Rider recovers from broken back to qualify for Badminton grassroots championships

  • An event rider who broke her back in a fall a year ago is looking forward to making her Badminton debut at the BE90 grassroots championships in May.

    British Horse Society accredited coach Eilidh Herd fell from her former racehorse Rossie when he spooked and took off broncing while she was schooling him on 30 December 2021.

    Aberdeen-based Eilidh told H&H she was unable to get up but initially thought she had just winded herself.

    “I lay there and took a few deep breaths and thought ‘I’ll be fine’. But then I still couldn’t get up,” she said.

    Eilidh went to hospital and an X-ray showed she had broken her L1 vertebra.

    “I’ve had injuries in the past and said ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine’, but I knew deep down this time there must be something wrong because I had actually gone to hospital,” said Eiidh.

    “I was sent for a CT scan and was told the fracture was stable, so they didn’t need to operate. I was sent home with painkillers and told not to lift anything too heavy. It was quite a strange time as it was still during Covid when hospitals didn’t really want people in them, and so most of my follow-ups were done by telephone.”

    Eilidh was still able to teach during her recovery but could not move poles and jumps, or offer riding or clipping.

    “A lot of what I do in winter is keeping horses ticking over and clipping, so it really had a big impact on my work life for a few months, until I was able to do a bit more,” she said.

    “At the time I had five horses at home, and although I wasn’t doing any heavy lifting I was still doing what I could – I’d have gone crackers otherwise. I had been told I was fine to be on my feet, and generally I was more comfortable walking than sitting; lying down was complete torture.”

    When Eilidh was able to return to the saddle, she started on her small cob Annie.

    “My confidence had been killed, but I wanted to get back on because I was convinced the longer I didn’t, the harder it was going to be. I didn’t want to let myself get to the point where I thought, ‘I’m never getting back on’,” she said. “I am very lucky because Annie is as safe as houses, she’s easy and doesn’t have a bad bone in her body and I knew she wouldn’t do anything silly.

    “I built up riding again on Annie, then moved on to my other mare Bridget who’s also pretty sensible. Then later I started riding my event horse Eddie again.”

    Eilidh built up her riding, and started physio sessions with Caroline Frew of Perform Chartered Physio, which she says made a “huge difference”. She also trained with dressage rider Charlie Hutton and five-star event rider Wills Oakden, to help build her confidence back up.

    Although she had no plan to event last year while she continued her recovery, when Burgie Horse Trials announced its 2022 summer event would be its final one after 45 years, Eilidh did not want to miss it and put in a last-minute entry for herself and Eddie (Zuccheros Deff Leppard).

    “Burgie was where I rode my first event in 2005, so I had to go to their last. I did it, and after that I thought we could probably manage another, and then we ended up winning the BE90 at Glamis Castle,” she said.

    “After Glamis everyone convinced me to do the Scottish Grassroots Eventing Festival at Blair Castle in August, so we did that and we came third.”

    A number of weeks later Eilidh received notification that she had qualified for the BE90 Badminton Grassroots Championships. She and Eddie had previously qualified for the 2020 event, the year Badminton was cancelled to Covid.

    “I thought only the winner at Blair qualified, but it turned out the top three did so it was a complete surprise. I told a couple of friends and they said ‘You have to go!’,” she said.

    “It’s going to be a long drive that we’ll need to split over a couple of days but my friend Anna Miller has agreed to come and support me. Hopefully the weather will be kind over the next few weeks and we manage to do a bit more riding.

    “It’s all really exciting. The plan is to get him fit and get to some more lessons, I haven’t jumped since Blair so I’ll need to get myself jumping again and I hope to see Wills for some training. The biggest issue since the fall has been my confidence. Confidence is so easily lost and hard to get back and I still sometimes kick myself, but I know you just have to keep pushing yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone.”

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