An internationally accomplished dressage rider has been fighting for life in a coma for more than a week after being seriously injured trying to rescue horses from Victorian bushfires.
Highly regarded in the equestrian community, Janina Kletke, 34, is described as “being one of the best in her field”.
As bushfires ravaged properties across the Gippsland region earlier this month, the animal lover had already safely evacuated her own horses to a friend’s farm and put out a call offering to help other horses at risk.
About 2am on March 4, a woman responded to Ms Kletke’s Facebook message offering to relocate other horses in her four-horse trailer that was ready to go.
A Country Fire Authority crew escorted the German national to a burnt-out property in Garfield North, where tragedy struck.
It is not known Ms Kletke was kicked, or how she sustained her serious head injury, but the young woman was found unconscious near the trailer while loading the fourth horse.
“It looked like she had fallen off the ramp of the truck,” close friend Shaun Dillon told Yahoo7 News.
He said it was “not surprising” the champion rider went out in the middle of the night to respond to horses in crisis.
“She’s got the most amazing intuition for humans and animals… She has a sixth sense to communicate with horses,” Mr Dillion said.
Describing his friend as “exceptionally talented”, Mr Dillon said the teacher and horse trainer was a “formidable force in the equestrian world, but an exceptionally humble person”.
“Janina is a very smart and extremely intelligent person. She would not have put herself in a position that would have been vulnerable,” he said.
Since the “freak accident”, Ms Kletke has remained in an induced coma in The Alfred Hospital’s intensive care ward fighting for her life.
“It’s a really tragic thing to happen to somebody like her. She doesn’t deserve it,” Mr Dillon added.
The accident has rocked the equestrian community who have rallied together to organise fundraising initiatives to ensure she receives the best medical care, and see that her farm remains operational and her horses are cared for.
“As a German Bereiter, Janina has bought a wealth of knowledge and invaluable expertise to Australian dressage,” a GoFundMe account set up to support her said.
“Having people like Janina here in Australia is so important for the longevity of our sport. This is our chance to give her our support and thanks back when she needs it the most.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.