‘Why has this happened to me? I have places to go. This is not my story’: Sonnar Murray-Brown on his life-changing accident

  • Sonnar Murray-Brown knows more than most about making a comeback after accident and adversity. When the international grand prix dressage rider was on the cusp of his career, aged 20, he was involved in a horrific car accident that left him with two broken legs.

    “We hit another vehicle head on at 60mph. I woke up on the side of the road and I didn’t realise at the time that I had broken both my legs. I was told they could get me walking again, but riding wouldn’t happen. My life came crashing down pretty hard,” he recalls, on episode 95 of The Horse & Hound Podcast.

    “Two years after the crash I still had a non union fracture in my right femur and it just wasn’t healing. I was trying everything I possibly could. I decided to go on a quest to find a different surgeon, who was more specialised in lower limb fractures. I found Professor Michael Saleh, and I said I needed to get back riding, not thinking I actually would but not wanting to stop believing that I could. But really I just needed to get to a point where my leg wasn’t broken, so I could walk up the stairs. I was nearly 23, I’d had a broken leg for two years, and it was very frustrating. I needed to get to a point where I could live a life.”

    It took another two years before Sonnar started tentatively riding again, but since that point he has risen through the dressage ranks in remarkable fashion, making his grand prix debut on his own Erlentanz in 2018 and achieving international wins and placings since, as well as enjoying plenty of success on his young upcoming horses, which include the six-year-old 2022 Equine Bridge winner Stolen Secret.

    “I was given a second chance to do something I loved, so I’m very lucky in that respect,” Sonnar says.

    “It made me understand patience. When I broke my leg again in 2019, that was hard – it was tough mentally. I thought, how many more setbacks and blows can I take?

    “I’ve definitely had my fair share of knocks but each has been different. It definitely does put your life into perspective when something major happens, like breaking both my legs. I was lying in bed aged 22, I couldn’t do anything for myself, and I thought, why has this happened to me? I have dreams to fulfill, places to go. This is not my story. But it was, and I definitely do believe things happen for a reason.

    “Horses are a great leveller, one minute you’re up, one minute down,” he points out. “Some people have maybe more luck than others, but everyone has different challenges and journeys. 

    “The quote I always try to think about is ‘comparison is the killer of joy’. You’re on your own journey and you have to believe that if you have a plan and you have your goals and dreams it will happen. Whether it happens tomorrow or in two weeks or two years, it doesn’t matter.”

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