Suzanna Hext’s road to recovery: a trip to Ireland for Ballindenisk Horse Trials

  • Suzanna Hext was competing at 2-star level eventing before an accident while riding a young horse at home in 2012 changed her life. After 177 days in hospital and 7 operations, Suzanna has recently swapped her wheelchair for crutches and is looking forwards to getting back on a horse as well as eventually learning to walk again

    I’ve had a fantastic couple of weeks and have been putting the next imminent operation to the back of my mind for the time being. The trip out to Ballindenisk International Horse Trials with Lucy Wiegersma, Gemma (Tiggy) Fuller, Padraig McCarthy and of course Mr Chunky was definitely well timed.

    I made the most of having the freedom of being up on my crutches. I covered miles on them, including negotiating banks and mastering the steps up into the lorry. My theory was that my shoulder is going to be fixed soon and I am going to be back in a wheelchair and bored, so I went “hell for leather”.

    I must admit I was pretty envious of everyone doing the sport I love, I felt frustrated at the useless body I have now. Why can’t I have my old body back? Why has this been taken away from me? — I guess this was inevitable. I had to remind myself how well I had done to get upright and be getting around the event.

    I also met some truly incredible people who reiterated something I know deep down — that it’s by no means the end of the road in terms of my riding career. I met Will Connell (World Class performance director) out in Ireland and he was extremely helpful and gave me an insight into the para dressage circuit. He has very kindly invited me to come up to a para training day to meet the riders and see how it works.

    The journey begins..

    We left the depths of Devon at 8.30pm on Wednesday, in order to catch the ferry at 2.45am on Thursday. Tiggy and I had a lot of catching up to do, so we chatted away the majority of the time, until I detected a slight tension in her voice as we were driving through deepest Wales. It soon became clear we were running a tad late… (You are meant to get to the port an hour before the departure time). Road works and traffic lights were not on our side — we got there at 2.15am with 30 minutes to spare, or not to spare! They very kindly let us on. We were the last lorry on and the last one off! Fashionably late? Not so sure!

    Lucy with Chunky

    Lucy with Chunky

    Once we got to Ballindenisk, we got Chunky settled in and the lorry sorted. Lucy went for a hack in the afternoon, Irish-styley!! (Wellie boots, the works). Having 1 horse at an event is very unusual for both Lucy and head groom Tiggy, so we found ourselves watching a lot of DVD’s over the days that we were away.

    The first night was entertaining as I was catapulted forward as I went to lie down on the camp bed. I soon mastered this procedure and realised that you make sure that all legs are in the correct position before I take the dive into bed. I slept the best I have slept since my accident whist I was out in Ireland. I am pretty sure it was because I was so shattered, that my head hit the pillow and I slept like a log or maybe it was because I was so content with the smell of horses all around me in the back of the lorry!

    On the Friday Lucy had a lesson with Tracy Robertson and Chunky looked like a pro. I crutched up the field to watch and soon realised that I would need to get quicker and up my game on the crutches pretty dam quick.

    On Friday evening the Ballindenisk team put on a great meal for everyone. It was such a fantastic atmosphere, the whole event was very organised and friendly.

    The Nations Cup competition begun on the Saturday. The British team was made up of Lucy Wiegersma, Izzy Taylor, Nicky Roncoronic and Rosalind Canter.

    The team did extremely well in the dressage and took the lead, unfortunately there were a couple of rails rolled in the showjumping, which put them just behind the French. The Sunday cross-country day didn’t bring any problems for the British.  Sadly for the French their last rider to go had a run out. This meant that the British were Ballindenisk Nations Cup champions!

    The winning British team

    The winning British team

    We managed to get to the ferry with plenty of time on the way back, I think we had learnt our lesson! I definitely achieved my aim of being covered in the perfume of “eau du cheval” that ever horse rider never forgets. It was a breath of fresh air for me after such a long time. 24/7 horses- bliss!

    To follow…

    Next time I will have had my operation and I will report back from my exciting afternoon being a film star for BBC Spotlight South West. I will also introduce you to my neuro-physiotherapist, Gemma, who is playing an integral role in my recovery.

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