A dressage rider who sustained life-threatening injuries in a car crash has spoken of her joy at being back in the saddle doing what she loves.
Alice Begg was enjoying success at medium and advanced medium level, had a string of exciting horses and a busy teaching career when her world stopped.
On 2 January this year, Alice was involved in a three-car crash, suffering life-altering injuries, and has had to learn to walk again.
“I had to be cut out of the car and was airlifted to hospital,” said the 20-year-old.
Alice broke her pelvis in four places, as well as breaking three vertebrae, her coccyx and five ribs, and puncturing her spleen.
“I was in hospital for a month and had two operations, one to stop the bleeding from my spleen and the one for my other injuries,” she said.
She has eight bolts pinning her broken bones and spent a further eight weeks bed-bound at home.
“From the moment I came out of hospital I was teaching through Facetime on my phone,” said Alice.
“After that I started physiotherapy with crutches and had to learn to walk again.”
Alice’s competition horses were taken on by her trainer and friend Alex Hardwick while she was out of action.
Five months later, Alice made her first return to the saddle since her accident.
Her recovery was progressing well until disaster struck again; she broke her pelvis for a second time when a horse she was riding fell on top of her.
After going through recovery again, Alice returned to the saddle weeks before competing in the British Dressage regional summer championships at Keysoe (11 to 13 August).
“[To be back competing] is all I have wanted ever since I had my accident,” she said.
“I just wanted to go out and do what I love again — it felt like I had never been away, I was so excited just to warm up with everybody.”
She was also there to support her pupil Georgie Welley, who partnered Alice’s horse Gluckauf (pictured, top) to second place and the national finals in the prelim silver.
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Alice thanked Alex and everyone who has helped, including her physio Debbie Gimmell.
“Alex has been an absolute star, and her mum, they have had my horses since January, Alex has been riding them and qualified them for regionals for me,” she added.
Alice scored 60.73% in the elementary gold aboard Gaz-K, while Alex rode one of her other horses, Farfan, to third place in the prix st georges gold.
“I don’t have feeling from my hips down, it is all numb, and I can’t feel my left foot at all,” she said, adding that some sensation is starting to come back.
“Kicking is really hard, I have to look at my legs for them to work and I walk with a limp on my left leg — I’m not in pain, I’m just having to retrain my body completely.”
Alex and Alice are working on teaching her horses to work off new aids and Alice has also applied for a para assessment.
“If I can [be allowed to carry a whip] that will help me, but if I can’t, I will make myself get to where I want to be anyway,” she said.
Don’t miss the full report from the Keysoe Summer Regional Championships in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 23 August