Maria’s Story

I am now 28 years old and my accident happened when I was 20 years old. I had grown up around horses and my grandparents always had ponies at home. It was a passion which I had from a very young age. I always wanted to work with horses and competed in showjumping at a novice level and attended pony club like many young girls. When I was 16, I went to a Breeze Up yard, a yard where they would prepare young horses for their journey to become race-horses. I worked here on weekends between school and studies and then when I finished school I continued to work here travelling to Italy, France and the UK with these young horses. I loved my job so much. I loved the breaking-in process and the involvement I had with these young thoroughbreds. I had the best group of friends and the best boss you could ask for. It was a fantastic team. 

Unfortunately on one particular trip to Paris in April 2008, when I was riding one of these horses, I had a fall and the horse I was riding went through the running rail and managed to fall on top of me. I was taken to Beaujon hospital in Paris where I under went scans and x-rays to discover I had a compound fracture to my L1 and compression on the spinal cord. I still had a mixed feeling sensation in my legs but obviously knew something wasn’t 100%. Luckily the French doctors were fantastic and I underwent surgery straight away to pin the spine in place. I have still got six pins and two rods fixed between T11 and L2 and have an incomplete SCI. After the surgery I remained in Paris for another week and then was airlifted back to Ireland to CUH. It was soon after the surgery that I discovered the incontinence issues and this has not changed. I am now, almost 8 years later, still doubly incontinent. I do think however that I am very lucky to be walking and I always believe there are people in a much tougher position than me.  

I guess I had a very positive outlook and in the end it was mind over matter – I just had to get on with things and not let this hinder my quality of life. The following January, nine months later I went travelling to Asia and Australia for a couple of years. My parents would post me catheters and were extremely supportive. I was quite headstrong and did not want this to stop me. When I returned from Australia I continued to work in the thoroughbred industry as this was where my passion lay. I attended the bloodstock auctions worldwide and I knew that I wanted to have a career in the equine business.  

After a lot of time and effort and working for nothing at times, I finally found the position I wanted to begin my long term career. I am now extremely lucky to be working for an organisation called Shadwell which specialises in breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. It is owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and I work in the racing department for racing manager, Angus Gold. I love my job and feel very lucky that things have worked out for me. 

At the end of October I was devastated to find out that a friend, Freddy Tylicki, a jockey in the UK had fallen from his horse in a race on Halloween. The mount clipped heels and came down, bringing down three other horses. He has sustained T7 paralysis. This has truly rocked the racing community and our thoughts and support are with him for the future challenges that lie ahead. “

– Maria Ryan