THE EMPIRE TEAM - MAIJA VANCE
Every single day I am in awe of the girls and guys out there who continue to amaze the world with what they achieve. Each week we are going to take the opportunity to meet the team behind Empire Equestrian and those individuals who inspire us.
This week we are focusing on the story of Maija Vance, our first ambassador rider. Her story will blow you away!
'My dream was always to be a jockey, I started my apprenticeship when I was 17 years old. I was lucky enough after riding for two seasons to go to Brisbane to continue my apprenticeship.
The first season I rode in Brisbane I was the QLD leading metro female rider, although weight was always an issue for me which was really hard to me to deal with. I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and aswell as being in a highly violent and abusive relationship myself I decided after 5 years of riding in Australia to returned to New Zealand where my home and family were.
I continued to battle with my weight to the point that at 59kgs I was to heavy to ride race day. That’s when I decided to have a few rides over hurdles which would make me eligible to ride in “high weight” races.
My fourth race day ride I was on a horse named Zedsational who I had ridden in two previous races placing in both. We were in front turning for home when he misjudged his stride and flipped at the second the last fence. I broke my ribs in 13 places, punctured both my lungs, nearly bit my tongue off and fractured 5 vertibrae in my back. I was airlifted to hospital where they secured my spine however the vertabra at the T8 level had crushed my spinal cord leaving me completely paralysed from the waist down.
When I woke 2 days later the doctors told me to prepare for the rest of my life in a wheelchair as it’s unlikely I will regain any feeling or movement in my legs. I spent 3 months in hospital in the spinal unit which was made much more pleasant after the hospital accepted the fact that my dog was going to live in there with me. I would lay in the hospital bed all day just trying to make my foot move, the day I finally made my left little toe move by myself was probably one of the best moments of my life. The improvement I got was very slow but I was so grateful for every single bit of it.
When I left hospital I was still in a wheelchair most of the time, only being able to take afew small steps without it. Now, I walk in aided, I can’t run (not that I was much good before) but most importantly I can ride my horse. He is only a youngster I broke him in 2 years prior and he was so incredibly patient with me as for the first 6 month I only walk and trotted around a round ring learning how to use my legs on a horse again and finding my balance again.
Fast forward today we go out most weekends showjumping, we are currently doing rounds upto 90cm which is far from the Olympics but it means I can still do what I love the most with the horse I love the most and I think we’ve both come pretty far.'