Siblings healed and happy

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Looking back, Jonathan Asselin can now see the bright side.

"It could have been a lot worse for either of them," he said when talking about the injuries suffered by his son and stepdaughter last summer.

"We're thankful they weren't really long-term injuries or injuries that could have changed their lives.

"We've thanked our lucky stars for that."

Sunshine washed over Spruce Meadows yesterday to kick off the National show jumping tournament, and the joy of a new season in Calgary can't be missed among the riders.

Perhaps, though, no family is more excited about the prospects than in the Asselin household.

Just the fact Ben Asselin and Kelly Koss are riding is a cause for celebration after the horror show last summer. The spiral of bad luck started at the Canada One tournament when Koss, 23, fell off her horse during a junior/amateur speed derby and fractured a vertebrae.

"It was probably the most painful thing I've gone through," she recalled.

"The first thing I did was try to move my legs, and I could, and after that, my back was hurting. It was a lot of pain, but because I could move my legs and there was no numbness, I almost went into shock over how bad it could have been."

She actually got back to her feet and walked from the ring but later that day left Spruce Meadows in an ambulance.

That's when the fracture was discovered, and she spent the next couple of months in a back brace.

Just over a week later at the North American tournament, Ben Asselin, 15, was going over a jump and came out of his tack. Knowing he was in trouble, he jumped off the horse but broke his ankle landing on the ground.

He spent three weeks in a full-leg cast before going to a smaller model and ended up on crutches for two months.

"It was definitely not fun at all," he said. "I think it was more painful not riding, but the injury was painful."

Instead of a fun-filled summer, both spent their time recovering.

"It was really unfortunate what happened to Ben, but I was happy to have the company because it was a long summer," Koss said.

"Our summer is the busiest time because it's the show season and we're able to compete outside so much more. Normally, we're not home at all in the summer, and we were home the whole summer."

Talk about a tough time to be a parent.

"One accident, it happens," Jonathan Asselin said. "After two, you're then waiting for number three. I'm glad we didn't have another kid riding, or (get hurt) myself."

Through it all, he rode well enough during the trials to be named the alternate rider for Canada's Olympic team, but he admitted seeing people you love suffer bad injuries weighs on the mind.

"For sure, you relive the falls after you see them, but when I was competing, I was still focused," Asselin said.

"I wouldn't be focused during the day as much, but when I got on the horse and was doing my job, I was able to put everything aside and compete as well as I can."

Fortunately, Ben was back riding in October, and Kelly -- with the use of a brace for a couple of months -- was back in the saddle Nov. 1.

"I was so happy to be back," she said. "I never thought about not riding again. That thought never crossed my mind."

And now, they're all in action together at the place they love most.

"Absolutely," Jonathan Asselin said. "I lost my two best coaches. These guys have walked the courses with me since Sydney (Olympics). Since 2000, Kelly has been a great help, and Ben has grown into a great help. I don't have anybody else, and they've been super and big moral support."

Ben Asselin is running a string of horses in his classes this summer, as is Koss.

And Jonathan Asselin has two young horses competing in the International Ring.

One is a newcomer to that level, Coolio, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding.

The other is Rayana Chiara, the 10-year-old Hanoverian mare he qualified for the Olympic team with.


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