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People Making Changes 40 - Triumph For Disabled Rider
Dorothy - 11/6/99

Jill Lloyd chosen to join the New Zealand team to compete in the World Dressage Championships in Denmark in July

Jill with a Christchurch RDA mount, Dancer
Jill with a Christchurch RDA mount, Dancer
Photo source Jill Lloyd
Jill began riding when she was ten years old and got her first horse when she was twelve. Caring for her horse and riding were her two greatest interests. She continued to ride until she had her first child and was unable to find time for her riding.

Jill is disabled by a fall.
On April 11 1994 Jill had a fall in her home and landed on the back of her head. She became concussed and twelve hours later she was suffering the worst headache in her life. She rang her friend Rose and told her about the pain in her head. Then she began hallucinating and before losing consciousness she managed to grab the phone and press the redial button. Rose had not left for work because she had been held up by another phone call. Miraculously she had 'Call Waiting' so she took Jill's call. Jill could no longer speak but made sounds of distress. Rose realised who was in trouble, and rushed to help Jill.

Why did a simple fall at home cause such catastrophic results?
Jill was admitted to hospital, and a CT scan showed that an unrecognised congenital problem had caused a weakness, an arterio venous malformation (AVM), which resulted in a severe haemorrhage in her left thalamus. After ten weeks in Christchurch Hospital she was taken to Sydney for laser treatment to shrink the AVM - a very trying experience demanding total stillness in clamps for twelve hours before the laser treatment. It took eighteen months for the AVM to shrink.

The long road back to mobility
Jill was left suffering from right hemiplegia - the loss of the functional use of the right side of her body. At first she could not formulate a sentence or start a conversation. What she did not lose was her determination. She began the fight back to some sort of normal life. As a widow with three children she felt a great need to be able to resume care of them, but the road back has been a long one.

She stayed with her mother on her return from Australia and worked to regain some mobility. Her first task was to learn to be left-handed as she couldn't use her right hand. That in itself was difficult, but it was made worse by the OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome) which caused pain in the left side of her neck and her left arm and wrist. She also suffered from short term memory problems.

She went to the gym three times a week to increase her mobility, at first at the YMCA and then at the gym run by physiotherapist, Brian McKenzie, who taught her stretching and balancing exercises to counteract the OOS.

A time of great triumph came in December 1995 when with a great surge of determination and effort she became able to drive her own specially adapted car.

Jill had now achieved a degree of mobility and independence, but her family were at school and she felt the need of an occupation and a new challenge. She went to Enable Occupational Therapy for advice and testing to see what work her disability would allow her to do. She tried working as a motivator and role model for the physically disabled students at Mairehau High School. Unfortunately she couldn't manage the physical demands of the job.

The occupational therapist at the Head Injury Society asked her to be a coach for a woman in her thirties who had suffered a head injury when she was fifteen. Being able to drive Jill can take the woman to the gym and other activities, and gets great satisfaction from helping someone with problems similar to her own.

Joining Riding for the Disabled
Feeling the need for a leisure activity in August 1995 Jill went to Kiwi Enable, a service run by the Christchurch City Council, to find out what activities might be possible for her with her disability. Because of her earlier riding experience and her love of horses Jill chose to try Christchurch Riding for the Disabled (R.D.A.). At first she couldn't ride because of the problems on the right side of her body. She wasn't going to be beaten, however, and with help from Sam, her instructor in centered riding and Jenny Nicol at Christchurch R.D.A. she devised equipment which would compensate for her disability. She began with special improvised ladder reins, stiffened with plastic piping, and a caged stirrup to prevent her right foot from slipping forward.

Jill's confidence increased and she has gone from strength to strength with her equestrian skills. She now has her own horse, Luke, a pure-bred Arab, and trains on him three times a week. She maintains her contact with R.D.A. by riding there once a week. She gives the credit for much of her success to the support from Jenny Nicol and her family and her training with a Centered Riding instructor, Samantha Atkin. Working from the centre Jill describes as "a technique enabling the rider to do quite difficult dressage without using hand or leg" - a great advantage for Jill.

Competition experience

The five members of the New Zealand equestrian team in Australia
The five members of the New Zealand equestrian team in Australia
Photo source Jill Lloyd
In October 1998 Jill competed in Australia with the New Zealand Paraequestrian team of five riders. This she found a great challenge and a good introduction to international competition. It proved to her that she was fit enough to cope with travel and the stress of competing. This was her first competition as most are open only to the able bodied.

A difficulty at competitions away from home is having to adjust to a borrowed horse. A competitor is given a horse to try, and if the horse is not chosen it goes back in the pool of horses and is no longer available to that rider even if subsequent horses are less suitable.

In April this year Jill went to the New Zealand Dressage Competition for Disabled Riders, held at Tielcey Park in Palmerston North.

Disabled Riders are graded on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the most severely disabled. Jill is a Grade 2 rider. The fatigue is worse for those with brain injuries.

Jill won the New Zealand Championship for Grade 2 riders.

Selection to represent New Zealand at the World Dressage Championships
Jill has now been picked for the New Zealand team of four riders to go to Denmark in July for the World Dressage Championships and she is busy raising funds. She sees selection as a triumph in itself and also as a build-up to reaching her highest goal - the Paralympics to be held in October 2000 in Sydney after the Olympic Games.

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