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‘She’s going, come hell or excessive water’: rider who missed Europeans after she saved husband’s life is chosen once more

  • The husband of a rider who missed her chance to compete at the veteran European Showjumping Championships last year after she saved his life when he had a brain haemorrhage said she will go this year “come hell or high water”.

    Faye Riddington-Smith was selected for the British team last year, on her own Heron, but was unable to go as her husband Jason suffered a life-threatening aneurysm at home. The combination has been picked again this year and both Faye and Jason are determined she will go, despite the cost of about £3,000.

    “Out of the blue, on 29 June last year, I had this brain haemorrhage and Faye saved my life,” Jason told H&H. “I was taken to hospital and put in a coma, then developed meningitis and had a further seizure, paralysis, a retinal haemorrhage and all kinds of things, and she had to withdraw.

    “She thought that was it, her chance gone.”

    Jason said he has been unable to work for the past year and Faye has been supporting them both. He has now set up a fundraising page in hopes of meeting the cost of travelling to Darmstadt-Kranichstein, Germany, where competition starts on 8 September.

    Jason hopes the page will raise the necessary funds

    “When she got the call-up this year, I thought ‘Come hell or high water, she’s going this time’,” Jason said. “It’s something to get picked once, but twice is brilliant.”

    Jason said doctors are unable to explain why he has made such a good recovery, although they are open-minded to the possibility that the tai chi he has long practised may have contributed. He also credits riding, which as an actor, he learned from Steve Dent who provides horses for films.

    “It’s been a tough year for us both,” he said. “There were moments I can remember getting better; six weeks after I came out of hospital, Faye put me on our youngster and that was the first time she’d seen me smile since. There’s something about riding and having to communicate calmness to a very sharp horse; they’ve played a massive part in my recovery.”

    Jason and Faye bought Heron as a three-year-old, seven years ago, and she has taken him to jumping consistent double clears at 1.30m.

    “He’s a very soft, gentle, loving horse but highly strung,” she told H&H. “He’s just super-careful and brave, and so unbelievably talented.

    “It’s overwhelming [to be selected] and I’m so excited; more for the horse because he hasn’t had the chance to shine.”

    Faye said before the aneurysm, Jason had said he had a headache, and felt sick, and knowing what she does now, she would advise anyone with such symptoms to seek medical help.

    “I heard a thud,” she said. “I called the ambulance and they said to do CPR, which I did, but he was unbelievably lucky. He’s been through hell and back but he’s still so lucky because a very small percentage of people make it.

    “It was so traumatic but we’re through it now, so fingers crossed this will be a good end to a very tough year.”

    Faye and Jason both thanked British Showjumping for her Union Flag jacket and gear, and the £500 contribution to costs.

    “She’s definitely going,” Jason said. “It would mean the world to her to go, and to me because she couldn’t go last time, and for Heron because he deserves to be on that kind of stage. She’ll drive and I’ll be there too; nothing could keep me away.”

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