Irish Olympic rider undergoes 5hr surgery on broken neck

Irish Olympic showjumper Kevin Babington has undergone a five-hour surgery to stabilise his neck after sustaining a serious injury to his cervical spine in a fall at a US event.

The 51-year-old rider was airlifted from the Hampton Classic Horse Show last Friday (3 August) after his top ride Shorapur fell at the third element of a treble during a qualifying round for the CSI4* grand prix. The 14-year-old mare was not injured in the incident.

The Irishman was transferred from Stony Brook University Hospital to the New York University Langone Medical Center in Manhattan earlier this week.

Kevin is an experienced member of the Irish team, with career highlights including individual fourth at the 2004 Athens Olympics and a European team gold medal in 2001 with Carling King. His numerous grand prix victories include Wellington and Hickstead’s King George V Gold Cup.

Originally from Tipperary, he has been based in the US since 1987 and currently lives in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania with his wife Dianna and two daughters.

In a Facebook post, Dianna described the aftermath of the accident as the “darkest hour” of her life.

“My hope for him is focused on quality of life and that there will be clinical trials to help him move forward,” she said. “Much of these avenues are not covered by insurance and will be dependent on private funding. I am sharing this because I want people to understand that the fundraising is essential. It can mean the difference in equipment available to him, therapies, vehicles, honestly I don’t even know.

“I am navigating in the dark, focusing on breathing and literally existing as we navigate hour-by-hour the information we are receiving. What has occurred is probably the worst thing that could have happened to him. If you know him you know he is talented but humble, kind, private, and giving among all things.”

A fundraiser for to help pay for Kevin’s medical expenses has been launched on Facebook by family friend Sissy Wickes.

The campaign had raised £290,356 of a target of £335,337 as of Wednesday morning (4 September).

“Kevin came through his surgery well. We continue to hope for improvement and are so appreciative of all of the donations and well wishes. We have just begun to fight,” Sissy posted in an update on Tuesday (3 September).

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British showjumper Peter Charles, who formerly rode for Ireland, was among those to offer words of support.

“I really hope my dear friend Kevin Babington makes some improvement today after his spinal surgery. He’s a real horseman and great all-round guy. Therefore it really saddens me to hear of his terrible back injury due to a bad fall,” he said in a post on Tuesday.

“We shared many good days winning European gold medals together, winning Calgary and along with Dermot [Lennon] all finishing top 10 in the worlds. Kevin is a fighter, but his family needs all the help we can give right now.”

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