St Albans horse rider helped back from the brink after brain trauma

Sam Townsend and Bryony Jones

Sam Townsend and Bryony Jones - Credit: Archant

A young horse rider who suffered life-changing brain trauma after her mount kicked her in the head, is now training to work in the gym that helped her recover.

Bryony Jones

Bryony Jones - Credit: Archant

Bryony Jones, 24, who lives in Seymour Road, St Albans, previously worked with horses but now plans to become involved in therapeutic gym work.

Bryony was at work one July day last year, when a horse which had recently given birth uncharacteristically lashed out.

She said: “I was kicked in the head by a horse in the field and had to be airlifted to hospital. I then had major surgery on my head, as my skull was smashed and various areas of my brain were also affected.

“They didn’t know if I would be just lying there not able to do anything, or really disabled or in a wheelchair.

Bryony Jones on her horse

Bryony Jones on her horse - Credit: Archant

“I have titanium plates fitted across my forehead. I was kept under sedation for nearly a month, and had to spend a long time in hospital.

“A month and a half after it happened, I still could not talk, eat or walk.

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“But if you have the determination and motivation to do it, then once they tell you to do something, you do it. I was expected to be in hospital for six months but I was out in 12 weeks. I aimed high!

“When I was allowed ‘weekend leave’, my recovery was supported by sessions at the YMCA gym, in Russet Drive, St Albans, with an amazing personal trainer, Sam Townsend.

“He has all the relevant qualifications and runs groups for people who have Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, neurological problems, and the GRASP scheme (group rehabilitation after stroke programme).

“I managed to grow in confidence, improve all other areas of my rehab - not just physical - and have even changed my vocation in life.”

She owns two horses, which she has had since she was 11, and competed for many years as a high-level show jumper. She has ridden since she was six years old.

She said: “As I’m no longer allowed to work with horses, there are some gym-related courses that I could do that would lead me to being qualified to help people in future. I am firstly training to be a gym instructor (with the YMCA) to begin with.”

Brave Bryony is waiting for a cranioplasty operation, which will help reconstruct her skull. She contacted the Herts Ad because she wants to make others in similar situations aware of the opportunities and the help that is available.

She explained: “The NHS did not put us in touch with this – we found it ourselves. The exercises are very different to the rehab exercises. I believe the reason I have recovered so well, is down to these.”

The devastating accident did not put her off horses. She rides her horses, Tommy, 19, and Wodka, 11, twice a week.

She added: “I have always loved horses. I was back riding even when I was still in hospital. Because it didn’t happen when I was riding - and it wasn’t my horse - I don’t feel so bad.

“I was so close to dying and the accident was that serious, that I have to be really careful around horses. If I whacked my head now, that would be me, dead. There’s still some brain injury but I can do everything I used to, as long as I am careful. I am really lucky. It has totally changed my perspective.”

Sam, who works at YMCA West and Central Herts, said: “We have worked together for around nine months. We worked predominantly on balance, strength and coordination exercises and made significant improvements.

“Bryony made huge strides, physically and mentally, and being a part of her on-going rehabilitation has been an incredible experience and a privilege.”