Life with horses isn’t really a choice for most die-hard riders. Ask anyone and they’ll give you a list a mile long of injuries and challenges that should have kept them out of the saddle, but didn’t. I’ve often wondered what colossal, life-altering event would have to happen in order to push a rider past the point of no return and make the decision to hang up their boots. This week I got a first-hand, front row seat for the “Horses: Yay or Nay”.
It happened when I got my face handed to me on a platter by a horse that spooked while I was in his stall. To say I got nailed doesn’t quite cover it. As I stood pouring grain into his feed bucket he pulled a typical, I’m gonna freak out for no reason manoeuvre and he set back, then lunged forward while spinning around head first. In the moment that his face collided with mine I knew what it was to “become one with your horse”. OMG did it hurt!
This “incident” felt like the last straw in a life-long series of head injuries and I found myself contemplating the absurdity of my profession as I sat alone in the aisle with tears pouring down my face. I fear head trauma above all for good reason. The last time I had a concussion it left me feeling like my internet connection had been downgraded from high speed to dial up. It took months for me to recover and, believe me, I never want to live with that feeling again.
Sitting quietly on the sofa this past week hasn’t been as difficult as I might’ve thought, perhaps that’s because my brain is busy trying to settle itself back into position within the confines of my skull. I’ve been able to rely on the help of my family to pick up my slack, but I know that ready or not I’ll have to make an appearance in the barn soon. The only real concern I have about going out to the barn is the warning I’ve received from the experts assuring me that one more hit to the head might result in me and the sippy cup becoming best of friends.
Riders know the risks all too well. We hear about other people’s injuries and deaths all the time, but riding is like a drug, once you’ve experienced the high it’s hard to quit, no matter how much you know it might eventually be the end of you. I’ve learned many things during my life on and around horses and one of the most important points is that riders are surprisingly forgiving of their horse’s mistakes. Ask any rider recovering from an injury and they’ll tell you, “It really wasn’t his fault”. For the most part, we are happy to forgive and forget (probably because head injuries tend to result in memory loss making the forget part relatively easy), but deciding if we’re prepared to go out with our boots on is never easy. For now I’ll keep an open mind which, not surprisingly, is getting easier and easier every day.