Rider who was ‘a hair’s breadth from being paralysed’ comes back to win BE event

  • A rider who came “within a hair’s breadth” of being paralysed from the neck down in a fall last year has come back to win her first BE100.

    Joanne Foley, from Colchester, fell as she warmed up for the BE100 showjumping on Bready Boy K at Hambleden in April 2015.

    Having made a full recovery, she returned to eventing at Eridge on 18 July, 2015, and went on to win at Horseheath, Cambridgeshire, on 13 August.

    “I fell showjumping,” she told H&H.

    “My horse got a pole caught between his front legs. He nose-dived and I nose-dived, and landed on my face.

    “I back-flipped, landed, and couldn’t feel a thing.”

    Miss Foley was taken to the spinal injuries unit of the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

    “I hadn’t broken my neck but I’d suffered trauma to the spinal cord,” she said.

    “I was in hospital and they wouldn’t let me move – the surgeon told me I was a hair’s breadth from being a quadriplegic and then it suddenly hit home; I thought maybe I will do as the doctors say!

    “I couldn’t feel anything at all at first, and it was a good two weeks before the feeling came back in my arms – and all from a fall showjumping, of all things.

    “To be that close to being paralysed, and to be able to walk away and ride again, and event again, is great.”

    Joanne rode Eric Coan’s six-year-old gelding Chakir S Z to her victory at Horseheath on 13 August, adding 0.4 cross-country time-faults to her 26.5 dressage score.

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    “This was only his second BE100 and he went and won it,” she said.

    “The trust and partnership was there and he made it feel really easy. He gave me a really accurate, smart test and tried his heart out showjumping. I knew I had to ride him cross-country and had to give him a bit of a kick going into the first water that was quite strong, but he was just great.

    “I’m chuffed to bits.”

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