Stay updated with all the latest stories, news and FEI events across the globe.
But through the help of a local riding centre that specialises in helping people with disabilities to get in the saddle, Helen has rediscovered a hobby she had considered lost forever.
In the latest addition to the FEI Two Hearts video series, Helen reminds us of how truly powerful the connection between rider and horse really is.
She tells the incredible story of how her dear friend Teg looks after her and helped her overcome adversity after suffering the debilitating effects of the stroke.
In 2002, she was leading a perfectly ordinary life. In her mid-30s she was working as a teacher in Birmingham, UK, the mother of twins and an avid equestrian.
Then her life changed forever when she suffered a massive stroke. For the first few months, Helen cried every day. She was unable to work or drive and with very little vocabulary her children and husband were unable to understand her, with doctors telling her she would never be able to talk again.
She was forced to abandon her hobbies and she found it incredibly hard to accept what had happened to her. She’d gone from teaching young children how to read and write, to completely losing her own ability to communicate.
However, Helen’s recovery has been remarkable. She has re-learnt how to speak, and can walk again. As she progressed, she was also determined to get back in the saddle.
Her stroke left her with weakness down the right side of her body, leaving her right arm useless. Not helpful when needing to tack up a horse! But not to be outdone, Helen learned how to do it with one hand, and using her teeth to help.
She says: “A couple of years ago my daughter Clare developed a love of horses. My husband Mike called the Lowlands Farm Riding for Disabled Association (RDA) centre so I could go along with her. During my first visit I was really frightened and frustrated that I couldn’t get on or off the horse.”
Helen persevered and started to really enjoy being back in the saddle. She now specialises in Dressage and rides twice a week. She adds: “I can only ride for around half an hour because I find it exhausting. But on the horse, I am so happy. So, so free!"
Her horse, Teg, helped her through the death of her parents in 2013. He was her confidante and friend that helped her through this time, and she talked to him every day about her feelings.
If ever there was proof of the therapeutic power horses can have on the human spirit, it’s with the story of Helen and her desire to never give up.