On 19th September 2020, Co. Down woman Joanne Clough was competing in a show jumping competition at Ardnacashel Equestrian Centre near Comber, when a serious accident meant she needed urgent medical care.

Joanne was warming up on her horse Juno when the horse seemed to become spooked and jolted, then began bucking uncontrollably, throwing her from the saddle. As she fell to the ground, Joanne hit her head on a brick wall.

Joanne said, “I have no memory of the event and apparently lost consciousness. Having spoken to others, I know that the show at Ardnacashel was then stopped, and the organisers along with first aiders on site came to my side and called for an ambulance.  Everyone was really supportive and helpful to ensure myself, my horse, my helper and my 7-year-old daughter, Erin were looked after.”

Soon thereafter, Air Ambulance arrived, carrying the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Team (HEMS) and landed in the fields beside Ardnacashel.  The charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, provides the HEMS for Northern Ireland.  The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day. It can get to anywhere in Northern Ireland in approximately twenty-five minutes.

The HEMS team treated Joanne at the scene, before transferring her to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Joanne remained in the hospital for the next 24 hours, having tests for potential brain injuries, which were even more pertinent as Joanne had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumour in August 2018.  

Joanne sustained three fractures to her cheek, damaged the iris of her right eye resulting in blurred vision and lost her short-term memory for a couple of months due to her severe concussion.

It has been a long road to recovery but now Joanne is starting to feel back to normal.  Joanne said, “The scars and fractures on my face have healed, along with the fatigue, weakness and confusion, but my balance remains something that I am continuing investigations for as my eyesight remains imperfect.  Most importantly for a horsey girl, Juno has been treated for pre-existing injury in the sacroiliac joint in her back, which had caused her to react the way she did on the day and after a sincere apology from her, I am slowly gaining trust and confidence in her again in the saddle.

There are no words to describe the gratitude I feel for the assistance of the Air Ambulance NI team and crew that day. Had they not acted so quickly, treated me with such level-headed efficiency and taken me to the hospital so swiftly, I have no idea how I might have ended up.  A head injury cannot be underestimated and to have been saved from potential disaster by the medical team in this way, is a miraculous success.  I owe them my everything and to demonstrate my gratitude, I am running a nationwide Equestrian campaign and competition, to raise awareness and funds for Air Ambulance NI. Thank you so much to the air ambulance team – you are amazing!”

With the recent easing of restrictions, Joanne was recently able to visit the Air Ambulance NI airbase and meet with representatives of the medical team.

Joanne has just launched ‘Horse Powered Take Off’, an Equestrian campaign and competition, to raise funds for Air Ambulance NI. Joanne is encouraging the entire Equestrian Community to support her campaign. You can do so by

  • Supporting Horse Powered Take Off’ Competition via https://dragoncompetitions.com/product/horse-powered-take-off/
  • Include us in your horse show i.e a small donation from ticket sales go to ‘Horse Powered Take Off’
  • Organising your own ‘Horse Powered Take Off’ event – i.e Bake Sale, Tea Party, Sponsored give away, Hack & Snack

Grace Williams, Area Fundraising Manager for Air Ambulance NI said, “We are so inspired that Joanne has made a great recovery.  Patients are at the centre of everything we do, and it is always lovely when patient families choose to get in touch.  We are humbled she decided to support the of wonderful work of Air Ambulance NI through her Equestrian Competition and Campaign.

As a service we rely heavily on charitable donations to keep the medical team in the air, delivering critical care to patients who have suffered trauma throughout Northern Ireland- without this type of support, the team simply couldn’t fly. The past year has been especially challenging for fundraising and we’ve seen a dramatic downturn in our income.

The charity Air Ambulance NI, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, provides the HEMS for Northern Ireland. The HEMS team attend patients who are seriously ill or injured, bringing emergency pre-hospital care direct to the casualty with the aim of saving lives, brains and limbs. With a daily operational cost of £5,500, we sincerely thank Joanne for her amazing support. Despite the current pandemic, our Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) is as busy as ever, responding to on average 2 calls daily somewhere in Northern Ireland. Since we first launched in July 2017, Air Ambulance NI have been tasked on more than 2,388 occasions.

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank Joanne & her good friend Rosie who is helping with the campaign, for their unwavering commitment to their fundraising and I would encourage everyone to support their ‘Horse Powered Take Off’ campaign in any way they can.

Working alongside Dragon competitions, Joanne’s competition will run throughout September & October and she has secured some fabulous prizes including An Equine Bundle worth £1250 from Fane Valley, £1000 cash and Horse Solarium from R Nesbit Paddock Equipment worth £500, with winners being drawn on 30th October by Dragon Competitions.  If you would like to support Joanne’s Horse Powered Take Off competition please visit https://dragoncompetitions.com/product/horse-powered-take-off/ OR if you would like to support the Horse Powered Take Off campaign, please contact horsepoweredtakeoff@gmail.com

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