A rider who was told she might not walk again after her horse fell on top of her is raising awareness and funds for the air ambulance service that came to her aid.
Jo Dunn, 32, from Hampshire, had a rotational fall on her 17-year-old cob Maggie during an arena cross-country lesson in February 2017.
Jo told H&H: “We were preparing for a Hickstead arena event in the April and I had planned to sell Maggie afterwards so she could have a quieter life. Maggie was jumping really well but we fell at an 80cm jump. The jump got caught between her legs, which caused Maggie to fall and she landed on top of me.
“An ambulance first responder came really quick, followed by a land ambulance and an air ambulance. They wanted to take me by air but [the helicopter] had to land three fields away because of the horses that were in the fields and they would have had to carry me over gates and ditches, so they had to take me in the land ambulance with the doctor from the air ambulance in attendance.
“I had damage to my back, a head injury and a dislocated elbow. Originally the doctors thought I was going be paralysed or have brain damage but as the hours went on the prognosis got better and better.”
Jo spent the next 11 days in hospital and three months recovering at her parents’ house.
“My helmet saved my life,” said Jo. “I think landing on a soft sand and fibre arena helped – if it had been hard ground, it probably would have been a different outcome.
“It was in doubt if I would ride again, I was devastated. Two discs in my back fully ruptured so I have three vertebrae that sit on top of each other, and they thought they may have to operate and put rods into my back, if they had done that I probably wouldn’t have ridden again.
“I’m only a hobby rider but it is a huge part of my life. I’ve got ADHD and I find riding calms me and helps me focus so it’s not just my physical health, it has a huge impact on my mental health.”
After the accident Jo had physio three times a week until September 2017.
“I was told I would only get 40% movement back in my elbow, but I had a very good team of physios and I did my exercises religiously and I’ve been very lucky to get more movement back,” she said.
“I had a sit on a friend’s pony seven weeks after the accident and fully returned to riding after 11 weeks. I don’t remember the accident, or the days beforehand because my head injury was quite significant,” she said. “I just think you can’t be scared of something you don’t remember. Horses have been such a vital part of my recovery for both my physical and mental health; if that wasn’t in my life my life would be very different. I’m not prepared to let that go.”
Jo brought Maggie back to full fitness and sold her to a Pony Club home and now has a 16.2hh gelding, Chuck, on loan.
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This year Jo has started fundraising for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, running three marathons and a 30-mile ultra-marathon with another marathon and ultra-marathon planned before the end of the year.
“The doctors had said they weren’t sure I would walk again, let alone run. I want to raise awareness that the air ambulance is not government funded and they are such a vital service, especially for the equine community,” said Jo.
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