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Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Monday, 26 July 2010 15:13 UK
Mirfield horse rider Susi saddles up for Mongol Derby
Susi and Rudi
Susi and her horse Rudi: Rudi caused Susi's accident in 2009

A horse rider from Mirfield is preparing for the challenge of her life as she heads to Mongolia to take part in a 600 mile dash on horseback.

Susi Sadler is one of just a handful of British riders joining the epic race across the bleak Mongolian Steppe.

Susi is back in the saddle after being thrown off her horse, Rudi, and suffering a serious facial injury.

She says: "Doing this will really prove to me that I'm back riding and back to how I was before the accident."

Twenty-eight-year-old Susi is hoping that racing in the Mongol Derby will raise money for Operation Smile, a charity which helps children across the world who suffer from facial deformities such as cleft lips and cleft palates.

Susi, who is a market researcher for Yorkshire Water in Bradford, says she is certainly ready for the race.

She says: "It's a fantastic challenge. I've been riding since I was tiny and I started doing long-distance horse races when I was about 14, so I have some experience."

Susi in childhood on horse
Susi has been in the saddle since she was very small

To be able to take part in the Mongol Derby would have seemed utterly unthinkable even a short time ago as Susi recovered from her terrible horse riding accident in 2009 which saw her needing emergency surgery and 90 stitches in her face.

She describes the accident: "I was thrown from my horse onto a wooden post and rail fence. It tore my face from my nose right across to my year and pulled that side of my face off my chin.

"It's what they call a 'de-gloving' accident. It was quite a horrific accident, really."

Treated by surgeons at Leeds General Infirmary Susi faced five gruelling hours of surgery, and that was just the start of a long recovery process.

Susi says: "Eating and drinking were difficult. I was on a liquid-only diet for the first month and I lost a stone in weight.

"But gradually the nerve damage has improved. A year on, I'm pretty much back to normal. I can smile and talk, eat and drink."

Susi says the successful treatment left her wishing she could help others with facial injuries and disfigurements.

It will be a huge physical challenge but also psychological.
Susi Sadler

She says: "I was so lucky to have that surgery, especially when there are children in parts of the world who don't have access to treatment like that and have cleft lips or palates.

"Having been through what I've been through I know the difference it makes to your life."

With that in mind, Susi signed up to the Mongol Derby - dubbed 'the greatest equine adventure in the world' by its organisers - to raise money to help those less fortunate than herself.

And, of course, it is not even that long ago that Susi had to face another, perhaps even more difficult, challenge - simply getting back on the same horse which left her needing surgery in the first place.

She says: "It was difficult to get back on a horse - especially the horse on which I'd had the accident.

"Thankfully I had a lot of help with his training, making him a bit safer. And when I did get back on it was just a matter of physically overcoming the nerves."

The race is run on the barren wilderness of the Mongolian Steppe

With that obstacle now overcome, Susi is making final preparations in Mirfield before saddling up and heading out to Mongolia in August 2010 for the race of her life.

She says she has never faced anything quite like it before: "It will be a huge physical challenge but also psychological.

"Being out in the middle of the Mongolian Steppe - 100 miles from civilisation and away from hospitals if you have an accident - is going to be a huge challenge."

Racing across Mongolia on a horse
07 Oct 09 |  People & Places

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