Irish world-record breaking rider who suffered brain injury aims to be first to ride Camino sidesaddle

Irish world-record breaking rider who suffered brain injury aims to be first to ride Camino sidesaddle

An accomplished Irish horse-rider who remarkably made a full recovery after suffering an acquired brain injury in a fall, is attempting to be the first woman ever to ride the Camino Way side-saddle

World-record holder Susan Oakes, 36, from Navan, Co. Meath is due to fly to France on Friday along with four horses to trek the 899km trail from St Jean Pied de Port to Finisterre over 21 days.

Susan has undertaken the challenge for two charities - the Society for the Protection of working Animals Abroad (SPANA) and Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, which aided her after a fall from a horse almost three years ago.

In 2016, Susan was warming up for the Central Park Horse Show in New York when her saddle broke and she fell from the horse, landing on her feet.

However the shock waves that rippled through her body from her feet caused two bleeds on her brain which left her unconscious for a week.

When she woke up, she was paralysed on her left side and had lost her speech and sight in her left eye.

"It was a freak accident and it did take a lot of time, patience and rehabilitation but thankfully, I'm now fully recovered," she said

"All I wanted to do was to get back on a horse but I had developed vertigo from my affected sight so it took longer than expected to ride again.

"I still spent a lot of time with my horses as therapy, even though I couldn't do anything."

The horsewoman who holds a world record for the highest jump sidesaddle at six foot, eight inches realises how lucky she is.

Irish world-record breaking rider who suffered brain injury aims to be first to ride Camino sidesaddle

"I'm actually so grateful that I had the accident. I feel like I've been reborn and that I'm a changed person. Nothing can stress me out anymore."

Although always wanting to ride the pilgrimage Camino Way on horseback, she never thought about side-saddle until she decided to undertake the feat for charity.

"I just think that I should make it a little tougher for myself if it's for charity. Since I suffered a brain injury, I have confronted some major challenges.

I feel that now it is time to share my experiences as I would not like anyone to go through this alone and not to be aware of this amazing charity who are on hand to assist you and the people closest to you in living and dealing with a brain injury, which can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"I'm also hoping to raise funds for SPANA, which help the welfare of some 200 million animals - namely donkeys, horses, mules, camels and elephants - transport goods to market, children to schools and water and supplies to remote communities."

The trek will also be a challenge, she admits, for the horses.

Susan will travel with four horses.One of which will be taken by her friend who will accompany her and two others will be on hand for anyone who wants to join in on any point of the journey.

"They are used to big international arenas with crowds wishing them on and performing on perfect footing, surrounded by luxury to the quiet and solitude of trails, byways and roads as we meander across France and into Spain".

Anyone who would like to donate can do so here.

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