I started riding as at the age of seven after my family was transferred from Canada to England. We had the rare fortune to go riding during school hours once a week since we attended a private school. I fell madly in love with riding and ponies from that point forward.
When I was eight I was given my favourite pony from the riding school for Christmas. I rode all the time. When I was about to turn 10 we moved to the US and I had to sell my beloved pony. At 11 we returned to Canada and from 16 onwards I have owned six horses.
When I was 41, I was at a horse show in September with my current horse, Baron, who is a 17.1 hand ¾ TB-¼ Clydesdale cross. In the warm-up he was very fresh and when one of my barnmates fell off and their dad broke through the fence barrier to get to her, it further spooked my horse. My instincts told me that perhaps today wasn’t the day to show over fences, given his temperament ‒ plus the fact that he was trotting sideways!
My ego overrode my good sense, however, and decided that I was being a wimp, so I decided to give a couple of fences a try. We cantered over the first one with no issues and turned for the line. As my horse was going over the first jump of the line, something happened. I’m not sure to this day if he bucked going over or not, but I ended up flying 12 feet in the air and landing hard in the sand.
I was very fortunate that there was a paramedic immediately beside me who saw how I fell. He strongly talked me out of getting up and getting back on my horse. I was embarrassed and hyped on adrenaline and wanted to get back on and keep going. Thank goodness for that amazing paramedic.
The next thing I knew, I found myself strapped to a hard board and taken away by ambulance. I was taken to Georgetown hospital which shortly after that transferred me to Milton Hospital for an MRI. I was told that I had fractured my T12 and L1 vertebrae in my back and they considered flying me to have emergency surgery. Luckily, a spine specialist in Mississauga was able to read my results (on a Sunday) and said that I could recover with a back brace and time.
I was in hospital in Georgetown for seven days and then I came home. It was very hard at first and I lived on my main floor in a bed put in the living room as I couldn’t do stairs. All I wanted was to see my horse. After a few weeks I was able to see him briefly wearing my back brace. I was in that back brace for 12 weeks and I worked hard to get better and get my life back.
I just wanted to ride my horse again, but I was full of fear. I had many nightmares and each one was about riding my horse in our indoor arena and my horse bolting and me flying through the air and hitting the wall.
In January of the following year, four months after my accident, my amazing barn owner offered for me to get on her very quiet older Quarter Horse, Murry. I did and had a little ride that day. My back still hurt a bit, so I decided to give it another month of healing.
What was amazing is that as of that day, my nightmares stopped completely. On Valentines Day the following month, I was ready to get on Baron again. I did and I shed tears that day. finally being back in the saddle on the horse that love.
It took me two further years of rebuilding to get back into the show ring. I aimed high and went to a Trillium show with my guy. It was a wonderful, special day.
Now 50, I have been riding ever since and sometimes still deal with fear, but one thing I have never done since that day of the fall is ignore my instincts. Baron will be 17 this year and while he’s more of a pet than any kind of show horse now, he’s truly the most special horse I have ever had and will be with me until his last day.