Callan Solem Rides Once More

After a devastating injury, the Chester Springs equestrian is back in the saddle to pursue her dream career.

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Callan Solem with her horse, Bianca, in Chester Springs. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)It’s one thing if you’re a little girl who falls off her bicycle and climbs right back on. But if you’re a Grand Prix rider and you fall face-first off your horse, only to race a month later, it says you’re for real.

In September 2010, Callan Solem shattered the orbital bone in the left side of her face, suffered a concussion and was flown to St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem for surgery before her brain began to swell.

She was at a schooling show in New Jersey following a Grand Prix in Saugerties, N.Y., where she’d done well. Solem admits now that she entered over-confident, in a class that should’ve been easy for her horse, Bianca. “It will forever be a reminder to keep in the present,” says Solem.

She spent a week in the hospital, suffered from amnesia for 10 days, and was forced to sleep when all she was dreaming of was competing at the Pennsylvania National in Harrisburg. Subject to the state’s return-to-play law and cognitive testing, Solem was told that no one passes the first time. She did.

Two weeks after a doctor’s clearance, Solem was competing again. “It’s definitely made my resolve stronger,” she says. “I really want to be good at this. I know what’s made many riders great, and now I’m trying to implement it all.”

Solem views her ugly fall as part of “the journey”—just like her move earlier that year to the 90-acre Upland Farm in Chester Springs, where she opened Callan Solem Stables with the support of Upland’s Nia and Collin McNeil. “This isn’t a sport with an age limit,” says the 33-year-old rider. “Some of our best compete into their 50s. To take this away from me would be more than just the riding—it would be my life. Being a rider defines me. Without that, I’m not myself.”

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