‘A second chance at the life that I love’: five-star eventer’s rehab after spinal surgery continues

  • Five-star eventer Bubby Upton has shared the latest in her rehab journey – and praised the surgeon who has given her “a second chance at the life she knows and loves”.

    Bubby was injured in an accident riding on the flat on 18 August. She sustained multiple vertebral fractures, including a complete burst fracture of the L3 and a horizontal fracture to the L2, resulting in six hours of emergency surgery to stabilise the spine, decompress the vertebrae and fuse L3.

    This week the under-25 British champion enjoyed her first canter, having returned to the saddle on 7 November.

    Bubby told H&H her journey is “getting better and better”.

    “I’m a long way off where I was, of course, but I am very stubborn, determined and focused on ensuring that I do get back to where I was,” she said.

    “At the moment I’m riding three horses a day. I started off with walking, and then did my first bit of trot a couple of weeks ago with a few 30-second slots at a time, and I’ve now done my first bit of canter.”

    Bubby said she aligned her rehab with bringing her horses back from their time off while she has been out of action.

    “The horse I started trotting on is now cantering. And the other two are now trotting. They’re not at full fitness or strength either, so it’s quite nice I can ease myself back into it by walking and trotting with them and building them up at the same time as me,” she said.

    “The next step is to maybe do a little bit of dressage in a few weeks’ time and see how my spine copes with that, and then maybe some cavaletti and jumping and easing myself back into it. We very much take it as it comes, it’s getting easier in the saddle, each week I’m getting stronger and it’s getting better.

    “I have testing every month where we’ve got numbers on every muscle group in my body, so we can quantify what the weakness is and how I’m improving, so I’m being guided by that a lot. I’ll then have another scan before the eventing season starts, and some more tests, and we’ll use that as our guidance. I’m listening to my body and we’re learning as much as possible.”

    Bubby, who also broke her back in a cross-country schooling accident in the summer of 2021, has been supported by the British Eventing Support Trust (BEST). The charity was launched in September 2021 to provide financial and practical support for riders who are dealing with physical injuries or mental health issues, as well as promoting eventing safety through research projects.

    “We all know what an amazing charity they are, but it’s not quite until you need them that you then realise the incredible work they really do, and provide us eventers. I’m very grateful to have BEST in the sport, and for all they’ve done for me,” she said.

    “They’ve supported my physical rehabilitation at the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) at Newmarket, so the paradigm has been totally incredible. Straight after my accident I got picked up by BEST and the IJF and it was amazing to know that was all taken care of, and I could focus on getting better.”

    Bubby also praised her surgeon, Dr Ivan Timofeev.

    “He is an amazing guy, truly extraordinary, and I owe so much to him. He didn’t save my life in terms of dying, but he gave me a second chance at that life that I know and love,” she said.

    “He’s an incredible man who has dedicated his life to neurosurgery, he only does NHS work because he believes everyone should be entitled to the same standard of surgery. Everyone who has seen my scans, in terms of doctors and my rehab team, are in total awe and can’t quite believe what he’s managed to do considering the pre-surgery scans. Miracles do happen.”

    On 19 November Bubby was presented with the Britannia trophy at the Event Horse Owners Association awards. The trophy – given to the British rider with the most wins at CCI4* not to have been part of a senior championship team – is for Bubby and Magic Roundabout IV’s victory in the Bramham CCI4*-L u25 in June.

    “It was a really nice surprise, obviously with missing half of the season I didn’t expect to be winning any awards,” she said.

    “It was a nice recognition of what Magic Roundabout achieved this year. It made me think a little bit about what maybe could have been at Burghley with him, but it will make us even hungrier and motivated if that day does come.”

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