Rider bounces back from brain surgery – twice – to win at 1.30m

  • Stacey Cook may not have had the most ideal season after facing brain surgery – twice – during the summer of 2021, but ended the year with a smooth 1.30m victory at Forest Edge, Norfolk, on her mare Ninola.

    The Cambridgeshire rider suffered vision problems in 2020 and was diagnosed with a cyst close to her optic nerve, but had to wait until June 2021 for surgery. She then needed a second operation after the first caused a spinal fluid leak.

    “I was able to get back in the saddle six to eight weeks after surgery and luckily I had a good team at home who were able to keep the horses ticking over,” she said. “Being able to ride again happened quite quickly, but you don’t realise how much fitness you lose. I was troubled with a lot of headaches post op and the focus was on getting myself off pain relief and building up how much I could do.”

    Stacey aimed to be back for Hickstead’s September meeting, where she managed to qualify two horses for the main ring, with 12-year-old Ninola finishing fourth in the 1.20m amateur final.

    “They exceeded all expectations,” she said. “We only did 14 shows this year, whereas we’d normally be out every weekend, and we only did 10 the year before. Luckily the horses are at a level where you can just pick them up and carry on where you left off.”

    Ninola, who is now 13 and “very comfortable at 1.30m level”, will step up to 1.40m in 2022.

    “Hopefully we’ve got these two rubbish years over with and we can move up and crack on as she’s more than ready for it,” Stacey added.

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