Top eventer back in the saddle after double mastectomy

Eventer Nana Dalton has marked a “milestone” when she returned to the saddle for the first time this week (18 December) after undergoing surgery four weeks ago.

The 39-year-old rider got on board her four-star eventer “Miley” (Absolut Opposition, pictured) for a 10-minute walk — the first time the 13-year-old gelding has been sat on since Burghley in August, where they finished in 28th place.

“I trust him implicitly, he’s an amazing horse. On paper he hadn’t been sat on for however many weeks — and in this weather maybe I shouldn’t have been trying to — but he’s got a sixth sense. He’s no ordinary competition horse, he’s a homebred, I’ve had him from day one. He’s my friend first and foremost and the fact he’s a competition horse is a bonus,” she said.

Nana underwent a 10-hour operation for an elective double mastectomy last month, which included a reconstruction using fat and muscle from the inside of her thighs. She had been planning this as she had the same faulty BRCA gene as her sister Tricia, who has previously suffered from breast cancer. She previously told H&H: “I count myself lucky to be in a position where I am able to choose to take a preventative route – a lot of people don’t have that option. You just have to get on and deal with the things life throws at you.”

“Getting back on was very much a spur-of-the-moment thing,” she said. “The surgeon told me I probably wouldn’t want to do anything for six weeks, but after that sitting on a horse would help break down the scar tissue on my legs.

“I’ve been completely bed-bound for the past four weeks as it has knocked the stuffing out of me physically,” she said. “I’ve got foot-long scars and I thought sitting on a horse, it would be the wounds that would be sore but actually it was more that both of my legs went into cramp — it was a reminder that I’ve got a long road back to retraining those muscles.”

“Miley” will now start his early fitness work with groom Emily, and while Nana says she will be “playing everything by ear”, she plans to aim for Badminton in the spring.

Continues below…



“I’ve had the advantage of being able to plan ahead and it’s a brilliant time of year to be laid up,” she said. “I will be doing very little over Christmas and just sit down and enjoy family time now.”

Nana has also signed up to compete in a charity race in March.

“My friend Becca Davis runs Hereford Racecourse where they are holding it. I’ve never ridden in a race before, and it’s probably ambitious but it’s a fun goal and incentive and something a little bit different to aim for,” she added.

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.