What was supposed to be a routine day at Norton Grange Stables in Malton turned out to be anything but. A steady canter on the gallops would change Adrian Grain’s life forever.
Whilst exercising Leannes Lady, the mare tripped and pitched him from the saddle. An accident that would usually result in a few bruises turned out to be far worse. As the horse got to her feet, she trod on Ady’s neck, putting all of her weight on him and causing serious injuries. Not only was he paralysed, but deteriorating fast.
Mark Weatherer, the trainer to whom Ady is assistant, and his stable lass, Jess Harper, witnessed the accident and immediately phoned the emergency services. Despite some issues with the call operator, eventually, the Air Ambulance was scrambled and arrived within 7 minutes, saving his life!
On arriving at the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, Ady was sedated and put on a ventilator. Scans discovered he had broken four vertebrae, C1, C2, C3 and C4, and his voice box had also been badly damaged. Ady underwent emergency surgery to stabilise his neck, and a tracheostomy was inserted to help him breathe. He was then placed in an induced coma and attached to a ventilator. The consultant informed Mark that Ady would be paraplegic, unable to breathe on his own again, and likely had no hope of recovery. Defying all odds, Ady is here today to tell the tale.
Ady has been involved in racing for most of his life. The 69-year-old is assistant trainer to Mark Weatherer at his Norton Grange Stables in Malton. An all-round racing enthusiast, he has always had an affiliation with horses, but he never could’ve imagined what would happen on 18th October 2022.
A born and bred farmer, he was raised on the banks of the River Trent at Ingleby on his parent's dairy farm. Despite growing up around horses, he never got involved in racing until a local man, Patrick O'Connor, took out a training license at nearby Cork Abbey. After visiting his stables, which is where he met Mark, Ady invested in a 2-year-old at the Doncaster Breeze Up sales in the early 80s. He started working with O'Connor, breaking and schooling the young horses, before joining forces with Mark in the early '90s. They’ve been the dream team ever since. Blessed with beginner's luck, the horse he had purchased, Shepherds Hymn, won 15 races and placed 2nd 11 times.
Fast forward some 30 years and that brings us to that dreaded afternoon...
In the days following the accident, nobody was sure he would even live. Ady was kept in an induced coma for 10 days, during which the doctors attempted to get him to breathe on his own. Despite them stating it would be unlikely, he managed 30 minutes of unaided breathing on the second attempt, a coup which further increased each time until the ventilator was removed completely. Due to the damage to his neck and throat, he could not talk for several months and his voice box had been permanently damaged.
Ady was completely unaware of how close to death he was and the doctors said it was only because he was such a fit man that he survived the accident at all. He vividly remembers the accident that afternoon, and when asked about it recently, was very reflective. He said: “I remember lying on the ground and saying to Mark, I’m f****d now. I can’t feel a thing. I know my life has completely changed from this moment on”.
Since the accident, Ady has made steady progress. He can talk, despite not having his previous powerful voice, and he can move both of his arms and legs. He is 100% dependent on others as he has no use of his hands, but has recently discovered he can wiggle his toes, which is almost a miracle!
Looking ahead, Ady has ambitions to stand; hoping to go racing dressed to the nines in a Saville Row suit, and to help look after the horses, despite doctors telling him he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He said: “Throughout the length and breadth of this planet there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been proved wrong. I will prove them wrong. Regarding the racing and looking after the beautiful creatures, I still want to play some part in the general welfare of the horses, although I know I won't be able to school them and teach them anymore. I still want to contribute to the enjoyment of the yard for all the lovely owners that have supported us through this." What an inspiration!
The aim is for the Injured Jockeys Fund and Jack Berry House to help Ady with his recovery. Jack Berry House opened in 2015 as the first IJF House. It provides specialist rehabilitation treatment for physical and neurological injuries. The facility is equipped with a variety of resources, including hydrotherapy pools, muscle stimulation machines, and a state-of-the-art gym.
The IJF paid for a neuro physiotherapist to assess Ady regarding physiotherapy and adaptive living. The report outlines his condition after the accident, the potential benefits of physio, and considers his future needs.
Whilst they have agreed that they can help, funding must be put in place for the intensive physiotherapy course they recommend, a decision on which will be made by the panel in July this year. The course would take place at the private facility near Middlesbrough, with initial costs starting at £20k+. It is so vital to Ady because the hospital at no time gave him the physio he needed to begin making improvements, all feeling that returned was through his own efforts. The hope was that Mark’s property could also be adapted for Ady to live there, but unfortunately, it is not possible.
Ady is one of the thousands in the UK who dedicate their lives to the sport. A passionate horseman, he takes risks day in and day out, without the attention or glamour of the race jockeys. When asked if he thought the majority of racing fans understand the dangers of riding horses and whether they appreciate the hard graft of those behind the scenes, he said: ”Although the general race going public know jockeys get injured, they only see what happens on the racetrack, and view that as a minor occupational hazard. The repercussions of any accident or injury never hit home unless they are personally involved.”
Mark added: “No one who has ever sat on a horse thinks of what could happen. Riding at speed over obstacles is even more hazardous, but general racegoers or even just the general public only think of the horses being injured. None of us want to see that, but when accidents happen to the work riders, the behind-the-scenes people that give their lives to the animals in their care, it passes almost unnoticed. That shouldn't be. We all love our sport and no one would, for a minute, change their involvement. Highlighting what can and does happen when things go wrong is much needed.
When asked recently about how the accident has changed his life, Ady said: “As you can well imagine, life is particularly difficult in these circumstances. The most difficult thing of all is to keep positive and keep focussed, and I must say that I go to some very dark places. Just lying on the bed or sitting in a wheelchair 24/7 makes it very difficult, but one thing I must say in my heart of hearts, I really feel that with the right support and help, I will get back on my feet again.”
A GoFundMe has been set up by Karen Woods, a close friend of Ady, to raise money towards his recovery. A large amount of the initial £15,000 target has been raised already, which will be put towards adaptations to his bungalow and equipment, etc. As a result of life-changing injuries, there will always be more things that he requires, and that’s where you come in. Any surplus will be donated to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance who were instrumental is saving Ady’s life. It is a very worthy cause, and if you are interested in donating as little as £5, you can do so through the link below:
A big thankyou to Ady and Mark for their co-operation with the article, and to Karen for her input and help communicating throughout!