Eastern Townships woman living with tetraplegia rides her horse once again

Lyne Joly lost the use of her legs after falling off her horse last January. Now, she has set her sights on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Lyne Joly lost the use of her legs after falling off her horse last January

Lyne Joly credits her boyfriend Marc-André Thibodeau with helping her get back up on her horse after a fall left her paralyzed last year. (Claude Rivest/CBC)

Lyne Joly was introduced to horseback riding by her parents when she was eight years old, and her life has been centred around the equestrian world ever since.

Over the years, she took part in multiple competitions all over North America. At one time, she was considered for Team Canada, ultimately falling short of that goal.

"It was more in Ontario, the United States, Florida. I spent entire winters in Florida to train my horse," she said.

Last January, it all came to a sudden halt when Joly fell off her horse, Romero.

When she hit the ground, she felt her neck snap. Joly was left with tetraplegia, paralysis that affects both arms and legs.

She couldn't feel anything below her neck. "I didn't have my arms, my hands, nothing."

'I need somebody to help me for everything'

The accident left Joly dependent on her longtime boyfriend, Marc-André Thibodeau.

"I need somebody for everything, so that changed my whole life forever," she said.

Doctors initially told her she'd be in the hospital for about a year.

With Thibodeau's help, she was out in four months.

Lyne Joly was supposed to be in hospital for a year after her accident, but she got ou tin four months with help from her boyfriend, Marc-André Thibodeau.
"If I'm home, with my horses and my dogs, it's thanks to him," she said.

Joly now spends much of her time in Montreal, in rehabilitation.

She said her doctors told her she will be able to regain some level of mobility in the first year of treatment. But she will not regain the use of her legs.

Joly's been working hard in recent months. Her paralysis has regressed from her neck to her abdomen.

She has regained some control over her arms and hands. "I've recuperated my hands… at 50 per cent."

Objective: Tokyo 2020

A few months ago, Thibodeau asked Joly if she wanted to go up on her horse. Of course, she immediately agreed.

"I just sat [on Romero] for five minutes. And it was, 'wow!"'

With the help of the provincial organization Cheval Quebec, she was able to order a special adapter for her saddle.

Lyne Joly is back in the saddle again thanks to this custom saddle that provides support where she needs it most. (Claude Rivest/CBC)
The $5,000 contraption provides abdomen and back support, and special hand grips that make it easier for someone with paralysis to ride.

In the last two months, her five-minute rides have become hour-long rides.

Still, Joly says she couldn't do any of it without Thibodeau's help.

"If he was not there, I couldn't go on the horse because … he's strong!" she said.

Joly has her sights set on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

But she admits she has a long way to go before then.

"I have to work on my balance because I don't have [sensation in my] abdominals. It's very hard. They have to hold me sometimes because I wobble," she said.

Cheval Quebec has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help Joly and her husband follow their paralympic dream.