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✨On International Women’s Day We Celebrate Maija Vance✨


On International Women’s Day We Celebrate Maija Vance


We could not have a better article for you this week, on International Women’s Day no less! Just when we thought we’d met some of the most inspiring, incredible women, another fearless warrior comes along and blows us away.

 

Today, we’re chatting with the incredible Maija Vance. If you haven’t heard of her, where have you been? Luckily for you however, there’s nothing we love more than telling this incredible fighter’s story. Let’s begin with a little background on the woman now affectionately known as the comeback kid.

 

Maija, from Cambridge New Zealand is an equestrian born and bred. As soon as she was born, she was sat on the back of any quiet racehorse that would have her thanks to her parents both being keen equestrians, her dad in particular a jockey. When it came to Maija herself being a jockey, there was never actually a moment where it was consciously decided,  more that, “I just always wanted to ride racehorses and the more track work I rode, the more it just processed to me riding on Raceday.”

 

From riding her first winner, Blackfox, a $69 long shot at a big carnival day in Ellerslie where her Dad screamed her on in the crowd to riding her own parents horses. Howbowdat and Noosa Blue where she won yet more races; it’s safe to say that racing always was in Maija’s blood and something that both of her parents were very proud of.

 

Despite having an incredibly in-depth riding education and extremely knowledgeable people around her, nothing could have prepared Maija for the day that changed not only her riding career but her entire life.

 

On September 16, 2018, Maija was thrown from her mount during a race at Rotorua. As a result of the fall, Maija suffered damage to five vertebrae as well as her spinal cord. She also punctured both lungs, broke ribs, teeth and severed her tongue.

 

Despite the huge injuries, enough to defeat anyone, Maija was determined to walk again. After over a month of recovery, Maija still had zero feeling from her waist down and was using a wheelchair daily but her determination and grit never wavered, “I just refuse to use a wheelchair but I accept that I may need to use it until my legs start to work again.” Fast forward to today and Maija isn’t just walking again, something that was thought to be impossible but she’s riding again too. We decided we just had to find out more about this amazing woman and her miracle journey.

 

Jenni: Thank you so much Maija for agreeing to speak with us today. We’ve been reading articles from back in 2018 and it was all very pessimistic regarding your ability to walk again. Shoot to today and any of your instagram followers will know it’s a very different story. It’s incredible. Was there a moment you remember specifically when you thought, actually I will walk again? When you realised your positivity and determination was working?

Maija: In the hospital I would lay there constantly sending signals to my toes to move. The day my toe first twitched when I told it to, really solidified the fact that it was working, it wasn’t hopeless and to keep doing what I was doing. The day I was able to stand upright inside the horizontal bars without being supported by a standing frame was probably the day I knew for a fact that I would walk again. As long as I can stand up with my legs supporting my body weight, I will be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk again no matter how ugly it looked haha.

 

J: You’ve been labelled the comeback kid because not only can you walk again, but you can ride again!! Amazing!! How important was that for you?

M: Riding has been the most important part of my recovery. I knew that even if I was never able to walk again, I could still ride my horse (like Kristy Banks a barrel racer with a spinal cord injury) then I might just be okay. I’m constantly doing exercises and stretches to improve my walking pattern but also to improve my riding. And a lot of the time my riding is actually helping build up muscles and balance that I need for walking so it’s all very intertwined.

 

J: The friendships you’ve made since, with the likes of Kristy Banks; how important was it to connect with people who had been through similar experiences?

M: Kristy Banks was the person that gave me the hope that if I have to live in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, at least I could still ride and not just ride a horse but ride competitively like she does now with barrel racing. Also a lot of the problems you go through with a spinal cord injury are hard to understand for someone who has never been through that or seen someone close to them go through it. Having someone to talk to that can relate to those problems is so important. When Ellie Stokes (16) had her track work fall leaving her a paraplegic I tried really hard to be there for her in the same way Kristy had been there for me, even though I didn’t actually know her before her fall. We’ve since become good friends.

 

J: We know that those with spinal injuries, regardless of severity, can suffer with nerve pain and other similar chronic pains, is this something you have to deal with too?

M: Since my spinal cord injury I suffer nerve pain in my right leg and foot especially. The only way to explain it is that it’s a very cold feeling as though my foot is constantly submerged in snow or ice water. Cold weather and lack of blood circulation makes the pain a lot worse and with the loss of so much muscle in my legs, training them is difficult. They become extremely fatigued after what would be very easy exercises for anyone else.

