‘You only get one head’: rider who broke bones and suffered concussion issues hat plea

  • A rider who suffered multiple fractures and severe concussion in a fall at home wants to spread as much awareness as possible, of head injuries and the importance of wearing a correctly fitted safety helmet.

    Sandra Murphy was jumping her own horse Tilly over small fences on 17 July when the mare tripped and went down. Sandra suffered a fractured shoulder, collarbone and vertebrae, as well as the head injury, but believes that had she not been wearing her helmet, recently fitted and brand new, she would not be here.

    The founder of Equidiet and the BAME Equine and Rural Activities Focus Group told H&H she had just finished filming for a television programme and was jumping one last double.

    “It was only 70cm, as I’m no hero!” she said. “Tilly jumped in big, and it should have been two strides but she went ‘Is it one or two?’, went to jump and just fell over it.

    “It was a miscommunication; I can’t blame her, I more blame myself.”

    Sandra hit her head on the floor, was knocked unconscious, and was taken to hospital in an air ambulance. She credits her assistant Lara Holden also for saving her life, as she came straight over with an oxygen canister after the fall; Sandra, who is in remission from cancer, also spent six weeks in hospital with Covid early this year and needs the oxygen while her lungs recover.

    “She saved my life as I’d stopped breathing,” Sandra said.

    Doctors at first did not realise the extent of Sandra’s injuries and sent her home but two days later, she was in agony and called her GP.

    “They sent me back to hospital, where I was diagnosed with the fractures and the concussion,” she said. “I was speaking really slowly, and couldn’t form words; I said to the doctor, it felt like I had a blancmange in my head, it was awful. I had real pressure pain in my head and he said ‘That’s concussion’.”

    Sandra had never suffered concussion before, and had not realised the full implications.

    “The doctor explained it all, and how careful you’ve got to be,” she said. “It’s a brain injury, and you have to look after your brain. I won’t be riding for a long time as you only get one head.”

    Sandra added that although she has always been a strong advocate of wearing appropriate headgear, this incident has reminded her once again just how important this is.

    “Whatever you’re doing, I don’t care; wear one,” she said. “There’s no excuse not to have one on, and your brain’s so precious and so easily damaged. My Uvex helmet saved my life; I would not be here today without it.

    “The thing I want to get across to people is, no matter what you’re doing, wear one. I was at home, jumping 70cm, and I trust my horse to the end of the earth; she’d never buck me off or anything but she tripped and fell, it was one of those things.”

    Sandra also thanked the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance, for which she had raised money while undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, two years ago.

    “I had braids in my hair; my hair was my crowning glory and losing it was very hard but every time a braid came out, someone sponsored it and I raised £500,” she said. “That’s what got me through, and knowing I was helping other horse people.

    “When you’re riding in the middle of nowhere and a road ambulance can’t get there, they will come and rescue you. I want to thank them so much.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.

    You may like...