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It can happen to anyone...

(but never give up to get back on).

By Sabine Pawlig.


I'm finally back on board and ready to compete again with Interdressage due to some time off after a rather simple fall during a show jumping lesson on my 4 year old Hanoverian called Dreamer (aka Escudo’s Traumfaenger).

Unfortunately, it had more of a spectacular outcome: a badly fractured tibia plateau and a torn anterior cruciate ligament on my right leg. Ah, and I always forget about the fractured right foot – that was peanuts. Everybody was saying to me: a job well done, make the most of it…

My hubby Ralf actually filmed the lesson, some friends have seen it but I have not been brave enough to watch it JL.

I only had Dreamer for a few months when it happened. We were just starting to jump nicely together. He has got a lot of talent and is a new project in addition to my other long-term project called Kia, who I compete regularly at Interdressage.

I thought I did well landing on my feet in that fall until my knee just wasn’t up to holding my weight any more. Ok, I thought, that wasn’t good, something is definitely not right, so we better get to A&E and I ended up staying in for a week to get the fracture fixed (i.e. plate with 2 screws to restore the knee joint). I will have to go in for a cruciate ligament restoration at some point to be mutually agreed. After the coming summer, I suppose.

Never mind, I’m back now and I thought that my story might be helpful and motivating for others in a similar situation. It has been a long and sometimes very painful road to recovery and I owe many thanks to my physiotherapist Mike who definitely puts me through my paces. I wouldn’t be where I am now without him:  I’m now walking normally again and have even started to run on the treadmill in my physio class - very helpful as I can now trot my horses up myself again.

I did miss my horses from day one and only a couple of days after returning from hospital, I was back at the yard hobbling around on crutches (non-weight bearing) to see them. I have never been more emotional than that day and it was clear that I wanted to get back on as soon as it was feasible in the slightest way. Kia even nudged my braced leg as if to ask what was wrong with it. Dreamer was more interested in the crutches and if he would be able to eat them.

Well, finally about 6 weeks after the operation (already weight-bearing as much as my body would allow me to but still on crutches), I did get back on Kia. It felt like coming home and I was in tears. Please see photo below. I had to leave the bad right leg out of the stirrup as I couldn't bend it far enough to get it in. Ok, I could have altered their length but it was a good motivation to leave them at jumping length to know how much bend I would need. Surely, only a few weeks of physio work later and I was able to put the foot into the stirrup again.

Kia and I, first ride after the accident.

Kia was brilliant and she supported me through the initial “wobble” phase. She stood still at the mounting block for me to get on and back off and never put a foot wrong (even when we went out for hacks). I did get told off about the third time riding her for galloping madly around the school with her... we must have got carried away there J.

I did even jump again with her under supervision of my show jumping trainer Mark. He is great support and said that there was no difference to my jumping from before and after the accident. Phew, that went down well!

Unfortunately, Kia has been a bit poorly recently. First, she lost her condition for unknown reasons and while I was getting her fit again, she suffered from a puncture wound on her hock and went lame. She is just coming out of that and is enjoying some quiet time in the field at the moment. We will be back to slow hacks soon though and surely not far off to doing some classes at Interdressage!

Once I was back on Kia, I actually started to get a bit nervous around Dreamer (he is filling out and still growing, so he's turning more and more into that impressive big horse that I picture him to be in the future). That was a sign for me to get back on and put those weird thoughts to rest. One day, about 9 weeks after the operation, I had him ridden by my friend Ceri first and then got on with help from my dressage trainer Jo for about 5 minutes in walk only. He was lovely, I was in tears and from then on, there was nothing stopping us.

About the second time back on him, I tried a few steps of trot and then even canter. By the end of December, we did our first affiliated Prelim since the accident and had the best score ever. I am lucky enough that the yard I keep them at holds regular BD and BSJA competitions. I only need one more qualifying score to go to a Petplan Area festival with him.

Dreamer and I after our first test since the accident.

I haven't jumped him since the fall, but Ceri and my trainer Mark keep him on his toes for that (although he jumped a pole on the floor in our lesson yesterday and one can really feel the power he's got – I should have known not to buy something that is related to Hugo Simon's ET...). He likes to "overdo" it and jumps anything as if it is a Puissance wall (yes, the jump there was only 70 cm high and Ceri had to sit tight).

Ceri and Dreamer jumping.

Well, for us the only way is up now, although the next operation will put me back to square one for a bit. But knowing what I will be up against with the recovery will make it a lot easier.

The key for me was to not let the frustration get to me. There were, and still are as I’m by no means fully recovered yet, some better moments than others but the situation has taught me not to give up and persevere. Some people were saying what a dangerous sport horse riding is and I should stop doing it. But honestly in my opinion the whole life is a risk. One never knows what is going to happen. At least we are doing something we absolutely love and the pleasure we get from it outweighs the risk. Saying that, I have to go now and get to the yard to ride my horses. The weather is far too nice to be inside at the moment!

But before I go, I would like to express my deepest gratitude and love to some people who supported me so much during that difficult time. First of all, I cannot say how much I appreciate the help from my friends Annie, Jo, Ceri and Carla at Maelor Equestrian Centre who looked after my horses when I wasn’t able to (and still do every day now). I hope my assistance on the yard whenever I’m there will pay it back slowly. Furthermore, my work place was extremely supportive during my time off. It takes a lot of the worries from your mind in that situation. I mentioned the physiotherapist Mike and my show jumping trainer Mark already in my story. Last but not least, my warmest thanks and tons of love go to my hubby Ralf, who I must have been driving up the wall during that time. His never ending support at home and with the horses is absolutely fantastic over all those years! He always pretends not to be horsey but deep in his heart he is.

Ralf and Dreamer sharing a quiet moment!

Looking forward to see you all soon at Interdressage!

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