Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery: I’ve done it! I’ve ridden again!

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

    Where do I start? How do I even begin to put into words the best day I’ve had in the past two years — by a long way? Just thinking about it gives me excited butterflies in my stomach. I haven’t calmed down or barely slept since the big day…ridiculous, I know. I’m just over the moon!

    On cloud nine

    I was like a kid at Christmas the night before my lesson at Lakefield Equestrian Centre in Camelford. I had my boots polished and ready to go, breeches dusted off from the depths of my cupboards, I peeled my gloves apart and found my old smelly hat to wear. (The hat I was wearing in my accident was new, and has definitely taken too much of a battering to ever wear again.)

    Getting on Buster from the lift

    Getting on Buster from the lift

    When I got to Lakefield I was a bit apprehensive about how I was going to get on and whether my leg was going to behave as the spasms are very unpredictable. Mark Cunliffe and Becky Monk soon put my mind at ease and we used the lift to get on Buster. The lift takes you up to the saddle level, which makes it very easy to get on.

    Buster was perfect. He was a real character and was always two steps ahead of what we were doing! What a superstar of a horse — my ‘Knight in Shining Armour’.

    Once I got in the saddle, I was just grinning from ear to ear! I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. It seemed totally surreal. It was a completely indescribable feeling, but one I’ve been longing for and dreaming of a long time… and reliving ever since!

    Mark, Becky, Buster and I

    Mark, Becky, Buster and I

    I instantly felt at home, I wasn’t nervous at all. I switched back into my old mode, and thankfully hadn’t forgotten how to ride. When I first went forwards into trot, I was quite unbalanced, but I soon got the hang of it.

    Trusting my left foot/ankle was quite difficult mentally. No doubt I will adapt over time and find new techniques. I found it frustrating not having the full use of my left leg, as well as having reduced sensation on that side. I rode with a very short stirrup to try to reduce the likelihood of the spasms becoming an issue. This is something I can work on in the future.

    I didn’t want to get off — I could have stayed on Buster forever! My leg didn’t want to get off either — that’s when it did spasm after behaving well in my lesson.

    After the dream come true…

    I have to admit I was quite emotional on my drive home. It made me put everything into perspective and realise how lucky I am. This means so much to me after such a rollercoaster couple of years.

    The work that I’ve been doing in the saddle with my neuro-physio Gemma prior to getting on has certainly paid off big time. I wasn’t even that sore muscularly. I definitely achieved more than I ever expected to in my first session!

    Thank you Buster!

    Thank you Buster!

    I felt a bit lost the day after. I just wanted to get back on Buster again. Riding horses is like a drug, you just want more of it! At least I don’t have to go through detox to get off this one, unlike the opiates. However, the withdrawal symptoms have been nearly as bad!

    So I’d like to say a massive thank you to Mark, Becky, Tiggy, Tamsyn, Janine and of course Buster for making this happen. I had the best time! Janine Jansen was filming for BBC Spotlight, which was quite scary when I was concentrating on riding for the first time. I have to admit I was lost for words and slightly wrapped up in the moment. I will link the video into my next blog after it’s been on Spotlight!

    So I may not be able to walk yet, but I can ride!

    In other news: Barbury fun…

    I had a fantastic time away at Barbury Castle. Lucy was riding Mr Chunky in the CIC*** and Padraig McCarthy was riding Simon Porloe in the CCI**. They both had good runs, although Chunky was feeling slightly full of himself on the cross-county. He is certainly performing and aged only 9, is definitely going to be one to watch.

    At Barbury with the Wiegersmas

    At Barbury with the Wiegersmas

    Barbury is such a stunning event, with spectacular viewing for spectators. It’s also extremely social. I managed to catch up with so many great friends up there. It’s been brilliant to get away to a few events with the Wiegersmas, and be back involved in the eventing circuit. They have all been so good to me, and it means the world to me to be able to get away into this environment and be around horses!

    Tiggy and I had an ingenious system going with tack cleaning. She would set me up at the right level, with everything around me and I would be away. So I do have my uses! I also quickly learnt the best way to balance on one leg, whist videoing Lucy and Padraig (without it being too shaky).

    I didn’t have any failures with the camp bed collapsing this time, so I think I have mastered that obstacle. I didn’t even have a problem with it on Saturday evening,following a fun night at the ‘Outside Chance’ Bar, when I got slightly tipsy for the first time since my accident. It was all Jade Lazenby’s fault, although she did offer to carry me back if necessary! Thankfully this wasn’t needed. Going up steps on crutches is an interesting challenge though.

    Off to Oaksey House

    Last week I went up to Oaksey House for an assessment with the ‘Hobbs’ neurological physio team. The plan is for me to stay in the on-site accommodation for a couple of weeks in early August to do some intensive rehabilitation.

    I had a great physio session with Cat and Helen. They had lots of interesting ideas to try in the future. The facilities are exceptional and it’s a truly fascinating place.

    I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it. I think I will get a lot out of being there every day, just focusing on physio. It feels like it’s going to be a fantastic positive atmosphere to improve in.

    Life is looking up, I keep pinching myself! Big changes and more to come…


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