‘You only get one head’: British rider back in the saddle after ‘freak’ fall

  • Rising British star Izzy Palmer is back in the saddle and looking forward to an exciting 2023 following a “freak” accident before the new year.

    Izzy spoke to H&H about the importance of listening to your body and looking after your head as she returns to riding.

    The grade IV para rider, named as one of H&H’s stars of Christmas a few years ago, has had numerous international wins, and has competed up to prix st georges level in able-bodied classes.

    “It wasn’t the start of the year that I had planned or expected, it was a bit of a freak accident,” said Izzy, who hit a fence and was knocked out in a fall at home.

    “You know the risks when you do a sport like riding, you just don’t think it’s going to happen to you. I banged my head and was unconscious for a fair amount of time, and had a seizure. I remember seeing the ambulance arrive and having a trip with the blue lights and sirens.

    “I was very lucky. I did suffer with concussion after the fall, which took me a bit longer to recover from than I initially thought.”

    Izzy credited the World Class programme and the Injured Jockeys Fund’s Jack Berry House with helping her in her recovery.

    “That was really good as it made me much more aware about listening to my body and not rushing the process before I was ready, and of the symptoms I was feeling,” she said, adding that it is “crucial not to rush it”.

    “It was really interesting as I did a baseline SCAT5 [concussion] test a month before my fall, which was really fortunate as the teams then had something to work from.”

    The 22-year-old added she believes that her Champion hat saved her life.

    “I don’t think I would be in the position I’m in now if I hadn’t had my hat on,” she said.

    “I looked at it afterwards and there were two marks where I banged my head. If my hat hadn’t taken that impact and that was my head, I think it would be a very different story. I genuinely think my hat saved my life that day.”

    Izzy also credited her trainer Sophie Wells for keeping her top mare, the nine-year-old Je Suis Adiva (“Frenchie”), owned by Adiva Stud, going while she focused on her recovery.

    “It was amazing to be back on,” she said, adding that she feels “very lucky” her injuries were not worse and it feels “great” to be getting fit again.

    “I’d missed riding so much. Sophie has done an amazing job of keeping her going and getting her fit, it’s just a case of me catching up now.”

    The pair were selected for Addington CPEDI (16 to 19 March), but felt it was a little too soon. All being well, they are targeting Hickstead CPEDI in May, followed by Hartpury, the gold semi-finals at Wellington and Aintree later in the season.

    Their longer term aims include Paris 2024, plus European and world championship selection as well as future Paralympic Games.

    Izzy added that the whole experience has highlighted how important it is to listen to your body.

    “Someone said to me during my recovery, ‘you’ve only got one brain’, and it’s so true,” she said.

    She added that horsey people – herself included – have a tendency to want to downplay injuries and get back on, when that is not the right way to deal with a head injury.

    “It was highlighted to me that I didn’t want to take any risks in saying, ‘it feels fine’ when actually it didn’t,” said Izzy.

    “It was a case of being completely honest about the symptoms I was feeling and being constantly aware if anything increased or triggered those.

    “Going back to work, starting riding again and having quite a busy lifestyle, I’m definitely making sure I listen to my body.

    “My disability [Izzy has cerebral palsy] and the effect that has on my brain already is another factor to take into account. It’s been an interesting experience and I just feel very, very lucky.”

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