British five-star eventer recovering after emergency spinal surgery

  • Five-star event rider Hazel Towers is recuperating after emergency spinal surgery — and hopes to be competing again by the end of the season.

    The rider had to have spinous processes, projecting pieces of bone, removed from her lumbar vertebrae on Tuesday, 20 July, as a result of a fall from a young horse over two years ago.

    Hazel told H&H she was “a bit sore” but had been teaching, although while sitting in a chair.

    “The doctors said I could do normal activities, then stopped and asked what a normal day was for me,” she said. “I told them and they said ‘You can’t do any of that’!”

    Hazel said she had been managing the initial injury since spring 2019.

    “I got decked on a bridleway, out hacking,” she said. “I landed on my sacroiliac, on a huge stone, and it pushed my discs out. Bulging discs are quite common and I had Badminton that year so didn’t think surgery two months before was ideal preparation.

    “I did Badminton and Burghley that year, then about six months later, I was holding a horse for clipping and got flung across the stable. They were worried about my spinal cord being compressed so I thought surgery was probably necessary — or the doctors did!”

    Then recently, jumping a fence of about 80cm tweaked Hazel’s back again.

    “It was on the Friday and I bumbled through the weekend but by Monday it wasn’t getting better so they got me in,” she said. “The NHS is absolutely brilliant when you need it.”

    Hazel praised her groom, who is riding the horses while she is out of action, and said she hopes to be back in the saddle in September, with the aim of competing at Allerton Park (18-19 September).

    “But I’m not rushing anything,” she said. “The doctor said six to 12 weeks, but I’ll take it as it comes.”

    Hazel has also put her mare Simply Clover, on whom she completed Badminton and Burghley, in foal to Timolin, so plans to concentrate on younger horses next season, including aiming for the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds’ class with Fuzzyfelt.

    “The plan is to ride Clover’s baby round Badminton one day, but we’ll see,” she said. “But no more breakers out hacking for me now. If I have to fall off, I’d rather it was at Burghley than hacking a youngster!”

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