 

J: As you know, part of our mission is to develop a clothing range that helps those during rehabilitation. Our compression wear has a number of benefits and has been known to help those with nerve pain, inflammation and stiffness. Have you found any benefits with our compression leggings and compression top like this?

M: The compression leggings have so many benefits from helping my training to reducing pain. An example of this is my spinal cord. It helps to regulate your blood pressure but because my spinal cord is damaged, I have a lot of problems with my blood pressure. After my accident it took me two months to be able to sit upright as there was nothing to stop all the blood rushing out of my head which would leave me either having to lay back down or I would immediately pass out. At that time I had to wear compression stockings 24/7 to stop the blood from leaving my upper body and head too quickly. Since then I’ve obviously recovered a lot however when working out I do a lot of things on the ground and then get up quickly which can sometimes leave me a bit light headed as my spinal cord injury/blood pressure control hasn’t fully recovered and it may never do.

Wearing the compression leggings and compression top helps regulate my blood pressure while jumping up and down off the ground doing my exercises and stretches. This means I never get dizzy or light headed when wearing them. I don’t have any problems with blood circulation in the upper half of my body however I have terrible blood circulation down my legs and into my feet. This makes the cold feeling from nerve pain in my right leg and foot a lot worse, the compression leggings are great for this so I’ll wear them during the day not just when I workout as I feel a great improvement in my pain levels when I am wearing them day to day too. I’ve also noticed the compression leggings help my recovery times enough that I’m able to train once a day. This means greater gains and faster improvements. It’s been key to my step training for my mountain climb in three weeks as I need to be training every day to get fit enough to make the climb.

 

J: You have such a special relationship with Panda. What makes him such a special horse?

M: My horse is so special to me now as I had only just broken him in and started doing some little practice days with him when I had my fall. So when I first went to get on him he was still young and hadn’t been ridden for the last 6 months. He took care of me so well and never put a foot wrong. For 3 months he would walk and trot in circles in our lunge arena, stopping every 2 minutes to let me scramble back up after slipping off to one side. Because my brain still didn’t acknowledge the fact that I had a left leg, I would put all my weight in the right stirrup which would then have me and the saddle slipping off to one side. I could never repay him for how much he has helped me with my recovery and putting up with me trying to learn to ride again.

 

If you’d like to find out more about this incredible woman, you can find her on Instagram at @maija_vance or check out her incredible presenting skills over at https://loveracing.nz!

 

We could not have a better article for you this week, on International Women’s Day no less! Just when we thought we’d met some of the most inspiring, incredible women, another fearless warrior comes along and blows us away.

 

Today, we’re chatting with the incredible Maija Vance. If you haven’t heard of her, where have you been? Luckily for you however, there’s nothing we love more than telling this incredible fighter’s story. Let’s begin with a little background on the woman now affectionately known as the comeback kid.

 

Maija, from Cambridge New Zealand is an equestrian born and bred. As soon as she was born, she was sat on the back of any quiet racehorse that would have her thanks to her parents both being keen equestrians, her dad in particular a jockey. When it came to Maija herself being a jockey, there was never actually a moment where it was consciously decided,  more that, “I just always wanted to ride racehorses and the more track work I rode, the more it just processed to me riding on Raceday.”

 

From riding her first winner, Blackfox, a $69 long shot at a big carnival day in Ellerslie where her Dad screamed her on in the crowd to riding her own parents horses. Howbowdat and Noosa Blue where she won yet more races; it’s safe to say that racing always was in Maija’s blood and something that both of her parents were very proud of.

 

Despite having an incredibly in-depth riding education and extremely knowledgeable people around her, nothing could have prepared Maija for the day that changed not only her riding career but her entire life.

 

On September 16, 2018, Maija was thrown from her mount during a race at Rotorua. As a result of the fall, Maija suffered damage to five vertebrae as well as her spinal cord. She also punctured both lungs, broke ribs, teeth and severed her tongue.

 

Despite the huge injuries, enough to defeat anyone, Maija was determined to walk again. After over a month of recovery, Maija still had zero feeling from her waist down and was using a wheelchair daily but her determination and grit never wavered, “I just refuse to use a wheelchair but I accept that I may need to use it until my legs start to work again.” Fast forward to today and Maija isn’t just walking again, something that was thought to be impossible but she’s riding again too. We decided we just had to find out more about this amazing woman and her miracle journey.

 

Jenni: Thank you so much Maija for agreeing to speak with us today. We’ve been reading articles from back in 2018 and it was all very pessimistic regarding your ability to walk again. Shoot to today and any of your instagram followers will know it’s a very different story. It’s incredible. Was there a moment you remember specifically when you thought, actually I will walk again? When you realised your positivity and determination was working?

