Karen O’Connor was injured in a fall with Veronica at the Morven Park Fall Horse Trials in Leesburg, Va., on Oct. 6. She was diagnosed with a burst fracture of the T4 vertebra and a compression fracture of the T5 vertebra and is expected to make a full recovery.
After successfully completing the advanced cross-country in the Area II Advanced Championships division with Mandiba, O’Connor was riding Veronica when the mare fell at fence 13, a bounce.
“Veronica kind of stumbled down the gully and sort of broke to trot, so when I pushed her back into canter, she was a little bit behind my leg. I moved her up, but there wasn’t a lot of time to work with—four or five strides,” O’Connor said. “When she got back out in front of my leg, she was going pretty strong again, and there was a choice for a longer stride or a shorter stride. I pushed her for the longer stride. She took it, but she really powered at the takeoff, and it jumped her too far into the bounce, and she caught it hard on the way out, above the knee. She got her front feet out in front of her, and I saw them as she was touching down. I tried to slip my reins as best I could and get way back, and I thought we had it, but her hind end was over-rotating on the landing.”
O’Connor, 54, said she hit her head but was not knocked unconscious. She felt a strong blow to her back, possibly Veronica’s hoof, but doesn’t know exactly what happened. Veronica was up and walking immediately with a few minor scrapes. The mare was sound and back to her usual self on Monday, according to groom Max Corcoran.
First O’Connor was taken to nearby Inova Loudoun Hospital for a CAT scan, and then she was transported to the Inova Trauma Center at Inova Fairfax Hospital. There she was diagnosed with a burst fracture of her T4 vertebra and a compression fracture of her T5 vertebra, but she did not show any signs of neurological impairment.
O’Connor, The Plains, Va., and Ocala, Fla., first opted for a turtle shell-type brace instead of a riskier route—a surgery involving rods and pins. However, during a visit to the Johns Hopkins Hospital (Md.) on Oct. 16, doctors discovered that an unstable vertebra had shifted. O'Connor underwent a five-hour surgery on Oct. 18.
"Just heard from the hospital that she is in the ICU recovering well [and] is in good spirits," wrote Brian O'Connor in an update on his facebook page. "They hope to have her up later this weekend moving about."