Courtney King-Dye – One Year On

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A helping hand for Courtney King Dye from her husband, Jason. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Editor’s Note: On Mar. 3, 2010, Courtney King-Dye, seen as one of the brightest stars in dressage at the age of 32, was involved in an accident that shocked the horse community around the world. The accident left her in a coma for weeks. As time went by and Courtney underwent rehabilitation, she became an icon, a talisman, for both those involved in dressage and folks who knew little about the sport but admired the spirit and passion of a beautiful and talented young lady striving to recover with the same will that took her to the 2008 Olympics for the United States.

Ilse Schwarz, an Australian based in Wellington, Florida, candidly admits the impact of Courtney’s accident leaving her, like many others, in tears, her admiration for Courtney’s success at such a young age, the humor and spirit of her drive to recover. On the first anniversary of the accident, Ilse asked Courtney about the past year.

Ilse Schwarz: I’m afraid the questions sound a bit clinical and business-like, they aren’t meant to… just trying to be succinct (not always my strong point). Feel free to answer with as many or as few words as you want.. and of course I am hoping for some of your amazing humor! I don’t know how I never knew how funny you are.

Ilse: One year ago today, you had an accident that changed your life. Before the accident did it ever occur to you that this could happen to you?

Courtney: I knew, like anyone who rides does, that there’s a risk of serious injury. I never considered a brain injury, I definitely thought broken bones were a possibility. I said to Guenter and Mary when they had their accidents that the better thing about my accident than theirs is that there’s no pain.

Ilse: Can you recall your first thoughts when you recovered consciousness?

Courtney: Not really. You don’t just suddenly wake up. It occurs over several weeks. You open your eyes, then you visually follow things, then you interact, then you follow instructions, over weeks. I don’t really know the moment I “woke up.”

Ilse: What have the been the highlights of the year since the accident, and why?

Courtney: I guess I’d have to say the attention to safety and the increased helmet use. I’ve said in the past that I know it’s a shame it took a top rider having an accident to ignite the discussion of safety, but it took someone seen as a good rider getting hurt to make people aware that it can happen to anyone. So, it gives my accident meaning. I wouldn’t do it again! 🙂 but it makes me feel good to be helping people.

Ilse: What have been the toughest moments, and why?

Courtney: I have a great group of people around me, and it’s easy for me to laugh at myself when I screw up, so there have been amazingly few tough times. The hardest thing for me is that I was very independent before, and now I need help with everything. I can’t even go to the bathroom on my own.

Ilse: Are you aware of the many thousands of fans/supporters–some you know and most you probably do not–you have around the world? Were you surprised at such support?

Courtney: I was incredibly surprised. It’s amazed and helped me all along. I spent 6 weeks in in-patient reading all the emails and a month after that reading all the forums on the Internet. I still get, and thrive on, emails supporting me. It’s a crappy situation, but it’s made a million times easier by all the support.

Ilse: What would you tell those fans about the past year?

Courtney: Wear a helmet! It’s a lot of struggle, and not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a Jason (Dye, her husband) and such a fantastic support group.

Ilse: What are your goals: a) for the immediate; b) short term, and c) long term?

Courtney: a) I’d like to go to the bathroom on my own! And walking other places would be nice too!
b) my terms of time have apparently been askew, but I’d like to be able to ride at my previous level and continue to learn. I’d like to start having kids. I’d like to be able to take over riding my young horses.
c) I’d like to continue to teach people when I can’t ride anymore, see my grandkids grow up, and continue to celebrate life with all the vigor I do now.

Ilse: Among those who have been close to you, especially in the past year, what do you have to say to them?

Courtney: I’ve already said it to them, but just to know that I love them and thank them so much for all they do, and to know I’d do the same for them. I’d even wipe their bottoms!

Sorry it’s not too funny, it’s hard not to be so serious on this anniversary!

Courtney King-Dye and Mythilus at the 2008 Olympic Games. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com