The Oakley Diaries 47 - No Ride November

It is snowing today. It snowed like this exactly one month ago, which saved my life. I'll explain.

On the day after it snowed, I went for our usual training, some trotting over cavaletti, some canter - stop - turn on haunches - canter again; nothing we haven't done a dozen times before.

But suddenly Oakley decided he'd had enough and threw his nose in the air, then reared. He went up, then slipped, and, before I could get out of the saddle, he was above me, and we both landed on my back. All 600kg of him came right down on top of me, saddle first.

I've had him, and other horses, rear up and fall over backwards before. Getting out of that isn't too hard, put both hands on the pommel and push, so one comes out of the saddle as the horse passes over vertical. The physics of this is when a mass is moving at a given speed around an axis, the further the distance, the slower the rotation. So when the axis of rotation is the rear hooves, that means the rotation up at the withers is slow enough to push out of the saddle, in a way that one's feet stay underneath, then it's like a long jump to the ground, where one finds oneself standing beside a horse on its back. But he didn't do this; he slipped, in much the same way that when one slips on ice, one spins around very quickly and comes down on one's back. Thus the axis of rotation was about his hips, and much faster, so that by the time I was able to push myself out of the saddle, as usual, I was already pushing myself out towards the ground, back first. There was no way to avoid what happened next.

I was quite sure I was about to die. I felt calm, a bit sad, no fear, no panic, just a quiet realization that when a horse comes down on a rider like this, it's pretty certain that's it.

And the thought that... this.





It did.

I slammed down flat onto my back, winded, and watched his bulk come straight down onto me. His withers and the pommel of the saddle came down on my chest, his neck smashed into my nose, I heard a loud snap, the rest of the saddle landed on my pelvis and...

... he rolled off and ran away and I realized I was still alive.

I could breathe.

I wiggled my toes: no spinal damage. I wiggled my fingers, I breathed. No broken bones in the chest. I very carefully and gently turned my head from side to side: my neck was OK. I could breathe, although my chest hurt and my nose hurt.

The ground, saturated with all the melted snow from the day before, was soft enough to take an impression of my body, leaving behind a cartoon outline like Wile E. Coyote, and I rolled over to my hands and knees, realized there was blood streaming from my nose, and I felt kind of dizzy. I saw weird colours, the dark-brown tree-trunks became an awful, vivid fuschia, the grey floor of the barn was a dayglo lime-green, everything was far too bright as I sat there and J.M. went for her car to take me to the hospital.

At the hospital, they determined I had a mild concussion, 3 cracked ribs, internal bruising, all the joints down my spine where my ribs meet were stressed, and the cartilage of my nose was bashed. But the only thing actually broken was my favourite helmet (that was the loud cracking sound I heard).

So I have not ridden since then, and not again for at least another week, maybe longer, until my ribs no longer hurt every time I turn my torso and I'm 100% sure that the concussion is gone.

Was there a way to avoid or prevent this? Only by not riding. Sometimes a horse freaks out, and I've seen far better riders, with far more experience riding, have equally bad, and worse, accidents. I got very, very lucky, and we both got a month off.

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on December 2, 2020 at 9:55am


I am so sorry about your accident.

I am SO GLAD that you escaped serious and horrible injuries.

When you start riding again give yourself time, lots of time, before you get to the level of riding you were at before this traumatic experience.

Oakley is probably as traumatized as you are.  He may have residual soreness in his back and hocks.  Give Oakley plenty of time too.

That means basically walking.  There is a ton of stuff you can do walking that can improve both horse and rider.  Oakley will probably tell you when he feels recovered enough to go faster.

Slow and easy, that is the way to get through this.

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