Even as she talks about the horror race fall which has threatened her ability to walk again, Maija Vance can't hide how much she loves horses.

The 27-year-old Auckland jockey is in Middlemore Hospital and could be transferred to the Otara spinal unit on Thursday for the next stage of her recovery from her shocking fall at Arawa Park in Rotorua on September 16.

Vance was having just her third hurdle ride when Zedsational misjudged a fence and flipped, smashing into Vance on the other side.

That left her with smashed teeth which almost cut her tongue off, two punctured lungs from broken ribs but most worryingly five fractures in her spine, including two vertebrae.


Because Vance suffered what is termed an "incomplete spinal injury", meaning her spinal cord suffered some damage but was not severed, she has some feeling in her right leg and can feel when her left is being touched.

Although a four-hour surgery to insert plates into her back went as well as it could, doctors have not guaranteed her she will regain full use of her legs.

Vance is taking a realistic day-by-day view to her recovery and is matter of fact about the accident.

"It wasn't his fault, it was because he is too competitive," she says of Zedsational.

"He was trying to race the horse who was just getting in front of him coming to that fence and when it took off to jump we were half a length behind it and took off at the same time.

"That meant we hit it pretty hard. I remember up to that part."

Maija Vance. Photo / Stuart Munro
Maija Vance. Photo / Stuart Munro

Vance was riding over hurdles for only the third time, initially only intending to do it once so she could qualify to ride in highweight races over the summer.

Now she faces an uncertain future but is determined to remain positive.

"The doctors haven't told me exactly what to expect and I know there is a chance I might not walk again."

Vance's parents, Bob and Jenny, were jockeys so fully understand the risks of racing and Bob says he is proud of how his daughter is handling the toughest time of her career.

"Her attitude has been fantastic and she is not thinking about the negatives," says the former jockey.

"Being jockeys ourselves, Jenny and I know these things can happen sometimes in racing and while she is pretty banged up the fact she has some feeling in her right leg is giving us hope.

"But the doctors aren't sure yet so can't tell us anything definite."

Maija started her career in New Zealand before riding in Queensland and briefly in South Australia before she returned home a year ago, riding 14 winners from limited opportunities last season.