Persistent Courage

“Never, never, never give up!”

Getting back on the horse

That Winston Churchill quote was on a bookmark my mom gave. It wasn’t just the gift of the bookmark, it was when I received the bookmark that made Churchill’s words  so continuously inspiring

I was in hospital at the time recovering from a life threatening head injury. I was out riding my horse on a casual Sunday afternoon group ride. Since I had been away  on school holiday, my horse hadn’t been ridden in a while and he was feeling nervous around the presence of other horses. When a bird flew out of a bush and spooked him, off he galloped. I desperately gripped the reins but his mind was made up as he ran full tilt towards home. I decided to stay calm and ride it out; he eventually had to stop.

The last thing I remember was seeing the stables. No one really knows what happened from there but we think he took a corner too fast and stumbled on loose gravel. I came off head first and hit a concrete block…and I wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Ten days later, I finally woke up in the ICU. I had been in a coma on full life support, suffered a collapsed lung, I had a broken basal skull bone and a pressure-release valve had been inserted in my head. The initial prognosis was bleak. The doctors said there would be brain damage. I was never going to be the same and I would never finish school.

Then came the bookmark with Churchill’s words and I took them, not just to heart, but to action. I finished school four months later with 7 distinctions and went on to study chemical engineering. But that wasn’t the hardest obstacle I had to overcome.

My dad insisted that, as soon as I was strong enough, I had to get back on the horse. The very same horse that had run away with me. The very same horse that left a scar of fear along with my physical injuries. The very same horse that changed my life.

Whenever I find myself in challenging situations, I think of my bookmark. I think of Churchill’s words and I think of that horse. I got back on that horse. I overcame my fear and I proved to myself that I am capable of overcoming whatever knocks me down. I learned that persistent courage has the ability to breakthrough whatever we think are limits.

Fighting back after crashing at Momentum 947 last year
Fighting back after crashing at Momentum 947 last year *photo credit: Erik Vermeulen

It took persistant courage to make a full recover from my head injury

It took persistent courage to get back on the horse and conquer my fear.

It takes persistent courage be on the start line amongst all the best women in the world and race for the win.

It takes persistent courage to overcome the obstacles and challenges that inevitably come along the way.

Fighting to overcome challenge, whether it’s getting back on the horse or winning a pro cycling race, can be scary and seemingly impossible but, with persistent courage limits are only the starting point of success.



Never give up.

2 thoughts on “Persistent Courage

  1. Megan L Andersen

    You are such an inspiration Ashleigh… and I agree with you, one can never and must never give up in order to achieve your goals. There will always be challenges but it is in the manner in which you take on those challenges in which you will be strengthened and will grow.



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