A rider who broke her back in a fall has been “overwhelmed” by others’ support, and hopes to raise awareness of mental health among equestrians.
Darcie Lattin, 22, from Warrington suffered a fall from her four-year-old warmblood Zephyr in November 2017.
Darcie told H&H: “I used to have a coloured cob called Milo who I did everything with – he was a super cob and would jump the moon. Unfortunately he was put to sleep and I bought a youngster with aims of bringing him on as an eventer.
“I’d owned Zephyr for a year before the accident. I’d gone in the arena at the livery yard myself for a schooling session and he completely exploded and went into a rodeo. I suffered a compression fracture of my T8 vertebrae as he bucked; I had broken my back before I hit the floor.
“No one knew I was there. I was screaming for help and someone came running over and called an ambulance but it was an hour and a half before the ambulance arrived and took me to hospital.”
Darcie spent a week in hospital and was not allowed to move without a back brace.
“Before I was allowed home I had to stand independently for ten minutes and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I’d gone from lying down for a week to having to stand. You think standing is easy but I’d pass out with the pain or be sick. I managed it after a week and got to go home,” she said.
“My mum had to do everything for me, she would shower me, put my back brace on and take it off. I’m also epileptic so I’ve always fought for my independence but I lost it all and was off work for six months.”
While in hospital Darcie made the decision to sell Zephyr. He went to a new home in early 2018 and has been eventing with his owner.
“The decision to sell was extremely difficult and I had to make that decision while I was in a neck and body brace lying flat on my back in hospital. He was supposed to be my next big competition horse and everything had fallen apart,” said Darcie.
“I swore I would never ride again. I had a fear of hurting myself again, I knew it was irrational and it was a freak accident but it’s being able to process that mentally.”
Six months after the accident Darcie started riding friends’ horses and is now looking for her own to buy.
“I lost my identity not riding, it’s my passion and my hobby,” said Darcie. “I had this fear but I knew riding was my happy place and I had to push myself.
“It was extremely difficult to get back on. I spent months walking around on a lead rein on my friend’s gypsy cob Bailey, building my confidence up. I’ve also been riding a friend’s horse called Djanjo which allowed me to ride a big powerful horse again. I’m not back jumping yet but I’m hunting for my own horse to eventually take eventing.”
Darcie is looking for “something with a bit of mileage”, and hopes to compete in a BE80 by the end of the year.
“It’s been in the last month or so I’ve given my head a wobble and said ‘come on, you’ve been that close once, you can do it again’. My friends and I set little goals and milestones each week and I just have to try and build on it. I’m still not 100% but confident but I know if I can find this one horse I trust, I will be back to crazy old me,” said Darcie. “The goal is to aim for grassroots around BE90/BE100 and then build on that.”
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Darcie has created a blog, The Broken Eventer, documenting her progress.
“I created it as a coping mechanism and somewhere I can offload which I hoped would help me, but the responses have been incredible. I’m completely overwhelmed, I’ve had so many people contact me to say they’ve found it really helpful someone being so open and honest about how much they’re struggling,” said Darcie.
“I don’t feel inspiring, I’m just a normal young woman with big plans and big dreams. I think as riders we’re conditioned to think we’re really tough but it’s ok to struggle whether you are going for a hack or one star eventing. It’s important to raise awareness of mental health and post-traumatic stress – I don’t feel it’s discussed in the equestrian world much and it’s about giving people a voice and a story they can relate to.”
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