Can You Talk Us Through Your Incredible Recovery Process?
“I am a really active person, so I didn’t want to rest for too long. After the surgery I was walking around the hospital on crutches when everyone else was asleep – I think it was only 10 or 11 hours after my operation, but I felt I needed to move.
Once I was out of hospital I had a week of resting at home to recover. It was exhausting as I was unable to sleep properly and would often wake up in the night because of the medication and the pain, but I wanted to start my rehab as soon as possible so I could get back to my sport. In my mind I was in a hurry to recover and I didn’t want to sit back and wait for that to happen. I think that recovery is down to healing physically but also focusing mentally and that’s what I was determined to do. I started training every other day, doing simple exercises at home e.g. lying on the couch bending and straightening my leg in sets. I would repeat this every other hour, just doing these sets all day to build my strength.
As I got stronger, I frequently got x-rays to evaluate the progress. If you overtrain you can build too much bone and that can have a real negative impact on your healing and can result in you stopping your training altogether which would have been a disaster for me – it’s all about the right balance.
I also had another problem; when I fell the bone came out of my skin so I had a big wound and a high risk of infection. I had doctors working on that too and was sending photos to the doctors every day to monitor it.
As process went on and the rehab developed, I did a lot of weight resistance on my leg – gruelling exercises, elliptical machine routines, bounce exercises and putting my own body weight on one leg and teaching myself to walk again really. I started training 2-3 times a day, repeating all the same exercises, I also bought a rowing machine, so I could train at home in between sessions with my physical trainer.
I did training sessions at 5.30am or 9.30pm as I wanted to be on my own. I work better on my own as I like to do my own thing and focus on getting stronger. I was really grateful that my trainer would come in early or stay late just to focus on me.
That was my routine, eat, sleep and train.
As you go on, and you are motivated to get better, you learn to cope with it all. I am motivated on my own, so I didn’t need to extra help for that. Getting back to the sport, my amazing horses and my big team of riders and owners motivated me and made excited to get healthy again.”
Can you tell us about the team of people who helped with your recovery process?
“Firstly, I had a fantastic doctor, Dr Nicholas Sama. He is a pro at this job and really took an interest above and beyond what a normal doctor should. I was going to his office a minimum of once week and they took it on as a cause to get me back to my sport as quickly as possible with a full recovery physically.
Ed Smith from Athletes Advantage in Wellington, Florida – a training a rehabilitation centre – was another very influential person. I was going there before and after normal business hours and he was there for me, to train me through everything. These aren’t things those guys have to do, and I am so grateful for all of that support. Top of their field.
I have a really strong team at home. Claudio Baroni is a fantastic rider and helps me to exercise the horses and we made a plan together just two days after the operation. We made a calendar of what all my horses were going to do while I was recovering, and it was great to know they would be in safe hands. When you do things like that–putting your mind in the focus of planning for the future–it pushes me to do everything in my power to be as good as I can and as quick as I can in my recovery.”
The film you Posted on Instagram has had a lot of interest, can you talk us throught it?
“I think that is one of the things about social media today, people are very interested in what other people are doing. People kept asking me how I was, could I work and kept questioning if I would ever be able to ride again – so thought I would post that video up and would answers everyone’s questions and show everyone that I was on a good road to recovery.
How did it feel to be back in the saddle?
“The first couple of times I was a little apprehensive – I thought ‘am I going to remember how to ride’ etc. I had a lot of pain the first time, I couldn’t ride in the stirrups, but I had to control my mind set and tell myself it was going to better. I had to accept I could only make baby steps and each day it would get a little bit better and a little bit better.”
When I first jumped a course for the first time it felt good, it felt ok to ride and jump and it felt exciting. I was like a little kid at Christmas, it’s weird because when you do something your whole life you take for granted how fun something is, for me be back in the saddle and riding made me feel alive again.”
Royal Windsor Horse Show was your first show back, how was the experience this year?
“I love Royal Windsor Horse Show, it is one of the most unique competitions and to be in the Castle Grounds is so special, so I really wanted to be able to compete there. I didn’t want to push myself too much in the first class, so I went at a medium speed and came third which I was really pleased with.
I told myself if I could ride, I could compete and if I was going to compete I wanted to do it properly and at a 5* show, so Windsor seemed the appropriate one to aim for. “
What advice would you have for anyone who was experiencing a similar injury to you?
“The first thing is acceptance of what your injury is, understand that you’re hurt and you won’t be better in a day or a week. I wanted to educate myself on my injury, so I worked out what I could do, what I could expect and how to be realistic.
I looked up other athletes who had similar injuries to see what they did to recover. One particular sports star stuck with me, a basketball player called Paul George. He suffered a horrific break very similar to mine and people thought he would never play again. He recovered and came back to be one the of the best players in the NBA, so I thought if he can do it, so I can I. That was really good for my moral and motivation.”
Now you are back from injury, what are your main focuses this year, are you eyeing up the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping?
“For sure my eye is on all the big Rolex competitions and of course the Rolex Grand Slam. I was so disappointed to miss The Dutch Masters, but I will focus on getting back on track and aim for that ultimate prize. I am excited for Aachen in July, it is one of the best competitions in the world and I am looking forward to competing against the world’s best riders.”
Which horses do you have high hopes for this year?
“I am lucky to have so many great horses, but I have particular high hopes for Creedance, Voyeur, Gazelle, and Uceko. I also have some up-and-coming young ones. I don’t think they will be ready for Grand Prix level this year but definitely high hopes for the future.”
Which Horses do you plan to bring to CHIO Aachen in July?
“I am not 100% sure yet by in my ideal world I would bring Voyeur, Gazelle, and Uceko.”
Source: News Release by Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping
Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton