When Katie Brickman and Flash were hurt, she feared she would never ride again, but the pair have qualified for a top competition. Catherine Scott reports.
Two years ago Katie Brickman was told she would never ride again after a freak accident.
She was devastated and the bad news was compounded when her beloved horse Flash was also injured.
But the determined equine vet, who lives in Welburn, North Yorkshire, has defied expectations and she and Flash have qualified for a top eventing competition.
Katie, 29, who works at Minster Equine Veterinary Clinic in Ripon, refused to give up when doctors told her riding career was over because of a hand injury.
She then used the same determination to help Flash recover from an injury most competition horses would never recover from.
In March 2017, Katie suffered the horrific injury when she fell over while carrying a 500ml glass bottle of antibiotics, severing an artery and nerves in her left hand.
“I was lucky that one of the people working in the yard was also a nurse so she helped tourniquet my hand as there was a lot of blood.”
She was rushed to hospital in York and then transferred in Hull, where she underwent an eight-hour operation.
She was told the damage was so serious, she might never be able to properly grip reins again and was advised to retire from riding.
For someone who had ridden since she was three, it was devastating.
Two months later, Flash suffered a serious injury when he ripped a ligament in the stifle joint at the top of his leg while in his field.
The prognosis was so bleak, Katie feared he would have to be put down.
“When he had a bone scan it was so bad that they said I should even think about having him put down.
“But I love that horse. He is really quirky and not easy but for me he is amazing and I wasn’t going to give up on him.”
Katie and Flash both made a miraculous recovery and returned to competition this year.
Not only have they enjoyed their best-ever year with four wins, they have qualified for Badminton Horse Trials Grassroots Championships, in May, part of one of the biggest events in the world equine sporting calendar.
Katie, who has worked with Minster Equine Veterinary Clinic in York and Malton as well as Ripon for six years, has a particular interest in orthopaedics and the performance of sport horses so was in the ideal position to help Flash.
“He was very lame on his left hind leg and, following diagnostics, it was discovered he had split his middle patella ligament,” explains Katie.
“This is an extremely rare injury, in fact I have only found one other case in America.
“I was told Flash may never be sound again, never mind event again.”
After six months of rest, Katie took him for a bone scan at Rainbow Equine Hospital, which like Minster Equine Clinic, is owned by VetPartners, a York-based veterinary group. While she feared he would never compete in eventing again, she hoped Flash could at least ride again.
She started giving him laser, shockwave and ultrasound treatment to the injured stifle joint, as well as stem cell therapy.
By August 2018, he was making such good progress, Katie decided to test out his recovery, as well as her own, by jumping then this year started competing.
“It was the best feeling ever,” she says.
“I took it very very slowly as I would never want to anything that would harm him. But he loves to compete.”
In October 2018, she competed at Askham Bryan College, in York and won.
After finishing fifth in their first British Evening One-Day Event at Epworth, near Doncaster, Katie and Flash won at Northallerton in April, finished second at Richmond in May, before winning a qualifier for the Three-Day Event National Championships in Oxford in June.
They won that event and then finished fourth in the British Eventing Regional Finals, at Western Park, in October, qualifying for the Badminton Horse Trials Grassroots Championship.
Katie will still have to have physiotherapy on her hand and she will never be able to lay it flat.
“I had to have a second operation on my hand and then after that the physio was really painful, but I was told it was crucial.
“It actually was easier holding the reins and riding.
“Flash and I have both gone from being told neither of us will never compete again to qualifying for the Badminton Grassroots Championships.
“He has had an amazing season and it’s been our best ever year. It goes to show you should never give up and all horses deserve a chance to recover from even the worst kind of injuries.
“I never gave up hope on either of us, but to reach Badminton is beyond my wildest dreams.
“Flash is a very special horse because he had a tough start as I don’t think he was treated well before I got him so he’s very nervous.
“It was really grim news about his injury as he was extremely lame, but I was determined to do everything to help him recover even though everything was stacked against him.”
Katie added: “My surgeon says he couldn’t believe it, but I am stubborn, and was determined to ride again. I was also determined not to give up on Flash.
“We have such a good relationship as a horse and rider, and I’m absolutely thrilled at what we’ve achieved together against all the odds.”