A young rider who was not expected to live, let alone walk or ride, after a horrific fall has won at her first show back — on her 22-year-old pony who also defied the odds to jump again.
Lucy Ward split her liver in half in September 2019, when she fell from a friend’s green horse. She landed on her feet, but then the reins became tangled round one hand and she was dragged behind the horse, who kicked and trampled on her until the reins eventually broke.
“I remember parts of it, because I was still conscious at that point,” Lucy told H&H. “I was on my own, and I managed to call for help but I said I didn’t need an ambulance as I was just winded.
“But then every time I tried to stand up, I fell down. I’m a fighter but I realised something was wrong.”
Lucy was taken to hospital, where it was found she had also broken her pelvis, and four ribs, ruptured her spleen and bruised her lungs.
“I was pretty much told to make my last wish,” she said. “It was when I came out of the scan room, I knew. I asked if I was going to be ok and everyone was just crying.”
Lucy was transferred to another hospital, where she spent three weeks in intensive care.
“The doctors realised the only thing keeping me alive while my liver was split in half was a blood clot, which had stopped me bleeding internally,” she said.
“I was kept right next to the operating room, with people watching me 24 hours a day, because if the clot had burst, they’d have had to take me straight in to try to save my life.”
The clot remained intact until after Lucy’s liver had healed — “Thank god for that!” she said — and then came the long road to recovery.
“After I’d moved hospitals, I woke up a day or so later a bit more with it, and could just about talk, so my question was: ‘Am I going to be able to ride again?’” she said.
“They said ‘We need to make sure you can walk, never mind ride’! I said I’d be riding before Christmas and they said I needed to learn to walk again first.”
Lucy was back on board her pony Lucky, who is the same age as she is, just before that Christmas, but her progress was not straightforward.
“I wouldn’t admit it but I was pretty nervous, and I was still in a lot of pain,” she said.
“I had to admit, to myself and other people, that I wasn’t strong enough; I couldn’t do it. That was the hardest thing for me; I’d been pushing myself to prove I could do it but I couldn’t, I wasn’t ready.
“I hope my story makes people realise things don’t have to happen overnight. If it takes months or years to come back, you have to be patient.
“Even now, I still have bad days, and it’s taken till recently to feel myself again, but it’s important to keep going and follow your dreams.”
Last spring, Lucy started riding Lucky again, slowly building her strength back up, as well as her self-belief, and going to the gym to become even stronger.
This July, she went to her first show since the fall, an unaffiliated jumping event at David Broome Event Centre, and came first, second and third.
“I was just going to have a play – it was amazing,” she said. “Lucky’s a jumper and that’s what he is; scared of his own shadow out hacking, but show him a jump and he’ll jump it. I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
Lucy explained that Lucky also lives up to his name in still being here; he was kicked in the hock four years ago and given a very poor prognosis.
“He chipped a bone and was in a cast; although he broke the cast after two days because he’s a fighter too,” she said. “Abbey Vets were brilliant with him; the bone got infected and he had to go in there, and they didn’t expect him to come sound. I said even if he could live out his days in the field, I didn’t care about the cost as I owe that pony everything.”
Lucy thanked all those involved in her recovery; from the “amazing” medics at the Prince Charles Hospital and the University Hospital Wales to the friends, and almost-strangers, who stepped up, adding: “It was amazing the support I had, which I’d never known was there. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
And she hopes that by sharing her story, she may be able to help others in a similar situation.
“The number of times I wanted to give up, thinking I couldn’t do it – I was in tears every day,” she said. “My message to anyone else is, just take it day by day.
“There’s no rush, take your time, even just walking is a step forward, and don’t give up. The saying ‘miracles do happen’ is true as it’s happened twice; once for me and once for my pony.”
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