By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Growing up, Caroline Johnson was never far from the “pure joy” that she said horses have always brought her. Because her mother, Ginny Johnson, used to show horses, her fascination with the animals began at a young age. By the time she was 9, she convinced her parents to let her learn how to ride them. She was 11 when her parents gave her a pony named King Chut – whom she affectionately called Chutney. It wasn’t long before she was riding and showing larger horses at shows in the Junior Equitation division.
That progress could have come to a screeching halt two years ago. But the recent University of Georgia (UGA) graduate refused to let that happen. Despite a serious riding accident that happened far from her home in Grafton, Johnson has continued riding and competing.
Johnson was part of the university’s NCAA Division 1 Equestrian Team. She and her fellow team members were the Southeastern Conference Champions one year and Runner Up National Champions the other three years. But before she could celebrate half of those victories, she had to overcome a serious injury.
During one of the team’s jumping practices in 2016, her horse threw her to the ground after clearing a wide obstacle.
“Although my injury was very traumatic, I know that it was a complete accident,” Johnson said. “The ground that month had been really dry…and I just happened to land in the wrong way.”
She was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery to have an intramedullary rod and multiple screws inserted into her femur.
“It was scary to be so far from home and undergo such a serious injury, but by the time I was out of surgery, the UGA Athletic Association had been able to fly my mom from Boston to Atlanta, so she was there when I woke up,” Johnson said. “She lived with me at school for six weeks. With the help of my UGA Athletic Association, my mom, professors and many friends and teammates, I was able to remain in school and complete the semester.”
Johnson was on crutches for six weeks and needed a lot of physical therapy.
“I was back riding after three and a half months of rehabilitation,” Johnson said. “I am completely healed…however, I still catch myself limping occasionally.”
In addition to pursuing her dream of becoming a dentist, Johnson enjoys competing in the in shows in the Adult Amateur Equitation Division. And as she prepares to compete – with her horse, Morris – in the upcoming New England Equitation Championships, she’s happy that she didn’t let an accident stop her.
“My love for this sport is ever growing, and horses will always be a part of my life,” she shared. “The old saying, ‘You have to get back on the horse,’ was very pertinent.”