An event rider is looking to the future after overcoming two serious injuries that ruled out his competition season.
Four-star rider and coach James Stocker, 24, suffered a rotational fall with mare Mistral Mish Mash in the intermediate class at Tweseldown on 2 April that resulted in two broken collar bones.
“We were three from home in the cross-country when the horse left a leg, fell, and landed on top of me,” James told H&H, adding Mistral Mish Mash was not injured in the fall.
“The paramedics identified I had broken one collar bone, but when I was taken to hospital for X-rays it was found I had broken both. I’ve never been in so much pain. The worst part was when we were on our way to hospital I could feel both bones rubbing together and moving up and down, it’s a feeling I won’t forget.”
James was sent home from hospital with two slings to support the breaks.
“It’s quite difficult as collarbones can’t be put in a cast so all you can do is wear a sling,” he said.
“It was quite upsetting as you don’t realise how much you use your collarbones, suddenly your freedom is taken away. I couldn’t do simple things like brush my own teeth or drive.”
James was put in touch with renowned “jockey doctor” Philip Pritchard and was introduced to the ClaviBrace, a product designed by Barbara Thompson to support clavicle fractures. James then began a treatment programme with specialist orthopaedic surgeon Ian Bayley of Clementine Churchill Hospital to straighten his collarbones weekly, with support from the ClaviBrace.
“It took quite a while for things to improve at first and I had to move back to my parents home in Cornwall. But the brace made me much more comfortable, and I was in a lot less pain than before,” said James.
James said thanks to Dr Bayley he returned to the saddle sooner than he thought he would – at the end of the May. He was signed off as a patient, but the following day tore a ligament in his knee that required surgery.
“I was bending down to pick something up when it happened. It was so frustrating having got back on board the week before. After the surgery I had to wear a full leg brace for six weeks and that’s when I wrote the rest of the eventing season off for my horses,” said James.
“The recovery was difficult as I couldn’t really use crutches because my collarbones aren’t as strong as someone else’s might be. But after a couple of weeks of pottering around I was able to go back to teaching.”
After six weeks James returned to the saddle.
“I was excited to get back on but I had to take things quite easy. I got back on my four-star horse Rudy Valentino, I’ve had him nearly eight years and trusted he wouldn’t try to put me on the floor!” said James.
“Since then I’ve been concentrating on my fitness and strength but I’m pretty much back to normal. The plan is to get out to showjumping and dressage during winter in preparation for next year’s eventing season.”
James said while it was “upsetting” having two major setbacks, he tried to stay focused by looking to the future.
“It’s tough when you have those difficult days where you’re just sitting there thinking about everything but you just have to think about your end goal, know that you won’t be broken forever hopefully, be patient and carry on,” he said.
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