Broken Back Pitfalls: how I ended up underneath a racehorse


Broken Back Pitfalls: how I ended up underneath a racehorse

Kintsukuroi (n) (v.phr)

‘to repair with gold’; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver laquer and understanding the piece is more beautiful from having been broken.

Riding out on the gallops at Epsom Downs is the most exhilarating sensation I have ever experienced. What heroin must be to an addict.


I received permission from my Commanding Officer to represent my Regiment and wear our silks in the prestigious Royal Artillery Gold Cup horse race at Sandown Park. No soldier from the Honourable Artillery Company had ridden in it and it was a tremendous honour.

On a trip to Sardinia with a fellow soldier I read Silks by Felix and Dick Francis. From the first chapter I knew that I wanted to experience what it was like to ride downhill to the first jump on that course.

That and I was thrill seeking from the monotony of going to an office every day whilst I qualified as a lawyer.

My dad joined me one morning, he would go with the trainer to the top of the sand gallop. It gently rises to the top of the downs and on a clear day the view stretches to Oxford and to the right and below is the grandstand of Epsom racecourse, home of the Derby.

Treacle as a yearling
We warmed up on the sand and took a short walk to the poly track. Treacle and I were working with two other horses and I was in the middle.  He began to fall back and my last memory of being mounted was working to get behind him and complete a decent piece of work.

The polytrack


Then blackness and my next recollection was hearing the chug of helicopter rota blades. Fast forward, how long I am not certain, and people in white coats asking me who the Queen of England is.

Adamant that it was race day my biggest concern was finding my horse and that I would miss the beginning of the race.

Dad becoming increasingly perturbed at my confusion. In addition the Doctors could not make a decision on injuries sustained. They decided to ship me to Atkinson Morley at St George’s Hospital. The fragile state of T8 demanded the handiwork of a neurosurgeon.

Inhaling half the polytrack
It transpires that the horse tripped and fell onto his nose and to the side, pushing off me to get to his feet and stepping on me as he trotted off.

Dad ran to me, gurgling and blood pouring from my mouth, he thought I was dying. Regaining consciousness and desperately trying to get to my feet he pinned me down. I f’d and blinded and by all accounts some of my less attractive qualities came to light. The paramedic announced…

Make another move young lady and it might be the last you ever make’

…I lay still and zipped it.

My brother was on route and it crossed his mind that he might never see me again. Together they loaded me broken into the air ambulance and I asked for lip balm, apparently a good sign.

At this point I was back in the room and, you lunatics, it’s Queen Elizabeth and Tuesday the 17th.

For a week I lay in the High Dependancy Unit with an unstable spine. Five fractured vertebrae and the aforementioned T8 in little pieces. An interesting week, certainly not the worst and I would suggest, if categorised, Type 2 fun, enjoyable after the event.


I viewed everything from above and watched the nurses come and go and admire the incredible work they do.

The first time I have been completely and utterly helpless and dependant on others. Back to childhood and embarking on a long and unexpected adventure.


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