Dubliner Emma Cahill fighting for Olympics place after being told she would never walk again

FOUR years ago Dublin showjumper Emma Cahill was told she would never walk again, but she doesn’t believe in impossible.

The 26-year-old’s spine was crushed in a horse riding accident and doctors told her that the damage to her spinal cord would leave her paralysed from the waist down. However, six weeks later a twinge in her thigh gave them an indication that the damage was in fact incomplete and she spent the next 11 months in hospital rebuilding herself.

She said: “While my back healed, I couldn’t sit, so my options were: lie down or stand up in a special device. Standing, when you can’t feel anything from the waist down and have no idea if your feet are touching the floor, is very strange, but is definitely better for the mind than lying in bed.

“I’m not one for sitting idle as it doesn’t make you happy, so I’ve taken something really horrible and turned it around to try to make some good come out of it.”

Three years after being discharged, Cahill is on Paralympics Ireland’s fast-track and is fighting hard for a place on the Rio 2016 Paralympic team. To achieve this, Cahill needs to train and qualify a new, loaned, horse based in Belgium, Evaristo Biolley, for the Para Dressage European Championships in Deauville in September, and she has launched a crowdfunding campaign on PledgeSports.org to help with the considerable costs of doing this.

She said: “My 2014 season was funded by fairy dust and good will. I work full-time and a lot of my budget is still going into paying hospital bills, so putting money aside is not the easiest task.

“Thankfully I was selected to receive the George Mernagh Memorial Bursary later in 2014 which is the main reason we actually got to CPEDI*** Hartpury in July. I was also selected as a Nissan Generation Next ambassador, for which I received the use of an X-Trail for one year, which I picked up just as my father’s van was about to crumble from the pressure I put it under!”

She added: “My progress in this sport and recovery since my accident would have not been possible without all the people behind me. Any support from anyone for my PledgeSports.org campaign will be extremely appreciated and I promise I will not let anyone down.”

Among the rewards Cahill is offering for supporters of her PledgeSports.org campaign is a meeting with her beloved number one horse Capitol Coin, inspirational and motivational talks led by her and signed rosettes. Read her full story and support her campaign at PledgeSports.org.

Cahill, from Cabinteely, is also a Spinal Injuries Ireland Mentor and has been working with several organisations to promote spinal injury support and technology. When she received the George Mernagh Memorial Fund Bursary last year she used it to pay for specialised training with her horse, for entries and accommodation, and for travel to the competitions she attended.

As well as Nissan Next Generation, Paralympics Ireland, and the George Mernagh Memorial, she has had considerable help from Nolan Eventing, based in Navan.