“I can’t have them cleaning two riders off the ground” was all I could think as the freshly broken mare I was riding leaped and bucked and ran through the trees as branches pulled me every direction. I don’t know how I managed to stay on, perhaps it was the will from my previous thought, perhaps it was skill, or perhaps it was just because the trees were so dense there was nowhere to go. I do know how I stopped… the mare and I got wedged between chest high trees, fallen into a V shape. We were locked in like we were in the stocks.
Without any way to dismount or escape or even see the other riders, I sat and listened. Silence made my stomach sick. Not true silence, no, if anything the opposite. I could hear her mother and sister screaming her name and crying, but she was silent.
and I waited
She is surely dead, I have killed this young girl.
Perhaps only 30 seconds had passed since the initial wreck, but it felt like an hour before Makayla screamed “My leg, its broken” and wailed in agony.
She’s not dead, I haven’t killed her. It’s surely a miracle.
With the extra commotion, the mare surged through the downed trees and back onto the trail, I dismounted and approached. Not close, just enough to alert myself to everyone and see.
Makayla was lying on the ground screaming and crying in an awkward lump, but she was alive, and was not a vegetable.
Several hours earlier I had mounted the young mare who had been backed a handful of times in the pasture, with the intent of doing an easy 25 mile Limited Distance ride. Ariel, Makayla’s sister also hopped on an equally green horse and we were accompanied by two experienced babysitter horses ridden by their Mother, Tara and Makayla.
This is where it’s important to note, Makayla declined to wear a helmet.
A few rodeos (from my mare) well stuck and 23 miles down the trail, things were going well. We were close to the finish and the baby horses were now being called “broke”.
That’s when Makayla’s horse (one she had been riding for 13 years) spooked sideways and I watched her fall. The first thought in my mind “She’s not wearing a helmet”
She fell in my direction, and her horse spun around and ran into mine. She was already nearly beneath our hooves, and my mare panicked, with horses and forest blocking every direction, she bounced up and down on top of Makayla until I kicked her hard enough to bolt into the dense forest.
I watched the mare’s hoof hit Makayla’s bare head. I will never forget it. It haunts me.
There is a bright side to this story.
- Makayla wasn’t dead or a vegetable, she didn’t even have a concussion, the hoof must have just grazed her head. As far as we know, she didn’t even have any broken bones (that we know of) and was able to ride the last 2 miles to the finish line… eventually. She IS very sore and bruised.
- We were being crewed by a paramedic in their paramedic vehicle. He literally drove down the trail (cleared some double track for us!) to our rescue and was able to properly check her. He also took care of her for the rest of the day
- Makayla recognizes how incredibly lucky she is and has vowed to always wear a helmet. She realizes that no matter how calm and steady your horse, accidents can happen to anyone.
So here is my vow, if you don’t wear a helmet, YOU CAN’T RIDE WITH ME. No exceptions.
Addition after original post: I have been asked why we would even consider taking a green horse out in competition. Good question! We were literally the only 4 riders entered that day and with crew and vets we were well set up to give the horses a positive training experience, so we took advantage. We treated it like a training/pleasure ride, going slow, giving lots of breaks and of course, patience!