Caroline Wareing was left paralysed after a horse riding accident in 2009. She tells Tom Earnshaw about her long road to recovery, via breaking records and raising awareness about disability sport.
Caroline Wareing’s life changed in an instant when she was left paralysed after a horse riding accident in 2009.
The mother-of-two, from Thistleton, near Great Eccleston, was competing with her four-year-old horse Whalton Pearly Queen in an event in Staffordshire, when the horse slipped and fell on top her.
She suffered severe injuries, breaking her spine in three places.
She was air-lifted to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, near Stoke-on-Trent, by the West Midlands Air Ambulance, where it was found that her spinal cord had been severed, leaving her paralysed.
Her children were just two and four at the time.
But the former solicitor was determined not to let the accident define her and over the past eight years she has become a staunch supporter for disabled sport, throwing herself into epic challenges and inspiring hundreds of people along the way.
Her road to recovery has been a long one, culminating in her breaking the record for the fastest handcycle from Lands End to John O’Groats in May this year, when she completed the 874-mile journey in under 11 days.
“There are very few sports I can do with my family but this allows me to do things out and about with them,” said Caroline. “It’s something I can do whenever I like. It’s inclusive and the only time I get to jump out of my chair and get out there. I missed the exploration of everything and it gives me that.”
After her accident, Caroline became a full-time athlete in para-cycling, which saw her named in the British Cycling squad as part of their Paralympic Development Programme in 2014.
“I got into the sport for about two and a bit years,” Caroline explained. “It was really good, I absolutely loved it, but it was really hard work where we would train for 39 weeks of the year with three weeks off in October.”
Whilst with British Cycling, Caroline travelled to the likes of Brescia in northern Italy as part of the team’s preparations for the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships.
Caroline said: “Having come off the programme, I used my skills to do Land’s End to John O’Groats, but when I signed up I didn’t know what I had got myself in to – my geography wasn’t too good. The hills were really hard on a hand bike using just my arms and shoulders. Downhill though, that was super fast. The whole thing was really good fun.”
Caroline completed the challenge along with Jason Gorner, 47, and Karl Crompton, 44, raising more than £22,000 for Cancer Research UK.
The journey followed a similar one in 2013, where Caroline handcycled from the Tower of London to Blackpool Tower, raising money for Spinal Research and North West Air Ambulance.
Her heroics on the handbike have seen her shortlisted for a national award as one of the final three in the Endurance Fundraiser of the Year category in the 2017 Just Giving Awards.
Cancer Research UK’s Fundraising Manager for Preston, Jo Moss, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Caroline and team have succeeded in such a great personal challenge to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK and we are thrilled that they have been nominated for the award. We would love to see them win such a valued award.”
Caroline said: “In May last year my mother-in-law was told she had lung cancer. That’s why we chose Cancer Research. Everyone knows someone with it.
“Myself and the team feel honoured to be nominated for the award and we are now encouraging the people of Lancashire to vote for us.
“The other two nominees are pretty incredible - but to be honest we are delighted just to make the final three.
“Winning is not important, raising awareness is.”
Around 1,000 people are paralysed in the UK every year through injuries to their spinal cords.
Caroline admits she ‘struggled’ after her accident but says she would rather focus on the future. No only has she thrown herself into disability sport but she has also dedicated herself to raising awareness.
“I hate being called an inspiration but if I help people then that’s great,” she says.
You can vote for Caroline at http://pages.contact.justgiving.com/awards/2017/voting