Daughter’s bid to get ‘galloping granny’ back in the saddle after spinal injury

  • The daughter of a “galloping granny” who broke her neck in a fall is hoping to raise funds for a special lift to help get her mum back in the saddle.

    Alvina Shiel, 68, suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury in a jumping lesson on her cob Troy last month but is determined to ride again.

     Her daughter Shelley Sterckx said her mum, who is currently being treated at a rehabilitation unit in Salisbury, had been excited to discover that lifts are available that could attach to the side of a lorry and hoist a rider into the saddle.

     “We were talking about her riding again and the biggest concern was how she would get on,” said Shelley. “I thought there must be something available, so I started Googling and found one.

     “When I said I’d found a company who made them, her whole face and attitude changed at the realisation that it was possible.”

     Alvina was originally unable to feel from her elbows down after suffering the C5/C6 break but has since regained feeling and movement in her arms and hands. Her family is hopeful this means she will be able to hold the reins once more.

     “She’s now in a self-propelled wheelchair and the hope is that the improvement in her arms and hands will continue. The legs haven’t improved so much but they are working up towards that and she will have hydrotherapy next week,” Shelley explained.

     “With some people a cord injury in that place can affect breathing and they can be on ventilator, so she’s been lucky in that aspect. She can feed herself now, fill out menu options for hospital food and use her phone, so the movement in her arms and her hands is coming back really well.”

     Alvina and Troy made the news in September when the 18-year-old cob came to visit her at Bristol’s Southmead hospital while she was still in intensive care. The piebald gelding, who Alvina has owned for two years, has since made the two-and-a-half hour journey to Salisbury to surprise her for her birthday last Saturday (6 October).

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     “Mum’s biggest motivation is to ride her ‘Troy Boy’ again,” added Shelley. “Mum is an inspiration to so many fellow riders, her journey shouldn’t end here and I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t.

     “We don’t have a lot and what we do have looks after our animals, so I am fundraising for the equipment which I hope will change my mum’s life.”

     Shelley has launched a fundraising page for the lift.

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