Following a serious car accident and a debilitating head injury, it can be extremely difficult to return to your old live, your old hobbies, and your old loves. For one Virginia woman, however, a lot of persistence and hard work have allowed her to get back on the horse again after a serious accident – literally.

In 1986, 18-year-old Kim Decker of Fairfax County was driving to work on Route 28 near Westfield Boulevard when she lost control of her car and crashed. She suffered serious head trauma and was in a coma by the time her parents got to her side. According to the Washington Post, the Chantilly High School graduate would face a lifetime of disability following the car accident, the doctors said. After a dangerous brain surgery to relieve pressure due to swelling, Decker was in a coma for almost four months – and that was only the beginning of her long road to recovery. For the next five years, she had to re-learn everything, including how to speak and hold objects.

However, throughout the process, Decker never gave up her love of riding horses – and activity she had pursued since she was eleven years old. Now 46, Decker competes in international dressage horse riding competitions. While she still struggles with memory loss and slurred speech, she has worked with her brain injury in order to stay successful in the sport that she loves. She says that working with her horse after her car accident helped her recovery, including her ability to live independently and hold a regular job. In the future, she would like to participate in the paralympics.