Home » After she became a paraplegic, Katherine had to swap her horse-racing dreams for farm life

After she became a paraplegic, Katherine had to swap her horse-racing dreams for farm life

I am a born and bred Tasmanian. I’m raising two amazing boys, Will and Harry, with my husband Tim on our 93-hectare property just outside of Launceston.

I was riding horses before I could walk, but when I was 19, I was left a paraplegic.

I remember everything from when I had my accident.

I wanted to get this difficult horse out of the way and then enjoy my fun rides. Well, I ended up with no brakes on him. I got to the end of the track, went to pull him up from a fast gallop, and I couldn’t stop. At the last second, he dodged the gate. I literally got left behind, hitting the ground at an almost flat-out gallop.

Katherine was a competitive horse racer before the accident.(Supplied)

My mother Annette Reed remembers getting the message to call the stable foreman.

He told her I’d had a bit of a fall but not to worry. I might have hurt my back, but the ambulance had just taken me to hospital.

When she arrived at the hospital, she told me I was just lying there, quite serene, probably more serene than she’d ever seen me.

That evening, I was flown to Melbourne for surgery.

Life after the accident

The fall left me with a complete spinal cord injury, which left me reliant on a wheelchair.

There are other complications — reduced circulation and lung function, no “feeling”, and bladder and bowel incontinence.

While the incontinence is now largely under control, I still need extra time in the bathroom.

I went from being an independent young woman to having to learn almost everything again — from sitting up and dressing myself, to driving. While I could still ride it was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting.

Image of a woman lying in a hospital bed.

Katherine was in the hospital for a long time after the accident. (Supplied)

With everyone worried about me, my siblings were largely forgotten, as people asked them about “their sister”, but forget to see if they were OK. They had lost their sister as they knew her and were grieving too.

I wanted desperately to return to the horse racing industry. The McCulloch family, whom I’d been riding for, were very supportive. They tried everything they could to get me a restricted licence, but it soon became clear that would not be possible.

It took me a full 10 years to move on from that dream.

I decided if they wouldn’t let me in through the racing side, I would just have to become a breeder and owner.

Over the next few years, I lived in Victoria, bred foals, played wheelchair basketball around the world and completed a diploma in horse business management.

My plan was to go and get a few years’ industry experience, then return to Tasmania and get to work on establishing my own breeding business.

Image of a woman in a wheelchair with two horses.

Katherine never lost her love for horses after her accident. (Supplied)

That was when Tim entered the picture. Instead of heading away to work, I stayed on the farm with him, marrying within a year and having kids on the way not long after.

My relationship with the farm has had its ups and downs. While I love living on the land, there are complicated feelings about my place on it.

One of the things I found quite difficult about being back on property is that there’s this conflicting emotional baggage that comes with it.

There’s the fact that I can’t do so many things I used to be able to do, and the grief that comes with that.

I know intellectually how to move a fence, to check on animals, all these basic jobs, but I don’t have the physical capacity to do them, or I’m entirely inefficient.

It means the house and family management is where I contribute, because it’s where I’m efficient. But that’s not the way Tim or I actually want things to be.

Image of a woman in a wheelchair with a man behind her gardening.

Katherine’s husband Tim (right) says they set up the farm so she had accessibility and could be included.(ABC Landline)

Making adjustments