Sandie Robertson, 38, showjumper

WHEN I hit the ground I remember the almighty ringing sound. I remember thinking, ‘oh, no’ and hearing a really funny noise. Then I realised the noise was me trying to breathe.

I remember the ambulance crew saying that the important thing with spinal fractures is the sooner they get to them and immobilise them the better chance of recovery. I didn’t understand, I thought that’s a strange thing to be talking about, who’s broken their back?

I was so consumed by the pain that I wasn’t thinking clearly, but you never think that you’ve broken your back because you don’t know what that feels like.

The night before the showjumping show, my friend and I went to get her lorry and it started snowing. Her mum phoned us and said she didn’t think that we should go. That was the first time ever.

I realised I had forgotten my hat which was the best thing I have ever done because my friend had been given a riding hat for Christmas which was a new style that had a titanium strip over the centre where all the standard ones were just velvet. She let me borrow it. That was what saved my life.

When I walked the track there was a fence I felt could cause us a problem because it didn’t give us much room in the corner – there has to be room for you to be able to get your stride right.

When we came into the arena my horse did exactly as I thought he would. There was no way to jump it so he stopped, as he should have done because he shouldn’t have jumped off that stride, but being a foal he decided that as there was a jump in front of him, he had to jump it. So he cat-jumped from a standstill which propelled me straight up in the air. I came down on my head like an arrow.

That moment seemed to go on for about 30 seconds. When I was in the air I remember thinking, 'why can’t I feel my saddle’. I just remember my right hand trying desperately to grab onto something. I had no concept that I was upside down.

I was in A&E for 6 hours. I was strapped down and couldn’t move, couldn’t feel my legs. The doctor pulled open the curtain and said, 'you are broken here, here, here and here. Do not move.'

I was immobilised for two days. I was in hospital for about another 10 days in the body cast, then I was sent home for bed rest for about five months.

I’ll never forget coming home from the hospital in the back of my stepdad’s Volvo and being taken into my bedroom. Mum had left the windows open. I will never ever forget the smell of the fresh air.

I was so full of morphine and painkillers that I didn’t realise how bad it was. The specialist said I would never ride again, and I'd be lucky to walk again.

But I never doubted I'd walk and ride. I sat on a horse a year to the day after I started recovery, but it was probably about 18 months afterwards before I rode again.

I don’t have any discs where the fracture happened and I have arthritis, but strangely the more I ride the better it is because it keeps my core strong.

I’d like to get back out competing to a level I’m happy with, much to the terror of my mother!

Life coach Sandie Robertson blogs on

Stuart Stone