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Getting through a life-changing injury - Para show-jumper Rachel tells her story

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I have always been very passionate about horses and riding and we always had ponies at home when we were growing up, so I’d always been confident around them. 
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I’d drifted away from horses in my teenage years until I saw a post on Facebook one day for a horse for share, a racehorse! That was it, something felt right and I sent the girl a message. Within a few days she was giving me lessons and I was prancing around on this huge, beautiful thoroughbred. That was Bethan, and she’s been a fabulous friend ever since... 
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I shared Beth's horses for a while, and then made a huge step and bought my first horse, Harvey. Harvey is a 16.1hh chestnut thoroughbred gelding, everyone said I was nuts! I thought they were right, but actually, over time my riding improved and we had some really great times together. 
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I've always been a Chef. I’m really good at it and have always loved it, but in June 2016, when I was 28, I decided to make a huge career move into an equestrian role. I posted an advert on the Yard and Groom website and quickly got offered a job on a show pony yard. I was so exited, I felt like I’d really achieved my goals and was about to start my dream job! 
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I quickly moved in and started work. The day of the accident was the 3rd of July 2016, an early Sunday morning. I was mounting a pony in the arena, and some ponies were being turned out in the field adjacent. They spooked the pony I was mounting resulting in a bad fall where I landed on a foot and it shattered all the way to my knee.
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I couldn't move my leg, it was extremely painful and the best way to describe it was that it no longer felt attached. No-one at the yard heard me shouting for quite a while which was very distressing, I struggled to shout and try to move myself, but eventually I was found and got an ambulance to take me to the hospital. After a long operation, I was told that due to my injuries being so bad, I was going to loose my right leg because it wasn't going to be possible to rebuild. 
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After having temporary pins and bolts screwed through my leg, I was to await amputation. This is where I got very lucky. A professor from Bristol Royal Infirmary came out of nowhere and offered extensive surgery with the chance of saving my leg. This included fixing a Taylor Spatial Frame to my leg, which was 15 pins and 2 large titanium circles with pins and bolts sticking out of it. 
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I had the operation, and it was by far the most painful thing I have ever endured. Far more painful than breaking the leg in the first place, and that was all with a nerve block! Those weeks in hospital were excruciating and I can’t think about it without feeling sick. 
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I had to have a lot of physio and hydro therapy over the years, which continues now on a daily basis, it’s a lot of work babysitting my leg just to allow me to walk. Once I left hospital, I had nowhere to go! I was homeless, jobless, I had no money, had lost my pets, and couldn’t drive. My dog and cats were scattered around being passed around by friends, and I gave my horse to my, at the time, riding instructor and begged her to take him under her care, which she did. Eventually he became her horse and he has the perfect life which is such a relief.
I was offered a room in a friends parents house, which really was so kind as they barely knew me, and I was not a happy patient I will say! I long outstayed my welcome and they took such good care of me while I learned how to manoeuvre around in my crippled situation. Then, after weeks of waiting, I had to eventually go into homeless accommodation which was horrendous and lasted for 4 months before I finally got a council bungalow, far from where I wanted to live... but it was home finally!
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I could get my dog, Alfie and my cats Boo and Turbo back.. which is all I cared about. Still I could not get my horse Harvey in my condition, I was lucky very occasionally if somebody would take me to see him! The next 2 years were absolute hell. I had such a terrible life, I had no life. Just sitting in a dingy bungalow, living on bare minimum, stuck on benefits. I was scraping to feed myself, I couldn’t drive so couldn’t go shopping. Without my dog Alfie, i don’t think I could have made it. He gave me purpose. I had to walk him, and he really gave me the strength to get up and get moving.
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My arms, legs, everything were so skinny because I’d lost all muscle and all motivation for living. I felt like I’d never be able to work or ride or do anything I wanted to again, and I felt like that for a long time. Eventually after a year, the Taylor Special Frame came off. Finally! Once this was removed I couldn’t walk, and so a year later I ended up having my ankle permanently fused.
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This means I no longer have any movement, but I am now able to walk short distances, and I have a mobility scooter to help me get around. I don’t walk well, I have a bad limp which I can hide if I walk on tiptoes, which I do, but is excruciating as the day goes on. 
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After years had gone by I won the lawsuit against my employers. The same day, my precious dog Alfie died of cancer. And a few weeks later I lost my cat Boo. It was like they left me when they knew I’d be ok..
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After the lawsuit was over, I bought my horse Ruby. Ruby came from Devon. She was a dressage horse who hadn’t been ridden for years due to being a naughty chestnut mare. She was a total risk and everyone said I was mental to buy her, but there was something about her that just got me, and I bought her after literally just sitting on her for just 10 minutes. 
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What a horse she has turned out to be. She is a KPWN warmblood our of sire Ovidious and dam Penate. Ruby’s name is Benate, she's 14 years old and 16hh. She means the world to me and has made me the rider I am today.
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We are currently competing in the national British para showjumping league, the graded para league, and also the able bodied bronze BS national league. My goal is to compete the para leagues and win! I’d also like to compete internationally in Germany in the para showjumping, it’s such an exiting show they hold. I'm told it’s fabulous and really worth the trip. 
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I am currently looking at getting a second horse for showjumping so I can really push and have double the opportunity. I've researched my competition carefully and I’ve trained hard, I know what I’m up against. Being placed in my last competitions with a win in the para and with very competitive scores in the able bodied, we’ve turned heads with the para riders and I’m very keen for the next season to start. 
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I now own my own house! And have a truck and a trailer, i'm back full time as head chef of a hotel/ restaurant and I feel so proud to be back as active as I am. I suffer quite a lot for it but wouldn’t have it any other way. My dream is to inspire others that are going through rough times, you can and you will make it through. It might take a long time, but you can get there.
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Thank you Rachel, for such an incredible and interesting story. If you would like to follow Rachel's progress, you can follow her via her Instagram at @rachelpararider