Rider wins after serious illness: ‘I didn’t know if I’d ride again – I couldn’t hold the reins’

  • A rider scored a win in intermediate section O at Cirencester Park Horse Trials last Sunday (27 March) after recovering from a serious illness.

    Ella Woodhead, 26, developed a very rare autoimmune condition last summer that confounded the doctors. She spent “months” in hospital and then at home in bed.

    “It was only at Christmas that I could sit on a horse at all – I didn’t know if I would ever ride again, and I had to be led around for two minutes at a time because I couldn’t hold the reins or keep my feet in the stirrups,” Ella explained. “But it is amazing how quickly you can get going again once you have the strength.”

    Ella Woodhead was riding her own Quarza and added just 3.6 cross-country time-faults to a 26.1 dressage mark. Ella bought the horse as a two-year-old and it was the now seven-year-old’s first attempt at the level.

    She said: “I don’t think my day could have gone any better; he’s very flashy and quite a ‘wow’ horse on the flat and finds it all very easy. He’s 17.1hh and still quite gangly, so I have to be careful to give him enough room in the distances in the showjumping, which I thought was quite strong. Then I was in the lead going into the cross-country and got really nervous! But he came out of the start box like he’d done it all 100 times before.”

    Read more from Cirencester in this week’s Horse & Hound, dated 31 March. 

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