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feet, both literally and figuratively. Then the unthinkable happened. Back on the


motorcycle and out enjoying a ride on a local back road, the pair was struck by disaster again in the form of another automobile. This time, Jennifer’s injuries were even more serious. She suffered multiple breaks, including a compound fracture of the femur and breaks in both the tibia and fibula. She also tore both her ACL and her MCL ligaments and her hip flexor muscles. She lost so much blood, she recounts now, that her


heart stopped three times. Because of the extensive damage, doctors made plans to amputate her leg. Her boyfriend—soon to be her husband—argued against it and the surgeon agreed. Instead, he performed major surgery, using six inches of bone removed from a cadaver to replace bone smashed too completely to heal.


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LONG ROAD BACK Jennifer woke up after two weeks in a medically induced coma to find her world turned upside down. “I spent the next two years just learning to walk again,” she says. “I also had four more surgeries, including one to exchange some of the titanium rods that had been inserted in my legs. The bills from the accident were simply overwhelming. I sank into a depression and lost my business.” Her marriage, a choice she made during her recovery, became an abusive relationship, she says and Jennifer decided divorce was her only option. Reaching out for both security and change, she moved to Cincinnati to rejoin her mother. It was the beginning of the next phase of her equestrian journey. Now able to walk again, she did so haltingly and with a


limp. After all, she points out, one leg is a full inch shorter than the other. Despite that, she began to volunteer for a


Above: Jennifer and Duel at their final selection trial competition, which qualified Jennifer for the WEG. Photo courtesy Janet Harms


local therapeutic riding center as a “sidewalker,” assisting with lessons. It made her rethink her own supposed limitations. “The doctor said I’d never ride again. But I thought that


if these kids are able to ride and enjoy horses, why can’t I do it too? After all, I already know how to ride. Before the accident, I earned my USDF bronze medal and was on my way to my silver. I really started to think that maybe there was a chance for me too!”


A CHANCE TO RIDE One of her mother’s students, who owned a gentle and trustworthy horse, agreed to let Jennifer try to ride. “In my heart, I thought it would be like it was once I was up on a horse,” Jennifer recounts. “I was already imagining trotting!” The reality was starkly different.


“It was so hard to get on and just be led around the ring. It was incredibly painful—I just burst into tears. But it also showed me it could be done,” she says. “As much as it hurt, I just kept trying to ride,” she continues. “I had to—without riding in my life, I was pretty much dead inside. ” As the months went by, Jennifer’s pain while riding eased and she got back some of the freedom she had wanted so badly. She was even able to attend a local dressage show that offered prospective para-equestrians the chance to be classified. (All para- equestrians are classified according to the severity of their injuries.)


Jennifer was classified as a grade IV para-equestrian, considered the least disabled. “My dispensation is to use two whips to make up for the weakness in my legs,” she explains. “I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time. The doctor handling the classification was an international one, so I actually received my FEI classification card at my first show!” Life remained difficult. “I was broke and living at my mother’s house in a room off the garage.” But both she


Warmbloods Today 43


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