Rider paralysed in freak fall gets back in the saddle for the first time

  • A woman who was paralysed in a freak riding fall in Egypt three years ago has got back on a horse for the first time since her accident.

    Olivia Fairclough, 34, was working as a riding instructor on 18 April, 2016 when the horse she was sat on flipped over backwards and crushed her.

    She was taken to hospital in Cairo where she was found to have broken ribs, two punctured lungs and a T12 vertebra break.

    Olivia was the subject of national news reports when it was discovered her insurance had expired and her brother Trevor launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for treatment and bring her home afterwards.

    “In nine days £32,000 was raised – it was phenomenal,” Olivia told H&H last year. “It went worldwide; we had donations from strangers, New Zealand and America. It’s incredible so many people wanted to help.”

    The money enabled Olivia to be transferred to another hospital in Cairo for surgery and two and a half weeks later she was medi-vacced back to the UK.

    Olivia has spent the past three years building up her strength so she can return to her lifelong passion of riding, and in February this year she sat on a horse again for the first time at the RDA’s Unicorn Centre in Middlesborough.

    “It was wonderful, I was so excited to do it,” said Olivia, who rode “all the time” until her fall.

    “It does feel different now — I have to learn to ride with my upper body and use my weight more.”

    Olivia has attended the centre weekly since, where she has been under the guidance of physio and hippotherapist Victoria Warburton.

    “I’d been building up my strength by going to the gym to work on my core, to sit up straight and to be able to balance before I got back on,” she said. “I worked on it by putting the back down on my wheelchair and by doing weights, boxing and general exercises.

    “I thought I might have to wait another year before I was ready but I passed the assessment I needed to, which made sure I was the right candidate for this sort of therapy.”

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    Olivia’s weekly riding sessions with her physio do further work on core strength, as well as putting her “out of her comfort zone” to help her get stronger and use her core and back muscles.

    She hopes the work is early steps on the road to fulfilling a dream to compete at the Paralympics.

    “I need to wait until I’m back in a proper saddle first before I go down that road — at the moment I am just riding on sheepskin — but once I am, I’ll be looking into it,” she said.

    She is continuing to make regular progress, and hopes to own her own horse again in the future.

    “Yesterday I started grooming one of the ponies at the centre for first time in three years, and it made me so happy,” she said.

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