Just last week, on February 21, I got bucked off three time off the Quarter Horse/Arab filly I've been training. It was my first time falling off a horse and I landed pretty hard each time. The first time I fell off, I landed more on my butt and my back, knocking the wind out of me and then hit the back of my head on the ground. I was a little dazed as I tried to catch my breath, but I simply shook it off and got right back on. The other two times, I actually landed on my head and my shoulders. Considering how hard I landed and where, I was grateful that the only thing hurt was a little bit of my confidence (it was my first time falling off ever-who's confidence wouldn't be shook up after that?) and sore shoulders and back. I joked about with my trainer and several of my friends after that, but when I got to thinking about it, I was truly grateful that I didn't end up with a concussion or worse. And it was all because of a simple piece of riding equipment that is sorely overlooked by many people (including me): my riding helmet.
I shudder to think what could've happened if my trainer hadn't been diligent enough with me in reminding her twenty (soon-to-be twenty-one) year-old apprentice too take the extra minute or two and put on her helmet before bridling her horses. Remembering how hard I hit my head on the ground, I realized just how fortunate I was too have a trainer that kept onto me about the importance of wearing a helmet is...and how stupid I was before to not wear one while I was barrel racing or doing other activities. I've told several people, including my parents, that with as many close calls as I've had with horses over the years, I knew that I would be falling off at some point. I even went as far as bragging that the fall would be epic! But now, I wonder if I really believed that I could never be bucked off, could never be completely unseated; I wonder if I believed I was invincible too some degree. The more I think about what happened and what could've happened as a result, I'm certainly thinking I had those thoughts. But since I've been brought back down to earth (literally and figuratively lol), my thought process has changed-as well as my habits. Since my accident, not only have I made more of an effort of remembering my helmet when I ride the horses I'm training, I've also noticed I've made more of an effort to grab my helmet out of the truck and put it within sight in my trailer while I tack up my own horses-something I have only done a mere handful of times since I've started riding under Marsha's tutelage and even more rarely before that.
My accident comes a little under a week before the one-year-anniversary of another rider who had a similiar accident-but with much more traumatic injuries. A year ago, on March 3, 2010, Courtney King-Dye, an international dressage rider and trainer, was training a horse when the horse tripped and fell, throwing Courtney out of the saddle. She was not wearing a helmet at the time and she suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her in a coma for four weeks. When she woke up, she had 3 months of inpatient rehabilitation re-learning how to walk and talk. She is currently still doing outpatient therapy with the ultimate goal of riding professionally again and writes down her progress on her own blog. Since Courtney's accident, many people have been inspired other riders to re-think their riding habits and the implications of riding without a helmet; even those at the Grand Prix level, where the normal attire is a sports coat with tails and a top hat.
While Courtney is lucky to be alive (and says so frequently), what happened to Courtney could've been me-either last Monday or even during any of the previous times I had extremely close calls. If I hadn't been wearing my helmet last Monday, I think I could've been waking up in the hospital with a serious concussion-or even worse than that. I was extremely lucky in the sense that when I fell off, I was wearing a helmet.
Like Courtney's accident inspired many other riders to re-think their riding habits, my accident inspired me to do the same. Unfortunately, epiphanies like mine or Courtney's are rarely told to the rest of the horse world. Many riders, both amateur and professional alike, continue to make the decision of wearing their cowboy hats or top hats instead of helmets while performing in the sports they love. This needs to change. Horseback riding is a dangerous sport whether you're just in it for the fun or training professionally. Horses are living, breathing creatures with a mind of their own. They are not machines like cars or motorcycles; they have a brain that processes thoughts and emotion like ours do. They have their good days and their bad days and are prone to be moody just as we humans are. While they are beautiful renditions of God's handiwork, they are still bigger and stronger than us and need to be treated as such. The word need to be spread about riding safety and helmet use; from the dressage ring to the rodeo arena to the working ranches, people need to know about what can happen. Maybe if the word was spread further little by little, more people would be saved from the hardships that Courtney went through as I was by wearing my helmet. I know it sounds like I just turned my personal epiphany about my accident into a public service announcement, but this is a subject I feel strongly about, especially lately.
And I know Miss Courtney feels the same way.
If you want to keep updated on Miss Courtney's progress and rehabilitation as she recovers from her injuries, here is her website: http://www.courtneykingdressage.com/4436.html
Shabbat Shalom everbody.
- "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it's creed: "We hold these truths to self-evident that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be to the sit down together at the talbe of brother-hood...I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of character." -Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial
- "But when a long train of abuses and usurptions pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them uder absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards to their future security." -Declaration of Independence
- "There are no safe choices, Miss Temple. Only other choices." -A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
- "If you are a painter, paint. It doesn't mean you have to paint Jesus into every picture, just paint good. If you paint good enough, then people will aask why you do what you do." -Issac Slay; The Fray (on why the band doesn't use the name of Jesus in every song)