‘I heard my neck snap’: paralysed rider takes on new challenge

  • A rider who was paralysed from the chest down in a fall has launched a campaign to raise £100,000 for charity.

    Tara Stewart fell from her horse while riding near her home in Stearsby, near Helmsley, in July 2014.

    She landed on her head and the impact broke her neck.

    “I heard my neck snap and was instantly paralysed from the chest down,” said Ms Stewart, who endured a five-hour wait on the ground before a passing rider spotted her horse and called the emergency services.

    “I was a couple of fields away from home and there was no road nearby and so my horse actually saved my life by staying with me.

    “Stranded as I was in the middle of nowhere, it was impossible to get an ambulance to me and I knew, from the moment I hit the ground, that the only way to get me out would be by helicopter.”

    Ms Stewart was taken by air ambulance to trauma specialists at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

    Following an eight-hour operation to rebuild and stabilise her neck and two weeks in a medical coma, Ms Stewart spent a month in high dependency before being transferred to Pinderfields spinal unit in Wakefield where she remained for a further six months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

    It was in hospital that Ms Stewart and her artist father David Howell came up with an idea to raise money.

    Mr Howell has exhibited throughout the world. His work focuses on landscape and marine subjects, but he is also well known for his equestrian racing pictures.

    He and Ms Stewart decided to create an original racehorse oil with limited edition prints to raise £100,000 for Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) and charity Spinal Research.

    The painting is called ‘A Dirty Day at Duncombe Park’ and each print is one of a limited edition of 750, numbered and signed by Mr Howell.

    Framed prints are £275 and unframed £150 with the proceeds being split between the YAA and Spinal Research.

    Greeting cards are also available, in packs of 10 for £12.75.

    “My entire focus is on raising money,” said Ms Stewart. “I am passionate about supporting the amazing work of YAA. They are my local air ambulance and no one ever knows when they might need their services.

    “As a tetraplegic, paralysed from the chest down, I also believe very passionately in the work of Spinal Research to fund a cure into spinal cord injury. I have a first-hand understanding of the absolute devastation to a life an injury like this can cause.

    “Getting out of bed alone takes two hours. I used to be incredibly impatient but I’m having to adjust to the fact that life now moves at a different pace.

    “But, I am confident that we are very close to finding a cure for spinal injuries. Previously considered medically impossible, the last few years have seen some big breakthroughs in this area and more money is needed to keep pushing the frontiers of science.”

    Continued below…

    Ms Stewart has also recently bought an event horse to allow her to remain involved in her passion.

    She is now the co-owner of a horse by Mill Law with Angela Shipley.

    The Shipley family has also been training Ms Stewart on a mechanical horse, with ambitions of one day getting her on the real thing again.

    Abby McClymont, director of marketing and communications at YAA, added: “Tara has been through a life-changing few years since her accident and she really is an inspiration to us all with her grit and determination.

    “We are so grateful to both Tara and her father for choosing to support us through the sale of these beautiful prints. It’s a wonderful way for them to be able to raise vital funds and showcase David’s fantastic work at the same time.”

    For more information and to buy cards or prints please visit www.buckinghorses.co.uk

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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