‘I was screaming in agony’: seriously injured rider’s holiday insurance warning

  • A woman who “smashed her pelvis to pieces” in a riding accident abroad has spoken of the importance of having insurance on holiday.

    Helen Ward from Nottingham was on a trekking holiday at a ranch in Spain when she fell from the horse she was riding on 24 December 2003.

    She told H&H: “I lost my seat and smashed to the ground hitting a boulder on impact – I was screaming in agony.

    “I was driven to a nearby medical centre but I was told they couldn’t do anything and I was taken to the hospital which was an hour’s drive away.”

    Helen was scanned and X-rayed but said that owing to the language barrier the staff were unable to communicate what injuries she had suffered.

    “I couldn’t speak Spanish and I was alone. I was scared stiff as I didn’t know what injury I had,” she said.

    Helen contacted her insurance company, which flew a nurse from the UK to Spain to help her and a flight was arranged for Helen to return to the UK on 29 December. On landing she was transferred by ambulance to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where it was confirmed she had suffered serious pelvic injuries.

    “My pelvis was smashed to pieces.The consultant advised me it was the worst pelvic injury he had dealt with in 30 years,” said Helen.

    “I was told I could lie for eight weeks while my pelvis knitted back together and I wouldn’t be able to ride again – or he had a free slot for surgery on 3 January and they would rebuild me using titanium bolts and screws.”

    Helen was discharged from hospital on 16 April 2004 and following a rehabilliation programme she was able to walk unaided in October that year. She returned to the saddle in 2007, taking lessons at a riding school, and in April 2019 bought her first horse – part-bred Welsh section D, Apache Storm.

    “I always knew I wanted to ride again. I stopped working full-time in 2017 and decided I have time now for my own horse. My journey has been very had but I’ve proven you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” said Helen.

    “Apache can be very quirky but we’re getting to know each other and he is fantastic to ride. I hope to do some dressage and low-level jumping on him.”

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    Helen, who has booked a riding holiday in Ireland in August, has urged others to be aware of the importance of having insurance.

    “Before I went to Spain I spent a lot of time researching insurance online. You really have to read policies front to back and make sure they cover everything. I paid £12.50 for my policy and my injuries in Spain cost the insurance company £14,500 – and that was in 2003. If I hadn’t had insurance my mum would have had to find the money,” she said.

    “You have to make sure you get the right policy – if you don’t you could be stranded and get yourself in a serious mess.You must make sure you are insured for all riding, medical bills and repatriation costs. Even if you’re going on a riding holiday in England you should have insurance.”

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