This was supposed to be Day 9 of the 30-Day Challenge, but I realized that most days, I had nothing to say. This one though, is very serious. This is my story, honest and true, of why I believe so passionately in helmet usage.
So many of my fellow bloggers right now are recovering from serious injuries and it reminds me of my own. The past has faded away, for me, I was lucky.
Day 09- Any Injuries that Occurred from Riding
My only ‘real’ injury?
When I worked for the polo club and was holding an OTTB (off-the-track-thoroughbred) that was having its mane shaved. It was a rainy, stormy day, lightening crashing in the sky, rain pouring down from the dark clouds. I had spent the day in the barn cleaning and prepping tack, driving it over to the trailer to pack up for our first road trip of the season. We were headed to Calgary for a big competition and I was beyond excited.
When my boss showed up later that day, we went to the ‘new’ facility to roach the ponies’ manes. We had done the boys at the old barn the day before, and it went great. No biggie at all.
We caught ‘Danny’ and I was holding him in a lip twitch in the new barn. He was nervous but not unmanageable, and I remember standing at his head talking to him about my life, baring my soul. The rain was drumming down on the tin roof, and I really adored this horse. He was a wonderful ride, and I had spent the last two months babysitting him since he had polysaccharide storage myopathy (sugar storage issues leading to muscle cramping and spasms) and tended to tie-up after hard riding; he also was anorexic and needed a lot of attention in order to eat and keep weight on.
I don’t remember much, beyond looking through the open barn door as the City Police horse trailer rolled up the driveway. One of their new recruits was standing beside the door, out of the rain watching it come in…
…a crack of thunder. Hard rain on the metal roof. Crunching gravel below the horse trailer. The spark of lightening in the sky. The roar of the clippers near his ears…
I awoke, sitting on the ground leaning against a stall door. When I opened my eyes, I was staring at a bare chest. Of a man.
Immediately the questioning began: “Who are you?” “What’s your name?” “Where are you?”
My eyes flew upward away from the shirtless man kneeling beside me over to my boss. “How’s Danny?” I asked, tears streaming down my face. “Is he hurt??! Are we going to miss the competition now?!” I felt horrible, like I let the whole team down, failed at my job, injured and scared poor Danny and now was going to miss out on the excitement.
The shirtless man I came to realize was the new recruit who had been in the doorway. He was shirtless because he was using his t-shirt as a compress on my head. Why? Because Danny, despite the twitch, had reared, clipping me with his front shod hooves three times in the head. I apparently had raised my hands to my head to protect myself before crumpling to the ground. I had been knocked out.
I still retain no memory of the actual accident. Just the rain pouring down as the trailer rolled in. I think it’s a good thing. I’m not sure otherwise I would still have the nerve to ride and work with horses. There’s no bad memory there when it comes to ponies; heck I still rode Danny, and may someday have the opportunity to adopt him.
What happened after I had my skull split open? The ambulance came. The whole ride made me feel like puking, which I’m told is the effect of a concussion. The closest hospital performed an MRI and discovered I had a severe hemorrhage in my brain. My skull had been cracked open and was split in three. I’m told the split resembled a horseshoe.
I was transferred to a more advanced hospital with a neurosurgeon. It was father’s day, and the neurosurgeon was called away from his family dinner to put my head back together. My parents drove in from home, terrified. My sisters now hate Zoolander because it was the only thing on the television in the waiting room.
I looked like crap. They cut off all my nice horse gear, and put me under. The top neurosurgeon in the province fixed up my head. He used a titanium plate to hold the three pieces of my skull together. I was lucky he was the one on-call, and he did such a nice job that the scar was hidden in my hairline. It’s a big scar, about 4” long.
I awoke the next day in the ICU. My face was swollen out past my ears, my eyes and cheeks were black and blue, my eyes bloodshot and my scalp partially shaved.
I healed quickly. My boss came with flowers, and the new recruit brought me a stuffed baby Eyore. He had no way of knowing he was my favorite Winnie the Pooh character. I told my boss to go to the competition without me, and they were very successful. By the end of the day I was in a semi-private room with ‘normal’ hospital folks. The girl I shared a room with, who was about my age, had just come out of a coma from encephalitis. She remembered little to nothing about her life, and had the most awful night terrors. Two nights of sleeping in the same room as her, with a splitting headache, lonely and homesick was the best push I knew of to get me out of there.
I passed my neurological exam three days after being admitted. They found no permanent damage as a result of the accident, and I left that afternoon for home. The recovery was painful, but after a few weeks I was back to normal and in two months, back on a horse.
To this day, other then a scar that’s hidden by my hair, I have no real damage. I have a slight blind spot in my right eye that was only noticed during a physical exam for work. I rarely notice it, and it’s pretty minor compared to what happens to a lot of people.
I always wore a helmet when riding, but after that experience, I wear one when doing groundwork that may be dangerous. I refuse to work with horses that use rearing as a tactic to avoid things they don’t like or are scared of. I don’t consider myself fearful, just cautious and aware of the dangers of horses. I advocate helmet usage in everyone, knowing very few are as lucky as I am. I have no memory of the horrible experience, no loss of love for riding and horses. Granted, I chose a big sturdy QH for my first horse, as I just can’t trust flighty horses anymore.
It’s my one injury, and I hope, my only serious injury. Ride safe my friends, and if my storey is a lesson to you, wear your helmet.