Natasha Swales – Road to Recovery

26th October 2020

Horses and injuries sadly seem to go hand in hand, and I’ve been very fortunate to have remained relatively unscathed in my years as a rider, save a couple of surgeries and a plate in the wrist. In July, I was riding a horse for a friend that took quite a severe exception to a fence, and ended up going up and falling over on top of me. It sounds rather dramatic, however the whole thing happened in relative slow motion. I am very bad at knowing when to bail out of a potentially dangerous situation and tend to get overwhelmed with the old Pony Club saying of “sit tight!” Well sat tight I did, and that have some lovely metalwork in my foot to show for it!

I sustained what is called a Lisfranc fracture. It’s funny how many things that we know nothing about until it happens to you, and suddenly Google becomes your best friend. So this injury is basically a dislocation of the bones in your midfoot, generally caused through a trauma. Sometimes these injuries can be repaired through conservative methods of a period of non-weight bearing, however mine qualified as more serious and needed surgical intervention to give me the best possible outcome. With these types of injuries, I was told by the duty nurse to expect to still be unable to walk in six months’ time, and that I may as well forget about getting back on a horse for a longer period of time.

Two screws later and armed with a purchase of mine called an iWalk, I tentatively started working again. The iWalk basically gives you full use of your hands whilst still not putting weight through the injured leg, which to an incapacitated person sounds incredible, but is a lot harder to master than it appears. Once I had found my balance on my peg leg, there was no stopping me! I could muck out, tack up, tidy, clean and paint stables – all of the boring but oh-so necessary yard jobs.

I made my competition debut two months to the day of my injury, at the same place where I had my accident. Another six weeks on from that, I am still a little lame and definitely wouldn’t pass a flexion test, however I can ride up to eight horses a day, muck out, lunge, drive and basically do most normal jobs again. It could be a while before I run a horse up for the vet or farrier, but I’m in no rush to be able to do those jobs again!

I feel so lucky to have had the best support from family, my employers and friends. It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair when you get injured, and there doesn’t seem like light at the end of the tunnel, however I always try and tell myself that things always come to an end, and soon this will be a distant memory. My wonderful Mary had her first holiday since we bought her – shoes off, no rug, the lot! Since coming back into work she feels the best that she has ever felt, and I am so excited to bring her back to jumping.

My goals for 2020 might not have been realised, however there’s always next year to look forward to.

All the best!

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