International horse rider Michael Smith has fought his way back to the top of his sport after a horrific injury that could have resulted in the amputation of his right arm.
Michael, 48, was taking part in a qualifying round two years ago to compete for Britain against South Africa in the equestrian sport of tentpegging when the accident happened.
His horse, Merlot Windsor, panicked when its bridle came off, and when Michael tried to jump off he landed so badly on his right arm that he suffered multiple fractures in his elbow, a broken humerus and a dislocated shoulder. Five surgeons said they had never seen so many injuries on one arm and feared it may have to be amputated.
Michael had been one of the top three UK riders in the UK for tentpegging, an equestrian sport where riders pick up small pegs with a sword or lance while galloping. Now he feared that would end.
After two weeks in two different hospitals, Michael was told that at best he could expect only 60% of movement to return to his arm but he was determined to get back to his sport and started physiotherapy at The Horder Centre where he continued sessions for about a year.
Remarkably he now has about 95% of movement back and, after two years away from his sport, he was able to compete internationally again in February this year. Michael represented Great Britain against Pakistan and South Africa where he won a bronze medal and helped the team to a silver medal in the team of four event with sword.
He has just competed in the Royal Windsor Horse Show where he came second out of 33 in the Individual Tentpegging category.
He said: “I decided to fight to get back to my sport. My wife, a chiropractor, knew of the Horder Centre’s reputation so I decided to have physio there. I have to say that without the input of the physiotherapists, first Sam, then Anne-marie, at The Horder, I don’t think I’d have got the 95% movement back in my arm. It helps if you’ve got a fighting mentality, and you’re not going to accept the injury, but the work they did was essential. It was quite radical physio and there were many sessions but it worked and I am forever in their debt.”
Michael has offered to talk to any patients at The Horder Centre who go through such a traumatic injury as one of the difficulties he experienced was simply wondering how long the process would take to return to the sport he loved.
He added: “I couldn’t talk to anyone who had had a similar injury and then one day at an event, there was a woman who had had four fractures to her arm and she told me it had taken two years to get the movement back that she wanted. It was just reassuring to know that it could be done.”
Now Michael is fighting fit, and with the help of the best elbow guard he could find, now looks forward to more success riding for his country in years to come.
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