Tales from Hartpury: meet the competitor who overcame horrific injuries to ride again

  • Hilary Janion’s journey to the Winter Championships is a remarkable tale of true triumph over adversity.

    The Huddersfield-based equestrian nearly died 12 years ago in a horrific accident while riding a young horse at home.

    But several operations and an enormous amount of determination later, she is back in the saddle.

    She rode her own Qeg Lux to sixth place with a score of 70.12% in the preliminary silver Winter Championship earlier today (15 April) less than a year after taking up pure dressage.

    Hilary has had horses all her life. She has showjumped and specialised in producing highly successful hunters for the show ring.

    Horsebox and trailer company Equi-Trek – sponsors of the elementary silver and gold classes at this year’s championships – was also founded by Hilary and her husband Ray.

    Hilary was riding in the arena at home on a horse who was coming back into work after surgery on a locking patella when the accident happened.

    Ray had delayed going into work that day as he wanted to watch her ride.

    A lorry had pulled in on the adjacent road when suddenly its airbrakes went off.

    “The horse went up in the air and came straight down on top of me,” said Hilary.

    “He got his legs stuck in the arena fence. Every time he tried to get up he fell back on top of me.

    “I knew I was hurt, but all I was worried about was that I could feel my feet.”

    She was rushed to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, where scans showed she had shattered her pelvis in five places, broken all of her ribs, punctured her lung and split both her spleen and liver. She remained in hospital for the next four-and-a-half months.

    “I was in so much pain and was in a wheelchair for 12 months,” said Hilary.

    “I was so determined I was not going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life that I got going again.”

    She took up side-saddle, enjoying showring success with a horse named Aqualux, but the pain was “excruciating”.

    This time last year she had a hip replacement and the 2016 Winter Championships were her first trip out as a spectator since the operation.

    “I never expected for a second I would be riding again,” she said, adding she is now “pain free”.

    Hilary took to the saddle again in July 2016 aboard the Clover Hill gelding, who was owned at the time by her daughter-in-law.

    “He has just been absolutely fantastic,” she said. “He is a delight and he always tries his best for you.

    “I just feel so lucky to be here.”

    The combination’s best score so far is 83% in a novice and Hilary said the 12-year-old rarely scores below 70%. She is now hoping to move up to elementary with him.

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