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BLOG: Living with a spinal cord injury

 Emma Booth and Zidane.  © Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page

Emma Booth and her horse Zidane.


© Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page


“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”


-Stephen Hawking


By Emma Booth


To give a brief summary of my “story”, I was 21 years old when I was involved in a serious car accident in which I suffered multiple injuries, including a severed spinal cord which left me a Complete L2 Paraplegic. I was in hospital for 4 months but back in the saddle, riding my horses again 6 months after my injury. I then earned myself a position on the Paralympic Equestrian Team for Rio in 2016. 

No one could prepare me for the sudden life change I was forced to go through - that much is obvious. What I have recently learnt however, is that no one can get the most out of life - living with a SCI or not - except you. Reading this as a statement might seem rather apparent, however to accept this on a personal level, you must truly understand the role your mindset plays in determining outcomes in your life. 


Attitude plays such an imperative part in how we handle different situations and how we approach our lives in general. Sometimes things are tough and it would be easier if we didn’t have to deal with certain circumstances, but the truth is, at times we aren’t given a choice - all we can do is cope. For me, accepting this was a huge turning point in my rehabilitation. 


I also believe that it is difficult to achieve things on your own. You have to try to utilise the help around you. This might seem a little contradictory after my previous statements, but let me explain. Yes, it is true that we as individuals are the only ones that can determine what we want to do or the goals we want to pursue - which ultimately lead to the things we get out of life - but nothing worth doing is easy, and doing it alone is made so much harder. This is why I reiterate the importance of utilising help from others. You can’t do everything on your own. Sometimes it’s difficult to be willing enough to accept assistance from others - in whatever capacity or form this help is offered - but embracing the support you are lucky enough to be surrounded by, is a far better way to achieve the things you put your mind to.



Something I can’t stress enough is how vital it is to be adaptable - this contributes significantly to how we cope. If we accept that sometimes things are changed, but allow ourselves to adapt and learn new ways to do things, then anything is within our capabilities. Someone said to me recently that we can still do anything we want, even with a SCI, it’s just about appreciating the fact it could now be slightly different and coming up with alternate means of ultimately getting to the same outcome. 


Emma Booth and Zidane at the Paralympic staging camp in Netherlands - Photo Credit emmalbooth_ Instagram


Emma, Zidane and groom Shahira at the training camp in Europe prior to the 2016 Rio Paralympics.


© Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page


The main occasion in which I am required to be flexible is when doing things with my horses. There are certain things I am no longer able to do, like put a saddle on, or get on the horse by myself. So again, I have adapted to relying on others so I am still be able to do what I love. I was very independent prior to my accident, therefore always needing help for something I used to do completely independently can sometimes be frustrating, but I have become accustomed to this new system and still get as much joy from being around the horses as I used to. I have worked out a way to muck out the stables in my chair, I carry the hay on my lap, I feed the horses, I harrow the arena and paddocks on my hand controlled quad bike, and I even catch and lead horses off my motorised scooter.

I still consider myself relatively newly injured. I am now 26, and in April it was 4 years since my accident - time flies! Sometimes it feels as though it was only yesterday that I was a patient at the Royal Talbot, but then I remind myself of all the things I have done and achieved since then. 



I recently returned from competing at the Paralympics in Rio. I was on the Equestrian Team and placed 5th in my Individual Championship test. It was such a journey even trying to qualify for the team, and the adventure to Rio really just blew all of my expectations. There were ups and downs but it was certainly an experience that I will never forget. 



Emma Booth and Zidane on the main arena i Rio, 2016 - Photo Emma Booth Para Equestrian facebook page


Emma and Zidane at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.


© Emma Booth Para Equestrian Facebook page



While I was staying in the Village in Rio I spoke to a number of different athletes and more often than not, I took something extremely positive from each of their stories. This is probably one of the things I enjoyed most about my first Paralympic experience – gaining insight from the other individuals that were there.


I was talking to someone towards the end of our time in Rio and they caught me a little off guard when they asked me a rather confronting question.


“If you were given the opportunity to change your past, consequently reversing your SCI, would you?” they asked. 


I thought for a long moment but my instinctive reaction was to say that “Yes, I would”. I think this was probably the more predictable answer and potentially felt like what I should say. Of course if I was given the option to change what happened I should, right?

Ever since this conversation, the question has constantly been in the back of my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I slowly came to the realisation that my answer would actually be “No, I wouldn’t”. 


The things I have experienced, the situations I have learnt from, the amount I have grown as a person, the things I have achieved, the places I have travelled to, and most importantly, the people I have met as a direct result of my injury. It is for all of these reasons that my answer would be no - I really wouldn’t want to change a thing.








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