An Essex rider is celebrating her return to the hunting field, three years after she broke her back in a fall and was told she may never ride again.
Kelly Ward sustained a catalogue of injuries in the accident in 2013, when her ex-racehorse Chloe slipped and fell on top of her while out with the Essex hunt.
While Chloe escaped the accident with scrapes, hairdresser Kelly had to be put into an induced coma. The next day, she underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair her spine, which was fractured from T12-L5.
She also broke her foot, tore ligaments in her ankle, punctured her lung and has been left partially sighted in her left eye.
“I was told there was the possibility I may not walk again because of my back, it wasn’t just broken, there was also slight rotation,” said Kelly. “But I was only in hospital for a week after it happened and six weeks later I was back in work.”
Kelly was out of the saddle for 18 months and sold Chloe as she didn’t believe she would ride again, but she kept her other ex-racehorse Bailey (pictured), who went out on loan as she recovered.
Eighteen months later, she got back on Bailey — who had faced his own troubles, losing an eye.
“He’d not been ridden for 18 months and I’d not ridden for 18 months but I got on and we walked, trotted and cantered. He’s been the horse of a lifetime,” she said.
“I have to go out in total body armour now as because of the rotation, a bad fall would risk severing my spinal cord, but we’ve done everything together. Before the accident I just used to hack and hunt but now we go out and do dressage.”
Last week Kelly’s best friend Becki Trembath encouraged her to have her first taste of hunting since the fall, when she lent her ex-point-to-pointer Gav to take to the opening meet.
“Becki was with me when I had my accident and Gav was the horse she was riding,” Kelly explained. “He hunts every week, he knows his job and adores it —he always comes back smiling.
“Two or three days before the meet, Becki asked me what I was doing on Monday — I said I was going to go along and see everyone but she asked me if I wanted to ride.
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“I said ‘my horse isn’t fit enough’ and she said ‘you can take mine’.
I hadn’t been out for several seasons and I stupidly agreed! It was amazing — I anticipated being nervous but I didn’t feel nervous, I was quickly raring to get on and jump some ditches!”