They say you’re owed an accident for every 500 hours that you spend in the company of horses. I’m not sure who said that or how accurate it is, but it sounds about right … depending on what side of the equation you’re standing. I’ve had a few wrecks that resulted in some damage. Years ago I broke my left wrist (in multiple places) when I bailed off a horse who was falling on ice. I broke the same wrist a few weeks later because I cut the cast off prematurely, then came off the same horse. Yeah, I felt kinda cursed at that point, but I gave my own stubborn stupidity credit for that mishap. When I first brought Dharla home she tossed me on my keester and I wrenched a knee badly. No medical intervention was necessary, but it was a close call and it prevented me from riding her for the better part of a week. (I should have waited longer for things to heal, but felt under the circumstances that I couldn’t). About two years later I had one other “event” where I came unglued from Dharla, but by then I think I was better prepared and no damage was done.
The most scary accidents are the ones you don’t see coming; the ones that happen when you’re doing something you’ve done a thousand times, and even though you’re always mindful and careful around horses, happen anyway. I mean, you can be 100% on your toes around animals, but because horses are big, powerful beasts with a finely tuned instinct to flee from anything remotely scary or abnormal, accidents can happen.
Our typical feeding routine is as follows: The “boys” get the most grain and (therefore) get their grain first. Both boys take approximately the same about of time to eat their oats and almost always finish within seconds of one another. They’re fed in separate corners of the run-in shed that’s located off the back side of the barn. Because she gets less grain (and eats faster) Dharla must wait patiently, and is given her grain last. She is fed apart from the boys, either in one of the stalls or in the run-in shed on the front side of the barn. This prevents her from gulping her grain, then pestering the boys while they finish theirs. At feeding time everyone knows the drill: when their grain is ready to dispense, the boys follow me around to their feed pans while Dharla waits on her side. Bullet is always given his grain first, then Rascal follows me over to his corner where he’s given his ration. Then I repeat the process for Dharla. Everyone is very calm about this routine. Well, as calm as hungry horses can be, but the point is that all three horses are very push-button and cooperative at feeding time. They know their job and I know mine.
Wednesday night was no different than any other. Everyone was anxiously waiting for their grain and milling about as I made the preparations to feed. Holding a grain scoop in each hand, I walked around the back side of the barn to give the boys their grain, Bullet first as per our routine. Bullet stood ready at his manger and I dumped his grain into his feed pan. As I turned to walk over to Rascal’s manger my foot suddenly slipped on some gravel that had accumulated on the surface of a rubber stall mat that lines the run-in shed. I should probably mention that these stall mats have been in place for many years and over time, the material under the mats can begin to erode. Every few years we have to pull the mats back and fill under them with some new material. The mat I was on was sloped at one end rather than level, due to erosion. I’m sure I was aware of this on a subconscious level, but it never really struck me as a true hazard until now. The gravel under my foot caused me to slip, but it was the slope of the mat contributed to the inevitable: I fell.
Because I was standing right next to Bullet, I not only went down hard, but I fell UNDER him. Which I knew would spook the poor horse badly. After all, Bullet’s head was lowered into his grain pan and he was happily munching his grain. It was the perfect storm for getting trampled. I wish I could say I tried to protect myself as I fell, but there wasn’t enough time. Plus, I had an empty grain scoop in one hand and a full grain scoop in the other. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want to dump that grain, so I continued to hold both scoops as I went down. I heard Bully react as I landed under his belly and I remember thinking, “this is going to be bad!” With only one way out of the shed, I knew at the very least I was going to get trampled. Bullet tried to get out of the shed as quickly as possible, jumping over my semi-prone body and kicking me in the head as he bolted. Rascal, who was on his way over to his own grain pan when it happened, turned and fled in hot pursuit.
The pain was intense and coming from so many places, I wasn’t sure what to address first. My immediate and strongest inclination was to stand up as quickly as possible. My head and neck were throbbing and both knees and one wrist were skinned and bleeding. Fortunately, nothing seemed to be broken. My head and neck … well, I wasn’t so sure. Meanwhile, the horses were blowing, snorting and milling about on the other side of the barn. I limped over to Rascal’s gain pan and dumped his grain into it, then tried to coax the boys back over to the other side of the barn to eat. The lure of grain overruled their fear and it only took a few brief minutes before they were back on their own side of the barn and eating again. I got Dharla situated, then tried to access the damage.
I honestly didn’t know if I was OK. I mean, by the time the initial, acute pain began to settle down to dull roar I had already decided I should probably try to finish feeding the horses. I set out three piles of hay, checked the water tank, then limped back to the house and made an ice pack. My husband wasn’t due home for at least another hour and a half. Should I dial 911? Could I wait until he got home? Did I really need to do anything at all? I didn’t know! I hurt, but having been trampled and kicked, I expected that much. But was I injured? Again, I wasn’t sure! Thinking two heads are better than one, I shot my sister a text.
My sister called immediately and somehow, between the two of us we (well, mostly I) decided I could wait until my husband got home. I’m sure my sister would have rather I called 911 or something, but the mere fact that I was sounding pretty rational and wasn’t experiencing worsening symptoms gave me the confidence to think I’d be OK. And I was. Needless to say, I didn’t feel great, but I wasn’t feeling any worse either. By the time my husband got home I was fairly insistent that I’d be alright. I was however, pretty nauseous and didn’t have much of an appetite that night. Ironically, I had a routine doctor appointment scheduled for Friday and so I decided I could wait until then to see someone about this.
I woke the next morning feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. I hurt everywhere and I had the bruises to prove it. My neck and jaw were very stiff and I had a large egg on the back of my head. I still felt some occasional nausea, which continued to plague me over the next twenty-four hours. When I finally saw my doctor she confirmed that I did indeed have a mild concussion. She didn’t exactly read me the riot act, but she made certain I knew when I should call 911. We went over a couple of critical points so if anything like this ever happens again I’ll be a better judge of the situation. And when you’re around horses every day you just know that day will probably come again, even if it might be some 500 hours (or so) from now. 😉