‘I can’t wait to come out of the start box’: rider in life-threatening fall to return to eventing

  • A rider who was seriously injured in a cross-country accident is set to return to eventing next season.

    Oxfordshire-based Sophie McCormack had a rotational fall while competing in the novice at Rockingham Horse Trials on 24 May 2015.

    She was airlifted to Coventry Hospital where she was treated for diffuse axonal brain injury (bruising and micro-bleeds on the brain) and put into an induced coma for a week.

    Sophie was then moved to Leamington Spa Hospital where she stayed for two months and learned to talk and walk again.

    Her horse, As You Like It IV (Pete), was put down as a result of his injuries.

    Over the past year and a half Sophie has undergone extensive rehabilitation to improve her coordination, strength and ability to cope with fatigue.

    She has also received counselling for post-traumatic stress, from which she has suffered since the fall.

    Sophie is now looking forward to the future and recently took on a new horse on loan who she plans to event next season.

    Her new ride is 17.1hh Hartleymanor Viceroy (Hartley) owned by Max Warburton.

    10-year-old Hartley (pictured below with Sophie) has competed up to intermediate and Sophie said they have been getting on really well since she took him on earlier this month (18 December).

    Sophie plans to start eventing Hartley in 2017, beginning with a pre-novice or novice.sophie-now

    “I think the first event will be quite overwhelming so I want to have something which is well within both our capabilities,” she told H&H.

    “Nothing makes me as happy as riding and eventing — my family love seeing me bouncing off the walls again.

    “I naively thought I’d always come back to eventing but the process has been unbelievably difficult,” she added.

    “Everyone’s’ reaction has been so good. People who have seen me hacking have stopped and said it made their year to see me back on a horse.

    “On social media I have been overwhelmed by people’s response.

    “I can’t wait until that feeling of coming out of the start box —I’ve thought about that adrenaline rush a lot.

    “Getting the first event out the way will be the final thing that puts all this behind us.”

    Sophie urged other riders to ensure they have adequate insurance, such as the package offered by BE, to cover any rehabilitation and time off work resulting from a similar fall — and emphasised the importance of hat safety.

    “Consultants credited my hat with why I escaped the fall with my life and didn’t suffer worse brain damage,” she said.

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