Grand prix dressage rider back on track after serious injury, thanks to Pilates

  • British grand prix dressage rider Lucy Straker is looking ahead to a successful season after returning from a horrific injury.

    In June 2015, Lucy was loading a young horse into a horsebox when the freak accident occurred.

    “He decided he wasn’t going to go in and whipped himself back across me,” Lucy told H&H.

    “As he pulled me off the ramp, I tripped and he trampled right over the top of me.

    “It happened in a split second.”

    After a lengthy wait for two ambulances to arrive at her remote yard, Lucy was given strong pain relief and taken to the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

    Here she was X-rayed and had a CT scan, allowing doctors to see the extent of her injuries.

    She had smashed several ribs, sustained a punctured lung, and had broken her left scapular (shoulder blade) into three pieces.

    Lucy was transferred to Bristol Royal Infirmary, where she was told she needed a high-risk operation help fix her ribs and repair her lung or would face months of pain in hospital.

    Surgeons pieced together her ribs with titanium and Lucy had chest drains inserted through her back, and then her front, to re-inflate her collapsed left lung.

    She was in hospital for eight days before returning home.

    “Obviously I couldn’t ride — and I wasn’t the best patient,” said Lucy.

    “I spent a lot of time down at the yard sat on a chair. I had never taken more than two days off at a time and all of a sudden I couldn’t do anything.”

    “Lucy’s wedding, to Andrew Roberts, was 10 weeks after the accident, but she was recovered enough to walk down the aisle — “initially we didn’t even know if I could do that” — and got back on a horse the next day.

    “It was the most amazing thing,” she said. “Because I didn’t fall off, I didn’t have those nerves about getting on. But what they don’t tell you is how it affects you mentally.”

    Lucy suffered from flashbacks when handling horses on the ground.

    “I thought ‘what is happening to me?’ I’m normally so strong,” she added.

    “It did take 18 months to get myself back. They don’t tell you when you have an accident about the trauma that goes with it.”

    Olivia Oakley helped ride Lucy’s horses while she built up her strength.

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    “I was having regular physio sessions, when the physio said to me ‘go and have some one-to-one [Pilates],” said Lucy. “I started last September and it is just so good.”

    She contacted Jeni Major of The Movement Shed and has been working with her and the reformer machine — a spring-loaded resistance machine — to rebuild her strength and flexibility in her ribcage and upper body.

    “It looks like a torture machine, but it is really helping hugely,” she added.

    Lucy is now aiming for grand prix this summer with the 12-year-old black gelding Farramir and prix st georges with Hawker Hurricane.

    “I’m feeling so much stronger — it has taken two-and-a-half years,” said Lucy. “I’m determined to have a season without pain.”

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