Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery blog: Tragedy and triumph

  • Hannah Francis, the most kind, generous, determined and brave young lady, who never asked for anything in return.

    She’s taught me and so many other people the importance of living our lives to the full, grabbing hold of every opportunity and never taking it for granted. Hannah will never realise how many lives she’s touched.


    Hannah’s smiley face and zest for life is going to live on in my memories, and I will always treasure our precious times together.

    The legacy Hannah’s left behind is mammoth, and she will always be remembered for what an incredible character she was and her determination to one day kick cancer’s butt. She’d now want us to focus on continuing her campaign through her charity Willberry Wonder Pony.


    “Paraberry” is going to be continuing on his mission out in Rio with the British Paralympic dressage team for the time being, before coming back to me when they return. He is currently with Sophie Wells until they leave for the Paralympics in September. Fingers crossed he will be not only creating awareness of Willberry Wonder Pony, but he will be a good luck mascot for the team too! He’s not done badly for me so far! Talking of which…

    Me with Paraberry on my scooter

    Me with Paraberry on my scooter

    Out and about

    Abira (owned by Pammy and Charlie Hutton) and LJT Enggaards Soltaire (owned by The Lady Joseph Trust) have been on great form over the last month, and they have given me a lot to smile about.

    Hartpury CPEDI3* on Abira (pictured top) was part of the final selection trail for Rio, and he put his best foot forward and looked stunning thanks to my groom Gemma Fuller. He gained some great results coming second once and third twice in the Grade II competition. He loved the atmosphere in the outdoor arena and certainly knew the drill from days gone by competing with the Hutton family.

    Abira and I were also lucky enough to be chosen as part of the winning Nations Cup team at Hartpury.

    Me with my Nations Cup team members at Hartpury

    Me with my Nations Cup team members at Hartpury

    The particularly special part of Hartpury was my dad coming to watch me for the first time since my accident four years ago. This was a huge day for my parents, as they have been through the mill over the years with me having back-to-back operations. To see my parents straight after my test meant a huge amount, and Abira thought it was fantastic to have even more attention!

    BBC Spotlight South West had been out to film me at Talland prior to competing at Hartpury. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/bbcspotlight/videos/1237848246280671/

    With my groom Tiggy at Hartpury

    With my groom Tiggy at Hartpury on my Optimum Mobility scooter

    LJT Enggaards Solitaire (aka Sid) and I had our first outing at Hunter’s Equestrian, competing in novice tests. Sid felt like a pro, and he was pleased to be out competing again. He managed to get two fantastic scores of 76%+ and 71%+ to win both novice tests overall.

    I had a couple of my great friends Abi and Sophie turn up to support me too, and obviously go for the compulsory cake afterwards in town!

    With Gemma (my normal groom) having left me to go to Rio with Irish eventer Padraig McCarthy, it was the turn of Lizzie Luxton to put up with me for a week at Bishop Burton CPEDI2* and three-star. I’m not sure she knew what she was letting herself in for until she got there! We were originally based at Lucy Wiegersma’s together a few years ago — hmmm make that about six or seven years ago! Although that makes me feel a tiny bit old.

    Abi Sherress, another Wiegersma graduate made the long drive up to help over the last two days alongside Lizzie. Perhaps I had got too much for Lizzie at that point, especially after one too many tumbles on my behalf up the lorry ramp, not helped by laughing and my uncooperative legs.

    It was certainly a week that I won’t ever forget. Not just that it marked my first international win, but winning both the two-star and three-star in the same week was amazing. Both horses didn’t put a foot wrong, and they managed to win every test!

    It was an amazing learning experience on Sid, getting to know him and what makes him tick. Apparently, being stabled next to a little pony wasn’t going to make him tick! A quick stable swap with Abira soon solved this problem. Sid felt fab in the arena, very ridable and lots of exciting improvements to come.

    Sid at Bishop Burton

    Sid at Bishop Burton

    Abira had a week of PB’s, smashing every test — it was official that he didn’t want to be outdone by Sid. The most exciting PB was in the freestyle when he scored a whopping 78%+. It was Abira on top form, dancing away to his favourite music. He jumped into trot when it came on. My word, he means so much to me.

    Showing gratitude

    I was truly grateful for all the World Class lottery funded support I received at Bishop Burton and Hartpury, not only for myself, but for Abira too. It certainly makes a huge difference to our combined performance in the arena. I was also extremely lucky to have David Hamer and Michel Assouline warming me up before my test.



    Hartpury and Bishop Burton were exceptionally well organised and they both had a great atmosphere. We are extremely lucky to have such fantastic competitions in the UK.

    The following week we had BEF Excel squad training at Vale View. We had interesting talks on the first evening on anti-doping, goal setting and the process of moving forward onto the World Class programme.

    Lizzie and Abi at Bishop Burton

    Lizzie and Abi at Bishop Burton

    The second day we were lucky enough to have Jane Perberdy’s expert judge’s view.
    Firstly we rode through our chosen test, receiving feedback from Jane straight away afterwards while it was being played on a projector screen. Later on in the day we had to go through the test again after absorbing the previous feedback. This was also videoed and analysed against our previous test.

    This was a particularly useful exercise on Sid as he’s still so new to me. There was lots to go away and work on.

    We also had some one-to-one time with the sport psychologist Jennie, going through our game plan and focus in the arena.

    Continued below…

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    It has to be said it’s been a fairly manic few weeks, now we have a bit of let up time to consolidate and practice our weak areas and let my body have a bit of down time (ish!). It’s also time to plan my next tranche of goals, not only in the saddle, but with my physio Dal Lucus at Oaksey House too.

    It’s just over four years since the day I’d rather forget. If you’d have told me four years ago that I’d be enjoying all the adventures I am these days I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It just goes to show, life can change.

    “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are”


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