Zimbabwe’s Yara Hanssen Will Not Be Stopped By Horrific Fall

On 31 January, 2010, equestrian Yara Hanssen (ZIM) had an horrific fall from her horse during cross country training that left her suffering from amnesia and forced her to spend almost two weeks in hospital. Riding a horse that does not like water jumps, Hanssen unexpectedly came to a causeway.  When her horse refused to jump, 16 year-old Hanssen was flipped over the animal's neck into waist-deep water.  The horse then trampled on her, leaving her with a punctured lung, three cracked ribs and a severe concussion.

"I don't remember the fall but apparently I had to be dragged out of the water and I was absolutely screaming," said Hanssen. With no ambulance available, Hanssen's mother had to drive her on a painful 50km dash back to the capital, Harare, along a bumpy dirt road.

Over the next five days Hanssen suffered from severe amnesia.  She could recognise her mother, but other well-wishers who visited her in hospital were like strangers.  "Lots of my friends were visiting me but I didn't even remember them. They would come in and I was like 'who are you? I don't know who you are,'" she said.

Almost a week later, the faces of family and friends started to become familiar again, and now six months on Hanssen says although she still cannot remember much about the day of the accident she has pretty much fully recovered.  Incredibly she was back riding just two months after the fall and says she holds no fear about competing, despite having to be extremely careful about suffering any further head injuries.

"I actually think I'm better for the experience, I think it helped me to grow up," she said.  Hanssen spent her early years living in rural Zimbabwe searching for gold with her mother, who is a geologist.  The only other children to play with lived 20km away making it difficult to socialise with people her own age.  Forced to find other interests Hanssen developed a love for the wild donkeys of the area, and that quickly turned to a love of horses.

Constantly nagging her mother for a horse of her own finally paid off, and Hanssen quickly demonstrated her ability in the saddle.  Here in Singapore she is happy to switch from digging for gold, to jumping for gold.  "I guess I already know what gold is, so that has to be an advantage for me," she said.