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Rider who had to learn to walk again after rotational fall raises hundreds for air ambulance

An eventer who had to learn to walk and talk again after a rotational cross-country fall has run 10km to raise funds for the air ambulance that saved her life.

Hannah Watson, 25, took more than two years to return to work after she suffered a serious head injury in the fall, at Llanymynech horse trials on August bank holiday, 2017.

The experienced rider was competing her then 12-year-old Irish sport horse Beau in the BE100 when he tripped on landing three fences from home.

“We went down together and when the medics got to me I was fitting, so they had to put me in a coma on the spot,” Hannah said. “They rang the air ambulance straight away, as well as getting a vet to see to my horse, who luckily was OK. The air ambulance got me to hospital in 15 minutes and really did save my life.”

“I will always be grateful I was competing with British Eventing as they had so many things in place and everyone was so helpful,” she added.

“They kept Beau at a nearby yard overnight as my parents rushed to be in hospital with me and they even had the vet come out and double-check him the next day.”

Hannah was diagnosed with a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage, a rare type of stroke caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain, and kept in a coma for a week before she was released into critical care.

Doctors were unsure how severe the effects of her brain injury would be and when she initially regained consciousness, her right side was paralysed and she had problems with her memory.

“I didn’t know who anyone was and apparently I thought I was in a hotel the whole time,” she said. “It was quite terrifying for my parents, especially my mum who had been standing by the fence videoing — she was able to show the footage to the doctors, which helped them understand what had happened in the fall.”

Hannah said the accident “hadn’t put her off riding” and she was back in the saddle “sooner than she should have been”.

“I could only sit on Beau as I literally had no balance,” she said. “I couldn’t get off either, so I had people standing round him waiting to catch me as I slid down!”

Hannah suffered badly with fatigue, having to spend “most days in bed” but after two years she was able to return to her job as a dental nurse. She is also competing Beau at showjumping and dressage, although she has not evented again.

“I would love to but my mum isn’t so keen on the idea,” she said. “I haven’t sold any of my kit yet though!”

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Hannah decided she wanted to raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance Charitable Trust and entered the Great Manchester run this spring, only for it to be cancelled owing to Covid. She organised an independent 10k run with her friends in its place, securing £1,325 to date on her JustGiving page.

“I wore a bandage round my head, one of my friends, Danny Caines, wore a horse head to represent Beau and another, Natalie Golden, wore a helicopter hat, so we all looked a bit strange,” she said.

“We had more donations than I expected and I hope it’s also raised awareness of the work the air ambulance does. I’ve been in contact with the trust and they want to meet me in October, so hopefully I’ll get to see some of the crew members that were there that day.”

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