A weight loss programme has transformed the life of champion Rotorua equestrian, Jo Jackson.

"I've always struggled with my weight, and have been a typical yo-yo dieter for over two decades," she said. "I think the turning point came after a dressage competition in spring 2017 where I seriously considered quitting riding - and horses are what fuel my soul."

Being born without a lower right arm didn't stop her in the past. She won three equestrian gold medals at the Atlanta Paralympics and is a three times world champion.

This time the challenge was different.


"My riding and balance was getting worse, I knew I was confusing my horse JD and I just wasn't happy," Jackson said. "My anxiety was creeping up again, too. But I knew I'd be running away from the problem and not addressing it. In my heart, I was not ready to quit riding, so it was time to do something about it."

She turned to the team at QE Health Wellness and Spa who had helped her in the past. In August 2015 - and "in a very dark place" – she participated in a three-week, Persistent Pain course at QE Health.

Her health problems began in December 2007.

"I was supporting a sedated horse's head over my left shoulder, during a dental procedure," she said. "The horse reacted adversely, and his head caused crushing to my brachial plexus nerve in that shoulder. As a result, I developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in my left shoulder, arm and hand. A bit unfortunate as I have no lower right arm and wear a prosthetic arm. CRPS then started to spread to other parts of my body."

A combination of relentless pain, a cocktail of medication and the loss of her job led to a downward spiral of depression and loss of self-worth.

"I was only existing, not living."

Her weight loss programme began in July 2017, focused around a fitness programme in the QE Health gym.

"I was determined to do it, but I never imagined I would lose this much weight. By the end of the year I had lost 28 kilos. My original goal was 30 but now it's 35," she said.

"I realise that I'm unlikely to be totally pain-free again, but I accept that for what it is and get on with it."

She's generous in her praise for QE and those who've helped and she's looking forward to 2018.

"I can see there is a future, which excites me more than it scares me. I want to live, I have hope again, and my confidence has soared. My balance has improved, and not carrying the excess weight has improved my health, my pain and my fatigue levels.

"Riding is fun again, I'm a far more effective rider…and JD is much happier."