Trooper's return and recovery made the difference for Nida. The following summer, Nida showed Trooper, for the first time, at the Summer Challenge of Champions in Winfield. They won their class.
"We just needed to prove it, that he could do it. That I could do it."
Now, Trooper is retired at Taylor Made Farms and Nida said, "We still play, he just doesn't have to show. He hangs out in the barn and gets turned out in the field to eat grass all day."
His wild spirit that so scared her trainers has calmed. "He hasn't put a wrong foot down since we brought him back," she said.
But Trooper wasn't the only one helping Nida recover.
• • •
After the accident, Nida began physical therapy at Universal Fitness in St. Albans, where Scott Johnson worked out regularly. They had known each other since junior high school and now saw each other regularly at the gym. Nida said reconnecting with Johnson was quick.
"We ran into each other one night, he asked me out for the next night, and we've been together ever since." That was in November 2010.
Nida's recovery, however, has not been without setbacks. After the initial surgery, doctors told Nida that, eventually, she would herniate the disks below the original injury site because of the added pressure on the lower disks.
"But I thought 'eventually' meant when I was 40," she said, not a mere three years later. Still, she put off having surgery until January.
"I had let the herniated disk go too long and the nerve was really bruised. So after surgery, when the pressure was released, the bruise spread and it really hurt much worse than I expected. I thought, 'What have I done?'
"But Scott was wonderful. He took care of me. I couldn't even get out of bed. I couldn't do anything. He took off work and took care of me."
Now, Nida said, she is completely pain-free. She works hard to keep herself physically fit training with Majeed Raissi, owner of Primal Training in Charleston.
"He has helped me get a lot stronger, which has healed my back enormously. My orthopedic surgeon says he is to credit for a lot of my improvement since surgery."
• • •
Last August, Nida and Johnson went on vacation to Florida.
"We were taking a walk on the beach and I had walked down farther than him, looking for seashells. He had stopped. When I walked back he had written 'Will you marry me?' in the sand. He did a really good job -- he was shaking.
"He'd asked my mom's permission and the permission of my trainers, Jane and Taylor, who are like second parents to me. He'd even talked to my brother and had taken my best friend ring shopping."
In May, Nida's friends surprised her with a Kentucky Derby-themed bridal shower, complete with hats and horseshoes.
Because of the couple's shared love of horses and the outdoors, they planned their ceremony and reception Saturday at the Maylon House, in Milton, a plantation with a farm feel. The decorations were upscale country chic with mason jars and burlap accents, but with formal gowns and colorful flowers.
For Nida, 29, and Johnson, 31, this happily-ever-after is only the beginning.
Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopk...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.