Six months after a serious head injury sustained in a fall from Cooley Rorkes Drift at Tattersalls CIC3*, Olympic rider Jonty Evans made it back into the saddle. Okay, the saddle was on a simulator, but to me this looks like an excellent (and safe way) to regain his strength and coordination. I wouldn’t mind doing some of my legging up on one of these sophisticated simulators. They have ones that are dressage only and ones that are event ready. It sounds like a great way to start jumping again. Too bad the closest one to to me is in North Carolina!
Jonty’s progress has amazed his doctors. The first predictions were dire — he was in a coma for six weeks and doctors in Ireland thought he might not wake up.
The simulator enabled Jonty to experience the feeling of riding a horse again, focusing completely on the movement and working on his position.
“It’s a great feeling. Being on that horse was probably easier than walking. I have every intention of trying to ride.”
The first of its kind in Europe, the simulator’s hi-tech equipment includes a three-screen display to provide riders with an opportunity to jump a course of jumps or ride cross-country.
Jonty Evans is one of too many top level riders to recover from a Traumatic Brain Injury. William Fox-Pitt also defied the odds when he woke from a coma and sat on a horse two months later. Pitt dealt not only with the enormous amount of muscle wastage but with months of double vision.
“My sight was quite dodgy,” he continued. “It went from very vague and blurred to being double. Once it was double I could ride.”
“Chilli was very good, actually. He didn’t mind me missing [to the jump]. He just went with it. But to be honest, when I was jumping in the beginning there were two jumps. I didn’t know until the last stride which one I was jumping,”
The extraordinary perseverance of these athletes is amazing. I’m not sure that I’d have the guts to get on and ride again after an injury so severe, but for them it’s basically a given.