Susi Sadler is an amazingly strong woman and her story is truly inspirational. Susi is going to take part in the Mongol Derby, a butt-searing 620 mile ride across the steppe on semi-wild Mongolian ponies. She will have just 5kg of supplies, no back-up crew, will be miles from civilisation, and is doing it in order to help a very worthy organisation, Operation Smile.

The drive behind this ride is due to Susi herself suffering a horrific facial injury. Trelawne Equine are donating a set of Easyboot Gloves for Susi’s barefoot horse, Rudi, to enable her to be able to put the miles and miles of training in she needs to prepare for this week long marathon.

Susi writes about her accident on her website dedicated to this challenge and her cause in 2009 I was breaking in my four-year-old home-bred horse, Rudi. I was riding in the school when he spooked and took off at top speed, then applied the brakes chucking me face-first and with great force into a post and rail fence. Thankfully, my helmet protected me from a serious head injury (the doctors were amazed when they saw the x-rays that I hadn’t fractured my skull). However I had managed to slice my face from nose to ear, ‘de-gloving’ (the medical term – explicit enough, I think) the left side of my face.

I was in surgery for five hours whilst an amazing team stitched my face back together. I will be forever grateful to them for the work they did that night, because despite the seriousness of my injuries I ended up with one very neat line of (approximately twenty five) stitches across one side of my face. I had suffered nerve damage, which meant I lost the use of one side of my face and mouth. This, coupled with a lot of swelling, badly torn gums, loosened teeth and a further 60 stitches inside my mouth, made eating, drinking and even talking a real challenge. I’ve always enjoyed my food (an understatement, perhaps) so surviving the first two weeks, when the only manageable meals were cup-a-soups consumed through a straw felt almost impossible. I lost a stone in weight. For the first month I went everywhere with a stash of drinking straws in my handbag, until I could learn to drink from a glass again. My potato masher saw hard service for the first month!

My face looked very different. Although the scar was healing, the nerve damage improved more slowly. I looked odd when I talked or smiled because only one side of my face worked. I avoided cameras and covered my mouth when I smiled. Even people I was close to found it hard to know how to react.

After the accident I felt nervous about riding again, especially about riding Rudi. Getting back into riding after the accident, and rebuilding my confidence was a long, slow process. At first my nerves made riding physically difficult – my whole body was so tense that I couldn’t relax and move my spine. However, with a little time and a lot of determination the nerves gradually subsided.

I feel very fortunate that, nearly a year on, my scar is fading and my nerve function is slowly improving. I can eat and drink anything I like, and smile again. I have plenty to smile about. Not only did I benefit from some world-class medical treatment, but I’m also back in the saddle and training Rudi for his first competitive season in 2010.

If you’ve got this far, I hope you can understand why competing in the Mongol Derby is important to me. Firstly, having recovered my confidence in riding again, I feel the need to take on a big challenge to really test myself. Secondly, I want to help bring facial surgery to children whose lives are severely affected by a cleft. Sadly, many of these children do not have access to the excellent treatment that I benefited from free of charge. I don’t want anyone to have to experience life without a smile.