After breaking her back,pelvis & shoulder in a horseriding accident brave Suzanna rides again

Since the age of six Suzanna Hext had devoted her life to her passion for horses - first riding ponies and then grown horses, she began competing at Eventing when she was just 13 years old and was soon riding at international level.

But then, in 2012, came the horrific moment when all the brilliant promise of her future seemed to have been snatched from her in a devastating riding accident.

She was thrown off her horse which then crushed her as she lay helpless on the ground, breaking her pelvis, back and shoulder - injuries which left her paralysed from the legs down at the age of 23 and doctors feared she would never walk - let alone ride - again.

But now the brave 27-year-old is back in the saddle - after an incredible recovery involving treatment with a high-tech spinal cord stimulator, long months of physiotherapy and eight operations she has started competing again, at able-bodied and para dressage - and has set her eyes on riding for Britain at the 2020 Paralympics.

Suzanna, who lives in Gloucestershire, said: 'Initially, it felt like everything had been taken away from me. One minute I was this active person running around, and then it all changed but I always believed in myself, and knew that I would be back in the saddle one day.

'It sounded crazy and everyone thought I was mad - but that was in my head from the start.'

Suzanna grew up in Cornwall surrounded by 'horsey people and horses' and was awarded a sixthform riding scholarship at Millfield School, Somerset, before spending two years training with international event rider Lucy Wiegersma.

She was long-listed for the Young Rider teams in 2008 and competed at two-star level Eventing - the second-highest level for internationals.

But, in July 2012, her life drastically changed. In one terrible movement, a young male horse she was riding suddenly reared up, throwing Suzanna to the ground and crashing down on top of her.

As the horse, which weighed more than half a ton, struggled to get to its feet, it rolled back on top of her, crushing her a second time.

Suzanna recalled: 'It's all a bit hazy - I was drifting in and out of consciousness because of the shock. I remember saying to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance team that I couldn't feel my legs, and I wanted them to do something about it! I was lucky.

They saved my life - and certainly limited the severity of my injuries.' At the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, doctors confirmed she had broken her back and pelvis, and suffered significant nerve damage.

Worse still, she had a solid swelling of clotted blood in her spinal canal that was pressed against her spinal cord - paralysing both her legs.

She said: 'I've always been a really positive person and have an incredible family and set of friends around me. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't get low and frustrated. It was tough.'

But Suzanna was determined to ride again. She said: 'I was in a wheelchair, but I would wheel myself with one hand because I wanted to do everything myself.'

Her physiotherapist - 'a horsey person too' - allowed her to do sessions sat in a saddle, and leading surgeon Tipu Aziz inserted a stimulator in her spinal cord to reduce the debilitating pain caused by nerve damage.

Suzanna said: 'I've struggled with a lot with pain, so that was a massive turning point. It was really when my life started to turn around.'

And only weeks after swapping her wheelchair for crutches, she was clamouring to start riding again.

Back in the saddle: Suzanna competing last year at Stoneleigh after an incredible recovery. 

In July 2014, Suzanna got back on a horse for the first time since her accident. She said: 'I don't think I'll ever forget that day. I was speechless and grinning - and I didn't want to get off the horse.' And she then began competing in able bodied and para dressage.

She said: 'I now ride without stirrups - I use two whips as my legs, and am allowed to use my voice in dressage tests. My voice and my whips are my legs.'

She is now working towards competing in the 2020 Paralympics.

She added: 'Did I think it was possible? No way! Last year was a whirlwind. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn out like this. Everything just started falling into place as soon as I started riding again. I realised I could do anything I put my mind to.' 



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