As the NHS turns 70 years old today, H&H readers reflect on the amazing — and crucially, free — care it has provided riders with over the years.
The risk nature of riding and handling horses means equestrians are no stranger to injury, be it equine or human, and a great many of us owe a great deal to the skill and care of the medical profession.
Three readers share their stories, and their gratitude to the men and women who cared for them…
Sally Morris — “I had the most wonderful care”
“Six years ago I had been asked to go and help a child fetch her pony, who had decided he didn’t walk to move.
“While leading this pony another horse in the field started circling us and lashed out with a hind leg, striking the left-hand side of my face and head.
“Through a good friend helping me and my mum driving, I arrived at A&E at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford, where all became a little fuzzy!
“I was taken straight though triage and medicated with morphine, which I reacted to.
“A lovely nurse then stayed with me though my CT scans and X-rays before settling me into the highly dependency unit for the night.
“During this longest night ever I was monitored and checked constantly, not only by the A&E nurses and doctors but by the surgical team who would be rebuilding my face the next day.
“I must also mention the fantastic porter who wheeled me around the hospital for various tests, coping with me in pain and remaining calm and compassionate.
“Four operations and a year-and-a-half later, their work was done. Two of my operations were done privately at the neighbouring Guildford Nuffield hospital — the surgeon was also the head of the NHS department — and two at Moorfields Eye Hospital, which saved my damaged left eye and 50% of my vision in it.”
Rebecca Muge — “the NHS helped me ride again”
“On 19 July 2016 at Dauntsey Horse Trials, I had a fall at the 6th fence on the BE90 course.
“The medics on site were brilliant, but the care I received at Salisbury District Hospital A&E department was second to none.
“I was in so much pain with a suspected fractured neck, which luckily turned out to be just serious whiplash, and the staff there were incredibly sympathetic to my situation and did their best to keep me as comfortable as possible.
“Unknown to me, I had aggravated a pre-existing issue with my shoulder in this fall which wasn’t picked up until my arm started trembling uncontrollably and causing me significant amounts of pain whenever I rode.
“On 21 April 2017, I underwent surgery to correct the issue. With help from the NHS physios and following the advice of my surgeon I was back riding within six weeks and over a year later I’m completely pain free!
“I owe my ability to continue riding to the NHS as I was so close to giving up as a result of the pain.”
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Claire Paton — “We call it the ‘Wolverine plate’”
“In June 2015, I had a nasty fall from my horse at the Peebles Beltane common ride and mangled my right wrist – the skin on my arm stayed intact but the bones were so obviously twisted and broken that the ambulance crew thought I might lose the use of my hand.
“The ambulance crew couldn’t actually do anything for me except give me a cushion to prop my obliterated arm on, but they were lovely and supportive and I certainly appreciated not having to ride down from the depths of the Pentlands on the back of a quad bike in my condition.
“It took over an hour to get me from the field where I fell to the town centre because we were stuck behind the riders, and as soon as we reached Peebles I was handed over to my mum so that the ambulance could stay with the ride.
“In total, around four hours passed between the fall and being seen by the A&E department at my local hospital (Wishaw General).
“By this point, I could twitch my fingers but had no other movement in my hand or forearm.
“I was getting a bit delirious with the pain, but the staff were fabulous – they manually re-set the bone that night (a horrible but entirely necessary experience involving four people pulling my poor arm in opposite directions) and scheduled me for surgery the next morning.
“Three years later I have almost fully recovered thanks to the excellent surgeon who put my wrist back together with a titanium plate and a lot of screws, and the lovely physio who got me moving again.
“I have a small, neat scar on one side of my forearm and a little chip of bone missing from the other which leaves the wrist very subtly misshapen, and my arm lights up like a Christmas tree at certain airports, but otherwise it’s very hard to tell that there’s anything wrong.
“We call the plate my ‘Wolverine plate’ thanks to its shape. I have arthritis in that hand and never quite got over all the tendon damage, but I always marvel at the wonderful job they did and how well I recovered from a really unpleasant injury.
“In many other countries I wouldn’t have been so lucky.”
In this week’s magazine, out on 5 July, don’t miss our bumper show guide issue, with complete show listings for 2018 plus features on keeping horses sound on hard ground, the best show venues in Britain and much more.
In this week’s H&H interview, we talk to international event rider Izzy Taylor and check out our new feature ‘Fix it’ — Laura Tomlinson on improving a horse’s self-carriage. Read reports from across the disciplines over the weekend, including dressage action from Sheepgate, showjumping from Royal Highland and more.