A former three-star event rider has returned to competition almost three years after a life-changing cross-country accident.
Lincolnshire-based Katy Williams had a rotational fall at Allerton Park on 20 September, 2014.
The horse she had been riding, Ted Dexter, fell after hitting the first element of a rail-ditch-rail combination in the intermediate novice.
“I landed face down and he landed on top of me,” Katy told H&H. “I suffered multiple facial fractures, broke my jaw, the base of my neck, seven ribs and my pelvis.”
Katy was taken to Leeds General Infirmary by road ambulance where she was put into an induced coma.
She had an 11-hour operation to rebuild her face, which was so unrecognisable her father had to give surgeons a photo of her to work from.
Katy also had an operation on her pelvis, which is now held together with metal plates and screws, and wore a neck brace for three months.
“Due to my facial injuries I was on breathing support while in high dependency and intensive care, it was a scary moment when they took that away,” she said.
“I was fed through a tube for seven weeks, but determination to give eating a go and an extremely sore throat saw the disappearance of that.
“When I can home I was in a wheelchair and it soon became apparent that my coordination and sensations were amiss. This was more apparent as I began to bear weight.
“My balance was all over the place, I’d lost the hearing completely in my left ear, which will never come back, and suffered some nerve damage.
“My left eye wasn’t closing causing blurring to my vision, which made everything I was already suffering even harder to deal with. My eye shuts now, but doesn’t lubricate itself so I have to put drops in every hour and the vision is still very poor.”
‘A walking miracle’
Katy has been told her injuries could have been even more serious if she hadn’t been wearing adequate safety equipment.
“The doctors have stressed that without the protection I was wearing the outcome may have been very different — they think I’m a walking miracle as it is,” she said.
“I had a Rodney Powell body protector on with a Point 2 air jacket over the top, which saved my vital organs. I also had a new Gatehouse skull cap on, which did a remarkable job of preventing any head or skull injuries.”
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Katy had been working full time as a professional rider before the accident and had competed up to three-star, but the fall forced her to give up this career.
“The horses I rode were sent home to their owners, the yard I rented was emptied and the only thing I had left was my beloved Weston who had put me on the international circuit, but he was soon to be sold which hurt more than the fall itself,” she said.
“Recovery has been a long process and I’m still trying to improve — not just physically but mentally also, my life changed in an instant that day.”
Back in the saddle
Despite the ordeal, Katy returned to the saddle at the beginning of last year.
“I bought a lovely safe cob type to get going on again,” she said.
“I gained balance over a few months and had my first jump on him — he was just what I needed at the time and he then went on to a lovely home.”
Last summer Katy bought Koko (pictured top), a 16.3hh seven-year-old Belgian warmblood.
“She was bought to sell, but there was just something about her I loved and I started riding her,” said Katy.
“We had a couple of successful dressage outings last year, then a few showjumping outings through the winter followed by some cross-country schooling earlier this year.
“She’s a very careful horse, which means she can be rather extravagant over fences she’s not seen before! This took a toll on my balance to begin with, but we’re getting it together much better now.
“She’s extremely talented, although we are taking each day as it comes to keep us both confident. I am very excited about her future.”
In 2015 Katy also gave birth to her daughter, Ellen, who is already horse mad and enjoys riding her pony Mickey (pictured).
“Life couldn’t be much different,” added Katy, who does some coaching around looking after Ellen. “I’ve gone from a full time professional rider competing on senior teams and experiencing the best days ever, to experiencing the worst days of my life, to being a mum!
“Ellen will be two in October, she gives me so much pleasure and already has the riding bug.
“I can’t see myself going back into horses full-time, but will always have a four-legged friend in my life — it’s my guilty pleasure.”