Event rider Chantal Siddle is back competing after months of treatment following a heart attack at Moreton Morrell Horse Trials in May.
The 38-year-old Shropshire-based eventer had a heart attack followed by four cardiac arrests on the cross-country course. She was then kicked in the head as she lay unconscious on the ground.
She was resuscitated by ambulance staff before being flown by air ambulance to Coventry hospital, where she underwent heart surgery.
Afterwards she was in a coma for three weeks, during which time she developed septicaemia and pneumonia.
Doctors told Chantal’s family she could be left brain damaged if she survived.
“I was dying,” she told H&H while on her way home from hospital yesterday (Thursday, 17 September).
“The scar tissue [due to the pneumonia] was closing my airway and I couldn’t breathe.”
After being discharged from hospital a first time, she was then readmitted and a tracheostomy tube was inserted into her neck to enable her to breathe.
Over the past month she has had multiple operations to try to ensure the trachea remains open.
When she had her heart attack doctors told Chantal she would never ride again, but she would not accept that.
“I needed to ride for my state of mind,” she said.
Starting in July with a few minutes of walking, she slowly progressed to doing her first dressage competition at South View Equestrian Centre on 26 August — winning the open section.
“I wanted to go to a dressage test to see if I had enough breath to get it,” she said.
On 1 September Chantal took part in a fun ride at Marbury in Cheshire where she jumped the hedge at the end.
Unsure of the future and having lost her voice for eight weeks due to the surgery, Chantal had no choice but to change the focus of her equestrian business, Siddle Equine Service, run with husband Mark.
All the grassroots jumps from Badminton have been bought to create a cross country-schooling centre with a new water complex. Instead of teaching, schooling and producing horses, Chantal has started organising clinics. Lucinda Green is coming in October and Mark Todd later.
Never one to give up, she also has ambitious plans to ride across the Sahara to raise funds for the International Airway Research Centre and to carry on competing.