International rider ‘grateful to be alive’ on anniversary of horrific lorry accident

  • International grand prix dressage rider and showing star Louise Bell has said she is “still grateful to be alive”, exactly 20 years to the day she was involved in a horrifying horse box crash.

    On 23 February 2002, Louise and her husband Robert Bell were travelling in their lorry when “the brakes failed going down the steepest hill in Warwickshire”. Both riders survived the terrifying accident, but Louise broke her left leg in multiple places and was told by doctors that she may never walk again, let alone continue with her successful showing career.

    “My left leg was totally shattered and unrepairable….I spent weeks in hospital and then months in an exterior fixator going through a living hell every day, but still just being grateful I was still alive to feel all the misery that went with life at the time, and the determination to prove everyone wrong,” Louise said, in an emotional reflection on the events of 20 years ago.

    And prove them wrong she did. That same year, Louise returned to the saddle, and just eight months after the crash she won the working hunter title at Horse of the Year Show with Out Of Sight. It was a phenomenal achievement, and kicked off a bumper decade for Louise filled with showing titles including 16 working hunter championships at the Royal International Horse Show. However, 2011 was punctured by tragedy, as Louise lost four of her horses in quick succession, for varying reasons.

    A year later, Louise took up dressage as part of a H&H switching disciplines challenge, and eventually opted to call time on her showing career and focus on dressage full-time. Since then, she has reached the highest level of the sport, and has ridden on Nations Cup teams and at some of the biggest shows in the world with her former working hunter champion Into The Blue.

    “[Despite] all the troubles and difficulties life throws me, I’m still grateful to be alive as on this day 20 years ago I very nearly wasn’t,” says Louise.

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