Rider who broke her neck in fall to run London Marathon

  • A rider who broke her neck in a cross-country fall is running the TCS London Marathon to support horse welfare.

    This will be the first marathon for Ailsa Wates, who has competed to five-star with her mother Pip Wates’ Woodlands Persuasion (“Perry”).

    Ailsa fractured her C4 and C5 vertebrae in a fall with Perry at Bramham Horse Trials in June 2022.

    She is now running the marathon to raise money and awareness for World Horse Welfare, a charity she has worked with over the past year, in support of the work they do.

    “Having that kind of fall made me really appreciate the fact that I’m able to exercise, run, and ride. I feel very fortunate that I get to ride again and run again, to properly sweat and work hard again,” she told H&H.

    “I had a lot of great help. The people at Bramham were really amazing. I was about to get up and by the time I was awake, there was the paramedic. I said my neck is a bit tingly and he said ‘don’t move’ – I didn’t move once from the second I hit the floor.”

    Ailsa also received help from the British Eventing Support Trust in the aftermath of her fall. She returned to competition weeks after the accident and although she had healed physically, she hadn’t realised how much it had affected her until she was back at an event.

    “The British Eventing Support Trust was really helpful. I had some sessions from them with a sport psychologist, which made a big difference,” she said.

    After her fall, she got in touch with World Horse Welfare and has been working with the charity in support of the work it does. This includes a webinar with Pippa Funnell last December about welfare and the competition horse, looking at how to ensure their essential needs are met. It is something she puts at the forefront of her ethos.

    Ailsa and Perry are now looking ahead to jumping in the under-25s class at Royal Windsor Horse Show. But before that, there is Sunday’s 26.2-mile run to conquer.

    “I haven’t had to tailor my training too much because of my neck,” said Ailsa, who has instead been putting the Equine Aqua Training water treadmill at her mother’s business to use for a niggle picked up during her marathon training.

    “I got a minor stress fracture in my foot while training and so I’ve been using that. It was way harder than I thought!”

    Her final preparations have gone well and Ailsa is targeting a sub four-hour run.

    “I was really lucky to get a space for World Horse Welfare,” she said. “It’s such a great thing to be able to do, I’m really looking forward to the whole thing, all the people there to support and I really appreciate the fact that I’m able to do it.”

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