Back in the Saddle After a Tough Horse Racing Accident

Horse racing runs in the family so it was no surprise that Skyler wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and pursue her dream of being a thoroughbred horse jockey. In 2019, everything changed in the course of one afternoon, leaving Skyler to wonder if she’d ever race again.

In one swift move, Skyler’s horse flipped, leaving her arm pinned between the horse and a metal bar. She suffered a closed displaced comminuted fracture at the radius and ulna, which was essentially a broken arm. Her surgery lasted for 5 hours and included plates and multiple screws.

Skyler began physical therapy treatment for her broken arm at the Ivy Rehab/Northern Physical Therapy clinic in Allendale, MI, which is close to Grand Valley State University (GVSU), where she was pursuing a nursing degree. When rehabilitation started Skyler was using a brace during all daily activities and focusing on simple range of motion activities along with scar tissue mobility and soft tissue healing. She progressed to light strengthening and placing weight on her injured arm.

Her strengthening really started to get more involved at the 3 to 4-month phase. This was the stage where she really ramped up her gym time at GVSU with both upper and lower body strengthening, core activities, and aerobic conditioning in addition to her PT. Then she was able to start simulating her work tasks and get into more lifting, carrying, and stabilization to allow her to manage her horse safely with the reigns.

“From the first visit with Skyler I could tell she was a determined individual,” said Thomas Genther, PT, DPT. “Even after sustaining her injury, her goal from day one was to literally and metaphorically “get back on the horse.” Every week she worked hard to get her range of motion, strength, and sport specific function back. We’re proud to say that Skyler exceeded all of her goals and has been able to return to her high level of racing.”

The ultimate goal was to be able to manage her horse without the assistance of others; all while keeping herself, the horse, and others safe.

We spoke with Skyler about her experience and the time she spent working on getting her arm strength and range of motion back. Skyler had this to say,  “I thought it was going to be a super hard journey and I wasn’t sure if my broken arm was ever going to be 100% again. I learned that I had nothing to worry about, my therapists were amazing! My biggest challenge was getting out of my head. It really set me back at the beginning because I thought my arm was going to hurt a lot and never gain function again.

My biggest victory was galloping a tough horse after I graduated from physical therapy, and feeling stronger than I was before I broke my arm.  My journey back to the saddle was long and hard. I worked hard to be where I am now and I couldn’t have done it without the motivation from the staff at Ivy Rehab / Northern Physical Therapy. There were times I was tired and wanted to give up on the exercise but I thought of riding the horses again and pushed myself harder. It was really a mental game, I had to be strong-minded and learn to trust my arm again. It wasn’t an easy journey but if I could go back and do it all over I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m more confident because of all of this.”

“Skyler asked great questions and really took her rehabilitation to heart,” said Terri Jeurink, MPT, CMP,Ivy Rehab Network CIDN. “Healing from surgery leads to varied pain and body changes that can be concerning, but she developed trust in our team that allowed her to push herself forward toward her long term goals. Not everyone can overcome such a significant injury, and I am very proud of her passion and drive to attend her therapy sessions, work hard at home and at the gym and get back to working with horses with her family and friends.”

Our whole team is so proud of Skyler and we’re thrilled that we were able to see her through this tough journey and get her back to doing what she loves.

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