Four-star eventer recovering after vertebra ‘exploded’

A four-star eventer who broke his back in a fall last month hopes to be back in action this season.

Andrew Downes suffered a burst fracture to his L1 vertebra in a fall from a horse at his Staffordshire home just after Christmas.

“She just jumped a fence, landed and humped and went sideways,” he told H&H. “I’ve done that sort of thing so many times, I was just unlucky this time.”

Doctors diagnosed the fracture, cause by intense compression of the vertebra, but Andrew has to wait until he returns to hospital on 11 February to find out whether or not he needs surgery.

“The vertebra has sort of exploded, and if I needed an operation, I think they’d put metal rods to the ones above and below it, and fuse them together,” he said.

“I’m just waiting to find out what happens; whether I’m healing or not.”

Andrew, who took care of Cooley Rorkes Drift (Art) last year while his rider Jonty Evans was in the early stages of recovering from a serious brain injury, said the young horses at his yard are being kept “ticking over”. If all is positive next month, he will look into getting some help with the riding “so when I’m fit, the horses will be too”.

He said the outlook is positive, and that he has “come on loads”; although he has to wear a back brace, he is able to stand for short periods.

“You do have to spend a lot of time lying on your back though,” he added.

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“I’m probably standing more than I should be but if things go well, the normal timescale for a weight-bearing bone in your back to heal is three months.

“Then there will be rehab, but I’m hoping to be back this season; maybe May or June.

“That might be a bit optimistic but it’s what I’m hoping for.”

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