‘My face took the impact and I bit my tongue clean in half’: brave rider returns from horrifying fall to win dressage debut

A rider who sustained extensive injuries in a fall just five months ago has returned to competition with victory in her first affiliated dressage test.

Nicola King-Salter was competing at a British Showjumping event in May with her nine-year-old Lauriston mare Lilly Langtrey when a misjudged jump near the end of the British novice course ended in disaster.

“My face took all the impact and I bit my tongue clean in half,” said Nicola, who suffered a partial ‘de-gloving’ of her lower face, as well as fracturing her neck, back and six ribs, and puncturing a lung.

“We didn’t realise how bad my injuries were — I got up and walked to the ambulance. But when I got to the local hospital they took one look at me and said it was a lot worse than we thought.”

Nicola, 48, spent a week in the major trauma unit at Stoke Hospital, praising the care she received there.

“I had to wear a neck brace for six weeks — even in the shower! But I remained quite chipper throughout,” she told H&H.

“I had a full facial tear; the lower half of my face was de-gloved and my lip was torn down to my chin. My tongue had to be stitched back together, but unfortunately my facial injuries have not healed correctly,” added Nicola, who will undergo further surgery next week, as she is still having trouble eating, drinking and speaking.

But on 12 September, Nicola made her return to the ring, winning a prelim at Radfords Equestian, Shropshire, on her British Dressage (BD) debut with Lilly, who was uninjured in the accident.

“Never in a million years did I think this would happen,” said Nicola. “After the accident, my trainer Sarah Warner suggested that I join BD. Dressage has always been my weakest phase and I was very intimidated by the whole thing.

“But through Sarah I met Georgie Hodson, who also suffered a terrible facial injury while eventing nine years ago. That was a wonderful thing to come out of the accident, and she has really helped me — having a facial injury like this is quite unusual and a very personal thing.

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“After the fall, I considered giving up, but only for one minute. I have to put what happened down to bad luck, although it’s the sort of thing you never think will happen to you.

“My husband Henry has been so supportive — we both work for the local police force, but I needed 24-hour care when I first came home from hospital. The only thing he has said is that I need to wear a body protector and air jacket while riding,” added Nicola, who is now looking forward to eventing next season and continuing with dressage following her surgery.

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