drained already and I haven’t even got to Sunday when I’m moving into the house.

    Suzanna Hext

    Saying goodbye to the hydro team

    I knew this week was going to be hard, saying goodbye to Gemma (my neuro physio) and the hydro team (Sue and Tracy). There were lots of tears! And Gemma just told me to keep walking, before I reduced her to tears, which I definitely did this time!

    A lady in hydro a couple of weeks ago asked me: “How do you smile so much?” I replied: “I love how far I’ve come, it feels incredible.” — that week I had managed to show Sue that I could go down the steps into the pool, instead of being hoisted in. This was a massive deal after such a long time.

    I certainly couldn’t have got through the last two years without them. They always believed in me and gave me the confidence and support I needed when times got tough. Life is back on track and it is all thanks to them for helping me achieve this.

    Throughout my recovery I’ve had care from Stay at Home to take me to appointments, help me at home and showering. I certainly think Hayley (one of my main carers) got wrapped up in the emotion at hydro and I will miss my trips to appointments with her and Jaimie. They have become great friends and have kept me smiling throughout.

    Nobody has seen the back of me though as I am very good at keeping in touch and I will be visiting as much as possible.

    Rehab and achieving a long awaited goal

    I’ve finally managed to crack my tumble turns in the pool (which physio Andy will be pleased to hear!)

    I have been going swimming most days, apart from if I have a lesson at Trewince Manor. I started off going with my great friend Abi Sherress, but sadly she has left me and gone travelling half way across the world. The lunches we consumed after swimming probably put on all the calories we burnt off!

    So, I had one aim before the end of the summer… to go for an actual swim in the sea. However, I did decide to go on my own — crazy and stupid, I know! Fortunately there were some people on the beach, so I knew if I got into trouble there were people around.

    Firstly, I had to decide how I was going to get in. I waded in and then realised I needed to be able to get rid of the crutches. So, I got back out again — as I was doing so, the people on the shore were watching intently with a concerned look on their faces! I then decided the best idea was ditch the crutches and hop to the water edge. I then got down on all fours and crawled in, eventually floating away through the seaweed!

    I certainly had no reason to worry that I wasn’t going to be watched, as they didn’t take their eyes off me until I was safely back on the beach with my crutches. It was priceless and so worth it.

    Moving forward

    The next couple of weeks will be filled with new adventures and getting back into the swing of work at the vets.

    This weekend I am making a very exciting visit to RAF Benson to meet the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance team who rescued me on the day of my accident. I think it could be another quite emotional day, but I can’t wait to be able to thank them in person.


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