When professional horse rider Kelly Webster was thrown from her horse in a freak riding accident, which nearly killed her, she thought she would never be able to climb back in the saddle again.
The fall was so traumatic that the lifelong horse lover could not face riding again – which essentially meant her career would be over.
Kelly, aged 34, rides and trains race horses in Newmarket. When she was crushed under the weight of two horses in the accident her body protector saved her from more serious injury – but her confidence was shattered.
When she came to me she was hopeful that I could help, but quite dubious I think!
Here is her story, and how hypnotherapy completely turned her life around.
“I have been around horses since I was a teenager and have worked with them since the age of 20. But after that accident I honestly thought my career was over; the trauma was so great I just couldn’t face riding again.
“The thought of getting back on a horse made me feel sick and anxious. I thought ‘well, that’s it, my job is over. I just couldn’t bear the thought of going back to work. I have ridden horses all my life and had many accidents and falls over the years, but this was something else. This was just too close for comfort.
“My job basically entails exercising racehorses between events to keep up their fitness and I ride out three or four horses every morning.
“On the morning of the accident, I was riding out with another trainer along a main road in Newmarket, England. Racehorses have their own pavement, or ‘horse walk’, here and I was riding my horse behind my colleague in front.
“I looked over my shoulder and could just make out a loose horse behind us. I remember not really thinking much about it as the horse was quite a way behind, but the next thing I knew, it had crashed into the back of my horse at full speed and sent me flying.
“To be honest I don’t recall much about what happened next, but from piecing it together afterwards, it seems my horse smashed into the back of my colleague’s mount and then I think I knocked heads with my horse as it threw its neck back and I fell unconscious.
“When I woke up I was face down on a muddy pavement with two horses scrambling madly to get up off me.
“I later discovered that the loose horse had smashed through a wooden fence and in doing so its saddle had slipped under its belly. This is something which makes a horse go crazy and out of control. The horse hurtled up the road and galloped straight into the back of my horse at full speed.
“There were builders working opposite and they called the ambulance straight away. They said they didn’t expect to find me alive underneath the weight of the two horses.
“I had a couple of broken ribs and some bleeding and had been totally winded so I could hardly breathe.
“To be honest, the only thing that saved me that day was my body protector, which is pretty much like a bullet-proof vest!
“But I was really shaken up. My son was six at the time it happened and I kept thinking to myself what could have happened? What would have happened to him?
“I’ve had lots of falls in all my years of riding, but nothing like this. This was something else and the thought of getting back on a horse terrified me. I knew it was a freak accident and would probably never happen again, but still I couldn’t face getting back in the saddle.
“Riding has been my life. I love my job, but I had to work in the yard because I just couldn’t move on. I couldn’t bear to go into the paddock.
“Horses can sense fear and I knew I would be a danger to myself.
“But the thought of never working with horses or riding again made me determined to do something about it. I didn’t want this for myself.
“Then a friend of a friend on the equestrian circuit told me about hypnotherapist Russell Hemmings and suggested I give him a call.
“I was really dubious at first. I wasn’t sure he could help me at all. After the first session I did feel great and completely relaxed, but I thought to myself ‘I don’t feel any different’.
“I kept listening to the CD he’d given me and I remained hopeful.
“Then a couple of weeks later, after my second session, Russell suggested we went to the stables together to see how far I had come.
“We went to the paddock and right there and then I knew my anxiety had reduced. Because he was there it did reassure me and he kept talking it through and made sure I was always comfortable. But something really had changed in me and my confidence was back and I felt so much calmer. I just couldn’t believe it!
“I do not know how he did it, but I no longer give it a second thought. All the anxiety and stress has gone. All the tension and thoughts about the accident. I just feel like I could cope once again. Back to my old self.
“And, the best thing of all, it means I’m back doing the job that I love.”
So what happened to Kelly?
Well, she was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. It is inevitable that some of us will experience stresses, strains and accidents at some time in our lives. For most of us, recovery will be a natural process, which occurs over time, without the need for further help.
But for others, certain traumatic and frightening events can trigger a reaction which can last for months or even years.
“It manifests both physically and psychologically and is thought to occur in around 30 per cent of individuals who experience a traumatic event.
“With hypnotherapy, we can use a combination of therapies to remove or reduce the negative thoughts and behaviours surrounding the event. Clients literally learn to reframe their experience in a way that will help them.
“If we avoid situations or stimulus that frighten us, we can also develop a phobia, and Kelly had a combination of PTSD and her anxiety had developed into a phobia.
A number of other disorders can be treated using this approach including anxiety, depression, panic attacks, stress reduction and addictions.
Great to see you back in the saddle Kelly!