‘Oh, how the mighty have fallen’ – Thrills and Spills for Charlotte Ricca-Smith this month!

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Not that I’m saying I’m mighty, although if I’m being totally honest I was feeling pretty awesome following our great cross-country round at Borde Hill and an even better training session at Coombelands. As my instructor Caroline Jeanne said “It’s like she’s on springs.” Pepa that is, not me. Thankfully I didn’t keep bouncing out of the saddle.

However, springs might have come in handy at my recent BE event at Rackham, because I really did have a crashing fall. I say ‘I’ it was actually more of a ‘we’. Pepa clipped the fence with a front foot and landed on her head. At least I think that’s what happened, hard to say when one minute you’re galloping over cross-country fences and the next you’re on the floor, in what I can only politely describe as intense pain. I say that to avoid swearing.

I was fairly sure I’d broken something and actually couldn’t get up at first. When the very lovely jump judge came to grab my horse and attempted to get me chatting to take my mind off the pain, I could only reply, “If I talk to you I’m going to throw up.” After which, she went a bit quiet.

It turns out falling at a BE event is just about the best place to break a bone as the paramedics were by my side within minutes, along with my very lovely yard manager, who sprinted, super-hero style, to my side to see what had happened. I remember seeing him then run back to the lorry, with Pepa in tow, as he still had to walk the BE100 course, before competing himself. Pepa was fine, thank goodness, if a little dirty around the ears, where she had face planted into the somewhat sticky going.

I was taken to the ambulance where I sucked down gas and air like a baby having her first bottle of the day and I then proceeded to talk utter drivel while waiting for another ambulance to transfer me to hospital. My main concern at that point was that I had to pick my daughter up from Brownies and that my husband was going to be furious. Let’s just say he’s not a massive fan of me competing in what Time magazine described as ‘The Olympics’ Most Dangerous Sport’.


It could be worse though, I could snowboard or SCUBA dive. Oh wait a minute, I do…  I guess something was bound to get me in the end. And I’d rather fall off a horse than a mountain. He should be thankful I don’t bull ride.

I between texting and organising my family and my horse, I tried to manage the pain, which I refused to accept was worse than child birth. When the paramedic kept asking where the pain was on a score of one to 10, I stubbornly stuck to around a six and refused morphine on the grounds I wanted to stay compos mentis. Big mistake. By the time I arrived at Worthing hospital I was a snotty mess and still in extreme pain. OK, I finally admitted it’s a nine. I may as well have taken the hard drugs as I was frankly off my face from the etonox. I actually started hallucinating and at one point I thought the paramedic was laughing at me for making such a fuss (he probably was), while I was convinced the patient in the next bed was planning some kind of UKIP coup (this was Worthing, he definitely was).

An x-ray revealed a fractured collarbone and a cracked rib. Which meant at least six weeks off riding. Gutted. I was also furious that we’d fallen when we had both being going so well.

I’d even walked the 90 course at Rackham, that morning, thinking I could have entered the 100 – that’s how confident I felt in our partnership. And as I waited in the start box, I told the starter my aim was to get inside the time. Maybe I was riding too fast and maybe I was too bold – who knows. All I do know is that before this accident I felt like I was invincible when jumping Pepa, and now I realise I’m not. It has been a massive shock to the system. Not just the physical pain and the rather spectacular bruising – but mentally I’ve taken a real knock.

I would love to hear from other riders who have come back from a fall, and how you got back into competing. I’ve already been recommended a Fit to Ride www.fittoride.org session with human performance coach Jon Pitts and any other advice would be gratefully received. I know that with the support of my pony pals I will be out eventing before the end of the season. Watch this space…




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