Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery: Para graded, back to work and more rehab

  • A new chapter has begun that I have been dreaming of for what seems like forever. I have a smile permanently plastered across my face and I have to keep pinching myself. Work is in full swing, my riding is going extremely well, and so is my rehabilitation, plus I have a social life!

    I swear I probably even go to sleep with a little grin on my face. Everything seems slightly surreal and I never want this feeling to end after a tough couple of years.

    Tresanton- goodbyeI’ve been getting some uneasy looks from people watching me tackle new obstacles, especially in Tesco’s, where the balancing of the basket on the end of one crutch has become finely tuned (I think). This might be slightly debatable though as the amount of times I’ve been asked if I need a hand, you would think I was looking as if I was about to drop everything on the floor.

    The Tesco’s team have got the filling of the two bags down to a fine art so that I can balance one on the end of each crutch to get out to the car.

    It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for me mastering the stairs on crutches after Tiggy’s (head girl to Lucy Wiegersma) 30th Birthday – let’s just say it was lucky that Jade and Lizzie (stood to catch me) were there.

    Next time, when faced with such circumstances, I’m going to take to going up the stairs on my bottom!

    On the Friday before I left to move back up to work we had a celebratory family meal at the Tresanton, a nearby hotel and restaurant. I think Mum and Dad were breathing a sigh of relief, as they have now got the house back to themselves again and a bit of peace and quiet.

    Back at work

    I think this was a day a lot of people thought would never happen, after so many setbacks, but I am finally back working at B&W Equine Vets (Breadstone Practice).

    It is such a great feeling to have a routine back and to be working and doing something I love. The practice has such a great team, many of whom were there a couple of years ago before my accident. I am really enjoying using my brain and learning a new aspect of nursing. Cassie Wood is teaching me the ropes in pharmacy, and there is a lot to learn (pictured top).

    I am doing a phased return to work and remarkably, I’m not feeling too tired after my first two weeks. I think going to Oaksey House prepared me quite well for this, as I was on the go all day doing rehab whilst I was there, plus practicing my cooking skills. My notorious cooking is still consisting of a lot of pasta dishes – I am hoping my housemate Georgie will help me expand my repertoire.

    Exciting times ahead – I’ve been graded…

    Pammy and Abira 1I have officially got my RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) Grading, which came out as a Grade II. This means I can get out and compete, if I can beg, borrow or steal a horse to do some competitions on! I am still looking for a para horse on loan, as my finances won’t allow me to buy one at this stage. Please keep the feelers out there…

    Since I have moved up to Gloucestershire, I’ve had two incredible lessons with Pammy Hutton. I can’t describe the feeling of not only being in the saddle, but also being back at Talland having lessons again. Pammy has taught me since I was 12-years-old, so she knows me inside out.

    Pammy and Charlie (Pammy’s son) made me one very happy girl on Tuesday, as I was allowed to ride international dressage horse Abira (pictured left) in my lesson. Wow, now that was an amazing feeling! The previous week I rode a horse called Tommy, who was also very smart and had been there and got the T-shirt.

    I mastered flying changes with both horses and I felt what it’s like to sit on a very smart dressage horse. They are definitely slightly different from the event horses I have been used to.

    I have always had the bug for eventing, galloping and jumping (which I still do), but I am getting seriously ‘caught’ by the dressage bug. The horses I have been riding move and feel like they are dancing.

    Rehabilitation – Oaksey and Cadbury House Gym

    My physio and fitness are continuing to progress. I go to Oaksey House every Monday for a couple of neuro physio sessions with Cat Henson, and an FES bike session and massage with Rob Treviss.

    We are still working a lot on gaining control over the spasms and trying to get as much weight through my left leg as possible. We’ve been doing some more work using the incredible ‘bionic leg’, which I have found extremely beneficial and also I have been practicing walking with someone either side of me, holding my arms. This is really hard as you can’t put as much weight through their hands as I do with the crutches, but this is the idea.

    The FES sessions (or electrocution sessions!) with Rob have been progressing and I am building up the amount of time and distance I am covering on the bike.

    I have completely landed on my feet at a gym/swimming pool (The Cadbury House) just down the road from where I am living. There is a great atmosphere, and there was no judgement or worries about my disabilities when I signed up to a membership package. I got a great feeling from the day I walked in.

    jade and iI swim most days and I feel that really helps with the spasms, and it is something I can do for my fitness without being hindered by my left leg in a massive way. I think everyone thinks I am completely bonkers when I go to get in the pool off my crutches, with my leg in spasm. They soon realise that I am more than capable in the pool, and I even swim in the lanes.

    I was a bit apprehensive at first about going into another gym, without the help or guidance that I had at Oaksey. However, I have been very lucky to have help from Sam Iles, who works at Cadbury. He has set me up with a programme, shown me how to use the various pieces of equipment and even had me on the treadmill, as I was doing at Oaksey.

    The aim is to keep improving my overall body strength – this will all pay dividends for my riding and progressing my rehab.

    Team chase day out – a faller…

    A day out at the Cotsworld Hunt Team Chase as supporter/team mascot/Chef d’equipe, could have been classed as rehab, in that I had to walk miles from the lorry park to the course and where everything was going on in the marquees.

    The B&W Bandits team (pictured below) which consisted of Jade, Carys, Cassie and Julia, had a great ride round with a couple of relatively inexperienced horses, doing their first team chase. They all flew.

    B&W Bandits- team chaseUnfortunately for me I was the only faller of the day. As my leg had given up by the sixth time of going back and forwards to the lorry park I got a piggy back from Jade (above). This was all going smoothly until I wanted to dismount and my leg went into spasm and stayed on Jade’s side and brought her down on top of me.

    There were a few concerned looks around me, but as I was just laughing a passer-by said to us: ‘A bit more water with your next drink!’ I actually hadn’t drunk a drop. Having not a lot of feeling in my left leg, and nothing in my foot was a blessing in disguise at this point – every cloud etc.

    I think I am now official team mascot. Or perhaps just entertainment value!


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