A NORTHUMBERLAND woman who was nearly killed while serving in Iraq has completed a remarkable turnaround by training to become a showjumping coach.
Jennifer Day, 29, of Cramlington, was close to a roadside bomb which exploded while she was serving with the Royal Engineers in Basra in 2004.
The explosion catapulted her through the window of the vehicle she was travelling in and left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, unable to hold down a job and still suffering severe headaches years later.
But now, Jennifer, a lover of horses, is on the verge of qualifying as a showjumping coach and hopes to offer opportunities to people with conditions like herself.
Jennifer, of Wansbeck Road, Dudley, was posted to Iraq in April 2004, aged 22.
The bomb exploded while she was on duty and the force of it threw her from her seat, though the windscreen of the vehicle she was travelling in, with only its cage preventing her ending up the road.
She said: “My narrow escape in Iraq was just one of several close shaves as I also lived under the daily threat of suicide bombers and non-stop gunfire.
“Rewards were also being offered by the local militia of up to $270 for the capture of any female soldier.”
Jennifer had been asked to stay on for eight months rather than the original six but was allowed to return home in the October due to her lucky escapes and her good performance.
She took a job with Newcastle City Council but was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after three years and forced to give up the post in 2008 due to ill health.
“After returning from Iraq, things were never the same.
Jennifer said: “I did initially find a job in Newcastle but due to my diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, found myself and my life going down hill, which ended with me having to leave my job after four years.”
Having been a lover of horseriding since the age of 11, Jennifer set her heart on becoming a coach and approached British Showjumping.
She applied for and was awarded a £400 bursary from Northumberland Sport’s Bringing the Games Closer project, supported by the English Federation of Disability Sport, which allowed her to attend a four-day training course in Nottingham.
Jennifer is now completing her portfolio under a mentor and must attend an assessment day early next year.
After that, she will be a fully qualified showjumping coach.
Jennifer is planning to offer freelance showjumping coaching and also general sports coaching.
She is hoping to be able to help young people with conditions like hers.
Jennifer, who still suffers severe headaches from the blast, said: “Northumberland Sport’s grant has enabled me to gain the coaching qualification required to do what I enjoy doing most.
“Through my coaching, I now hope to be able to pass on my knowledge and experiences in the equestrian world, which are exciting times with the London 2012 Games on the horizon.”