Olympic show-jumping rider Beth Underhill can’t remember anything after a tribute to Hickstead on Wednesday night at the Royal Winter Fair.
She doesn’t remember walking the course for the $100,000 World Cup qualifying event. She doesn’t remember putting her young mount Viggo, through his paces in the hitching ring to prepare for the event. And she doesn’t remember meeting with disaster at an oxer at one end of the competition ring.
Viggo took off too early and couldn’t get over the spread of the oxer, his legs splayed between the rails, the rails bouncing everywhere. Underhill was catapulted off his back and hit the ground flat on her back. Her head snapped back, hard.
The impact knocked her out.
Underhill, 49, who competed at the 1991 Olympics in Barcelona, was taken out of the ring on a stretcher and taken to hospital. She was released only on Friday morning, with a concussion.
Underhill said she had a concussion a few years ago, in another riding accident, but this time, it was worse, particularly with the memory loss.
Doctors have told her to spend some quiet time this week and avoid riding for five to seven days. “They’re confident that everything is going to be fine,” she said. “I still don’t feel 100 per cent, but I feel better now.”
Underhill is known as the first female rider to win the Canadian World Cup qualifying league back in 1993 and she won it again in 1999. She was a regular fixture on the national team, riding Monopoly, a New-Zealand bred horse that earned more than $1-million in his career. He had been her mount at the Barcelona Games and they had finished 14th individual at the World Equestrian Games three years later.
Riding Altair, she won a team bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg in 1999, and also finished second in the $800,000 du Maurier International Grand Prix At Spruce Meadows, the richest show-jumping event in the world.
Underhill served as an equestrian commentator for CBC at the Beijing Olympics.
She had to withdraw from consideration for the World Equestrian Games last October in Lexington, Ky., when the owners of her horse, Top Gun, decided to sell him – only two months before the Games.
Viggo is a young horse that she bought from The Netherlands as a 6-year-old and is developing him into a Grand Prix jumper. The horse began jumping at the top level only this year and the World Cup was only his second indoor competition. The partnership had finished fourth at the Canadian Show-jumping Championships the previous weekend.
“I think he’s a lovely horse for the future,” she said.