Ausnew Home Care | How amputee equestrian Suzin got back in the saddle with help from a Paralympian friend

How amputee equestrian Suzin got back in the saddle with help from a Paralympian friend

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Suzin Wells had her leg amputated below the knee on October 20, 2021. 

With the help of her good friend and three-time Paralympian, Sharon Jarvis, she was back riding her horse just 10 weeks later.

Together they are achieving their riding goals and taking on life with humour, positivity and unwavering support. 


I'd been working in the corporate sector for 12 years and I just didn't feel happy in my role.

So I completed a course in aged care and got a job in an aged care facility. 

Unfortunately, I caught a superbug at a facility and the bug went into my toe and then into my bone. I had an osteomyelitis bone infection.

And I've never been able to get it out — even after 20 surgeries. 

I ended up losing pretty much both sides of my foot and it got to the point where my foot wouldn't function, so the decision was made. 

I wasn't living my life the way I wanted to live my life and so [in a way] I was happy to get my leg taken off, because it meant I could ride my horse.

I could get a prosthetic leg and go and do things. 

I must admit after having my leg amputated, I was in bed and I said to my husband: "Holy shit, what have I done?"

But there's no going back.

A photo of a woman's leg next to an amputated foot with a shoe
Suzin says finally having her foot amputated after years of surgery and health problems has improved her quality of life.(Supplied: Suzin Wells)

Getting back in the saddle

I've been riding horses for probably 40-something years.

Since my amputation, I sent my horse up to stay with my good friend, Sharon Jarvis. 

She worked my horse back into shape and helped me get on for the first time in January.

I didn't have a lot of anxiety about getting back on, I had confidence in the horse, and I had confidence in Sharon. 

I've had my horse, Odie, since he was three. He's a Friesian Sporthorse and for the first five years, he was hard work. 

He was a young horse, he dumped me and challenged me.

He's had a few health problems and surgeries as well. But he's 12 now and I feel like now we've come together at this point, and we can both be what we want to be to each other.

I haven't got a riding leg yet — that's the next job. 

At the moment, I wear a piece of velcro around my hip and I use a bar at the front of the saddle called a Longden Grip — that's my 'holy shit bar'. 

If I get unbalanced, I just grab that, but I haven't really had to use it much which is quite good.

A woman with her leg amputated below the knee rides a black horse in a sand arena surrounded by trees
Suzin Wells back riding her horse just a few months after her leg amputation. (Supplied: Christie Lyn Photography)

'She's just an inspirational person'

I've known and followed Sharon for many years and always been inspired by her.

I used to have lessons with her years ago and now having Sharon down the road from me was just like, "how great is my timing?".

I used to go up there in a wheelchair and watch her ride my horse and I got a lot of joy out of it because she's so good.

She's just an inspirational person to be around and I'm really grateful for it.

I've never once seen her feel sorry for herself and that helps me not to feel sorry for myself.

Because we're still very lucky people and we're having a really good time even while it might seem like we're facing big hurdles.


I was the first Australian to make three para-equestrian Olympic squads when I went to Tokyo 2020.

I was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma bone cancer at the age of seven and given a 20 per cent chance of survival.

A year of treatment saved my life, but I was left with a loss of movement and strength in my lower left side.

I have an extreme passion for my sport, not just for competing myself — I love to see the development of the sport. 

I love to see other riders coming through and I always think that if my story can inspire one other person to follow their dreams, that will make me very happy. 

A woman rides a dark brown horse in a sand arena inside a stadium
Paralympian Sharon Jarvis riding Romanos during her dressage test at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Supplied: Paralympics Australia )

Coaching Suzin

I've seen what Suzin has gone through, having issues with a foot and her leg.

I think she made a really brave decision to have her leg amputated. 

But I also think it's exciting because it allows her to be able to live her life in better quality.

When I got home from Tokyo, I visited Suzin when she was in hospital and said "So when are you getting back on your horse?".

I've coached able-bodied riders and I've coached para-riders. 

With Suzin, she is not going to have a right leg to put pressure on the horse. 

So the horse needs to understand that when you gently tap the whip on their right side, they need to bend like they would around an able-bodied person's leg.

Coaching para-riders is sometimes about thinking outside the box and riding is so much to do with your core balance — you don't necessarily have to have legs to keep you on the horse.

A woman in horse riding helmet sitting on a stool with a brown horse standing next to her
Sharon Jarvis with horse Rommy in Heatherbrae, NSW August 2021. (ABC Newcastle: Ross McLoughlin)

'Power and strength' in riding

When I ride, it's that wonderful feeling of having legs underneath me that have power and strength and the grace that my own legs can't give me. 

When I saw Suzin sit on her horse and she had the legs that could carry her along, it was wonderful.

A good para-horse has this super combination of being sensitive, yet sensible. 

And that's what Odie is.

So I've just worked on getting his fitness back and making him as easy for Suzin to ride as possible. 

And if I've done that, then I've done my job.

Most para-riders are really happy to help each other, because we've all had to struggle and work out how to do things best for us. 

Every disability is different and if you can share information and ideas, it makes it a whole lot easier.


Source: ABC

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