During those early days after my life changing accident, I remember mum suggesting that I should get outside for some fresh air, to which I responded, “What, sit on the ramp like a disabled person?”
Being disabled has taken some adapting to, and finding out what was possible despite two-thirds of my body not working has ended up being the start of a whole new adventure. Being outdoors and staying active was always important to me since a child, and when I started to find something to replace the things I had lost my life began to improve.
Throughout my blogs, I am going to take you through some of the adventures I have had since my catastrophic spinal cord injury.
It was about a year after being paralysed, I was frantically searching into what was possible and finding out what appealed to me. Gradually, I was loosening the grip on the past.
Replacing eventing was always going to be a tough task, in fact at the time I wasn’t convinced the gap left in my life would ever quite be filled but I now was on a mission to find something. I had been back on horses since my accident, only twelve weeks after the horrific day I was in the saddle on a quiet horse. People expected me to be excited, but I felt nothing. I didn’t hate it but there was no buzz at all. With my spinal injury, I still felt like the same person except my body didn’t work in the same way. In my head I still had the immense desire to jump fences and compete at the big events. I could not see how I would ever be content walking and trotting around on a well- trained, bomb-proof horse, so after I spent the summer in 2008 riding I decided to move on.
It is easy to stick with what you know, but exploring new options can be the best route to take.
My husband, Dan, hadn’t skied before, but I had as a child up to about the age of ten. loved those holidays but once I was at secondary school I stopped going. After that, all my time and money was spent on eventing. As soon as I watched a clip of a mono-skier hurtling down the snowy mountains, I knew it was potentially an exciting goal for me, and it could be a sport I could do with Dan, family and friends, where I wouldn’t be disadvantaged (once I had learnt). It looked so exhilarating – I was bound to love it if I could become a competent skier.
I first gave it a go with a charity called Disability Snowsport at an indoor centre in the UK. The instructor was brilliant, the first thing he did was hold the back of the mono-ski and ski me down the slope at a pretty quick pace.
He wanted to show me how it would feel eventually. That little taster of speed and freedom was needed because learning to ski was everything but! I fell, I swore, and I felt frustrated but for the first time I felt like I had got away from my injury. For that hour, I had forgotten I was paralysed because at this moment I was 100% focussed on learning a sport that didn’t seem to be coming naturally to me in any shape or form. There was one thing I knew though, no matter how long it was going to take, this was going to be worth every ounce of effort.
Dan and I were soon on our first holiday in France, along with Mum and my aunt, Sue. The fresh mountain air, beautiful scenery and crisp white snow made me feel alive. Now I had much longer slopes to practice on and eventually get to grips with skiing. By the end of the holiday I had made vast improvements. I was by no means good, but as I went from spending most of the time tipped over on my side to being able to get from the top of a run to the bottom with only a few falls, I left feeling chuffed with myself.
Finding the right sport for me was instrumental in my recovery in terms of the mental aspect. When I actually realised I was able to do something, that self esteem and confidence that had so quickly vanished in 2007, began to re- develop. Never underestimate the power of sport.
I have managed to get quite a lot of skiing in over the years, particularly as I worked in an office close to where I lived which had chalet’s in Morzine (France), and that gave me the opportunity to improve. I considered racing even getting selected onto the British Development Squad but then everything changed when I became pregnant with my first daughter, back in 2010.
Now we enjoy skiing as a family holiday. I am not one for sitting around (ironically as I have spent a lot of time in the past 15 years sitting!), and whizzing down a mountain with my favourite people is my ideal holiday.
I am so excited, it is three years since I last skied but we are about to go again- the only trouble is, keeping up with my daughters will only get harder over the years!