Rider defies illness

SHARE
True grit...Northern Southland Pony Club senior coach Aleina Beer riding her horse Peta Pan competes in the club’s show after a year long absence from the sport due to being seriously ill with meningitis septicimea. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

Considering what she has been through in the past 13 months, it is a miracle Aleina Beer is alive, let alone riding a horse.

In October last year the Northern Southland Pony Club senior coach, who lives near Dipton, was diagnosed with meningitis septicemia and has had multiple health challenges since.

However, on Saturday she entered her horse, Peta Pan, in the Northern Southland Pony Club Show in Lumsden in the showing section and also took part in the open horse 90cm showjumping class.

It was her first show since her illness and now she has been classified as a para equestrian rider, she can compete without using stirrups.

Miss Beer (24) said she felt very fortunate to still be alive.

“Extremely lucky- I should have been dead,” she said.

Someone had commented to her that she must have a strong will to live.

“I suppose I do. I enjoy life.”

Her family and close friends had been very supportive but it was her love of riding that had helped her most on the road to recovery.

“It’s just kept me going.

“It’s a sport where you can just get on and just forget about everything else that’s going on.

“It’s kind of like a getaway place.”

Riding her horse had also helped keep her active.

“I’d be quite unfit and stuck inside all the time if I didn’t have a horse.”

Last year she spent three weeks in Dunedin Hospital’s intensive care unit fighting for her life and it was 110 days before she was released.

The list of health complications she experienced as the result of the meningitis included multiple organ failure, pneumonia, toe amputations and an infection in her left foot.

“I’ve now got chronic kidney disease, so I’m getting monthly blood tests.

“I just have to wait until that starts to fail and I will get a kidney transplant at some point.”

Two weeks before lockdown the infection in her left foot returned and she was in hospital again.

She was now facing either the fusion of the bones in her foot or amputation because arthritis had now damaged the joint which had previously been infected.

“I was 50-50 on it for quite a long time but at some point I was thinking I’m just going to take it off because I am sick of it, sick of the pain.

“I’ve decided now to go with fusion because it’s going to be easier to ride if you’ve got more of a leg.”

She could not put any weight on the foot.

In July she had started riding again on Millie, who was very quiet, and then graduated to Peta Pan.

The 8-year-old was a former race horse she had been schooling for the past three years.

“He’s really good for a thoroughbred.

“He has his thoroughbred moments but he is kind and listens well.

“I just love him.

“He’s got so much potential.”

Apart from last year, when she was in hospital, she had been attending the show for 15 years.

“It was cool to be back in the saddle.”

She did fall off in the showing class but apart from one refusal in the showjumping had a clear round.

“I had to concentrate quite hard.”

Instead of being seated in a saddle she sat on a pad and had to make sure she kept balanced.

“You haven’t got the security of the saddle.. and so its a wee bit harder to stay on.”

Club president Margaret O’Connor is also Miss Beer’s aunt.

Mrs O’Connor said it been an emotional moment for people in the pony club family to see Miss Beer riding again.

“Everybody clapped after her round,” Mrs O’Connor said.

“She was extremely lucky to survive and for her it’s the grit and determination to get back in the saddle that’s probably what’s going to help her rehabilitation.

“It’s a miracle and to see her back in the saddle is just completely amazing.”