Maija: In the hospital I would lay there constantly sending signals to my toes to move. The day my toe first twitched when I told it to, really solidified the fact that it was working, it wasn’t hopeless and to keep doing what I was doing. The day I was able to stand upright inside the horizontal bars without being supported by a standing frame was probably the day I knew for a fact that I would walk again. As long as I can stand up with my legs supporting my body weight, I will be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk again no matter how ugly it looked haha.

 

J: You’ve been labelled the comeback kid because not only can you walk again, but you can ride again!! Amazing!! How important was that for you?

M: Riding has been the most important part of my recovery. I knew that even if I was never able to walk again, I could still ride my horse (like Kristy Banks a barrel racer with a spinal cord injury) then I might just be okay. I’m constantly doing exercises and stretches to improve my walking pattern but also to improve my riding. And a lot of the time my riding is actually helping build up muscles and balance that I need for walking so it’s all very intertwined.

 

J: The friendships you’ve made since, with the likes of Kristy Banks; how important was it to connect with people who had been through similar experiences?

M: Kristy Banks was the person that gave me the hope that if I have to live in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, at least I could still ride and not just ride a horse but ride competitively like she does now with barrel racing. Also a lot of the problems you go through with a spinal cord injury are hard to understand for someone who has never been through that or seen someone close to them go through it. Having someone to talk to that can relate to those problems is so important. When Ellie Stokes (16) had her track work fall leaving her a paraplegic I tried really hard to be there for her in the same way Kristy had been there for me, even though I didn’t actually know her before her fall. We’ve since become good friends.

 

J: We know that those with spinal injuries, regardless of severity, can suffer with nerve pain and other similar chronic pains, is this something you have to deal with too?

M: Since my spinal cord injury I suffer nerve pain in my right leg and foot especially. The only way to explain it is that it’s a very cold feeling as though my foot is constantly submerged in snow or ice water. Cold weather and lack of blood circulation makes the pain a lot worse and with the loss of so much muscle in my legs, training them is difficult. They become extremely fatigued after what would be very easy exercises for anyone else.

 

J: As you know, part of our mission is to develop a clothing range that helps those during rehabilitation. Our compression wear has a number of benefits and has been known to help those with nerve pain, inflammation and stiffness. Have you found any benefits with our compression leggings and compression top like this?

M: The compression leggings have so many benefits from helping my training to reducing pain. An example of this is my spinal cord. It helps to regulate your blood pressure but because my spinal cord is damaged, I have a lot of problems with my blood pressure. After my accident it took me two months to be able to sit upright as there was nothing to stop all the blood rushing out of my head which would leave me either having to lay back down or I would immediately pass out. At that time I had to wear compression stockings 24/7 to stop the blood from leaving my upper body and head too quickly. Since then I’ve obviously recovered a lot however when working out I do a lot of things on the ground and then get up quickly which can sometimes leave me a bit light headed as my spinal cord injury/blood pressure control hasn’t fully recovered and it may never do.

Wearing the compression leggings and compression top helps regulate my blood pressure while jumping up and down off the ground doing my exercises and stretches. This means I never get dizzy or light headed when wearing them. I don’t have any problems with blood circulation in the upper half of my body however I have terrible blood circulation down my legs and into my feet. This makes the cold feeling from nerve pain in my right leg and foot a lot worse, the compression leggings are great for this so I’ll wear them during the day not just when I workout as I feel a great improvement in my pain levels when I am wearing them day to day too. I’ve also noticed the compression leggings help my recovery times enough that I’m able to train once a day. This means greater gains and faster improvements. It’s been key to my step training for my mountain climb in three weeks as I need to be training every day to get fit enough to make the climb.

 

J: You have such a special relationship with Panda. What makes him such a special horse?

M: My horse is so special to me now as I had only just broken him in and started doing some little practice days with him when I had my fall. So when I first went to get on him he was still young and hadn’t been ridden for the last 6 months. He took care of me so well and never put a foot wrong. For 3 months he would walk and trot in circles in our lunge arena, stopping every 2 minutes to let me scramble back up after slipping off to one side. Because my brain still didn’t acknowledge the fact that I had a left leg, I would put all my weight in the right stirrup which would then have me and the saddle slipping off to one side. I could never repay him for how much he has helped me with my recovery and putting up with me trying to learn to ride again.

 

If you’d like to find out more about this incredible woman, you can find her on Instagram at @maija_vance or check out her incredible presenting skills over at https://loveracing.nz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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