EXCLUSIVE: Florida teen gets back in the saddle after life-changing injury, loss of her horse

Alexis Halbert loves horses and horseback riding, but everything changed in her life last year during a jumping event in North Carolina.

"My horse, Charisma, took off from too far away. She put her foot down, it got tangled in the rail and she did a somersault in the air. I went flying, I allegedly landed on my stomach, and just snapped my back in half," Halbert recalled. Charisma died instantly, breaking her neck when she hit the ground. Halbert was knocked unconscious, "I woke up on the ground."

She added, "I don't remember the first couple of minutes, but I was screaming at people to get off of me, when I came to, I told them I couldn't feel my legs and that my back was broken."

They airlifted her to the hospital and she was right – she had indeed fractured her spine. Then her mother had to tell her that Charisma didn't survive. 

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"I was screaming 'my baby, my baby,' so loud that they had to shut the doors of my hospital room when I was in the ICU because I was being so loud," she said.

Some doctors feared she would never walk again, but others said she would. Thankfully, the latter were right.

"Ten days after my accident I started moving my toes again," Halbert said. "And every day after that another muscle group would come back."

Her mother, Liz, said that the outpouring of support from their community was tremendous, telling FOX 35, "I have two boxes full of cards and letters that we've kept to go through, people from all over the country. I would spend maybe three hours a night texting strangers back."

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Alexis was starting to walk again just a month later. Not too long after that, Halbert knew she had to get back in the saddle.

"It was amazing," she said. "I don't think I've been genuinely that happy since almost my accident and when I walked for the first time again."

Alexis says she's hoping to go to nursing school once she graduates from Melbourne’s Eau Gallie High School. That way, she said she can help others the way she had gotten help.

Since her accident, she is also promoting the use of an equestrian safety vest from the company ‘Horse Pilot.’ Airbags inside the vest inflate when a rider falls from a horse and helps protect them from getting injured.

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.