Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans! That was my thought when I read a post on the AHI Facebook page this past week.
I know there will be ladies here who can relate to my latest (mis)adventure🤪 while trail riding a week ago. I came off my steady Eddy Ace, hitting a tree with my head. Thank God I always wear a helmet! I was knocked out, fire and rescue came, took 1 1/2 hours to carry me to the ambulance, another 1 1/2 hours to get to a trauma centre. I have 5 vertebrae fractures and 7 rib fractures.
Horses have been in my life since I was 8 years old. I am a good rider with great muscle memory. In other words, I can stay on a squirrelly horse without having to think about my every move. I’ve never had a horrible horse wreck and I have no fear of riding, at least not on most horses.
For a while, I rode a gelding I owned named Finn. I spent two years trying to get him trail safe, and I finally conceded defeat. He’d do the “Hi Ho Silver!” routine when I’d simply ask him to be the horse in front. He was terrified of being on the trail. There were times when I feared for my safety while riding him. Earlier this year, we sold him to a man who has few trail riding aspirations. (Besides that, Finn’s new owner used to defuse bombs for a living. I figured Finn would be no big deal for him!)
Recently, I remarried. The most amazing man came into my life, and we could not possibly be any happier. We are living a dream life. Where am I going with all of this information?
I’m not getting any younger!
I don’t want to get badly injured. Well, who does?
The woman who posted in AHI about her horrible wreck went on to say:
My friends I was riding with were ahead of me so no one, including myself, knows what happened. I remember riding on the trail, next thing I remember was lying off the trail, coming in and out of consciousness and thinking thank goodness I can move my arms and legs. Ace was still there and my friends tell me his saddle was still on straight and his reins were still across his neck. I am very bothered by the fact I don’t know what happened, he is not a spooker and when he does it is not the least bit dramatic.
Another member of AHI who read the post commented that she had a similar experience. She came off in her arena and was found by her trainer. The commenter said she wished she knew what happened so she could prevent it in the future. Many, many folks commented about serious injuries and fear of riding after wrecks.
This lady is seeing her doctor this week, to figure out if she has an undiagnosed medical condition that precipitated this accident. Perhaps she blacked out while on the horse? I must confess, this is one area of risk I really hadn’t considered. What if you are developing diabetes or developing fluctuations in your blood pressure, but you just don’t know it yet?
There are many variables regarding safety when one is on a horse. The horse’s training and disposition, the rider’s skills, the known health status of both horse and rider, the environmental variables, the type of tack, and a myriad of other factors. Some things are somewhat under your control. Other things are not.
The AHI group is, by definition, a group of Aging Horsewomen. As we get older, our health, reflexes, and riding skills are not likely going to improve. And yet, here we are at what is supposed to be our golden years where we can reap the rewards of years of working. Alan and I are on one long vacation. I want to keep that going as long as possible! Does that make me paranoid or sensible?
Hedging my bet
What is the definition of “hedging my bet”? Dictionary.com defines it as:
Lessen one’s chance of loss by counterbalancing it with other bets, investments, or the like. For example, I’m hedging my bets by putting some of my money in bonds in case there’s another drop in the stock market. This term transfers hedge, in the sense of “a barrier,” to a means of protection against loss.
The right horses
What am I doing to hedge my bet? First and foremost, we have great horses. Alan is, at most, an advanced beginner on horseback. We found him a wonderful mare who will take good care of him on the trail. She’s sensible and not flighty. My gelding and I have hundreds and hundreds of trail miles under our belt. He’s absolutely amazing.
The right horse equipment
Second, we have great trail saddles. There are as many saddles out there as hairs on a horse. Everyone has their own preference. But we love our Aussie saddles with poleys in the front and a high cantle behind. When I wrote about Surviving the Colorado Rockies on the Finnster, I truly believe that it was because of my Aussie saddle that I stayed on Finn. When he did his rapid 180 degrees counterclockwise horizontal turn coupled with 180 degrees from vertical head up to vertical head down… thank God for the saddle!
The right safety equipment
Third, we wear helmets and hit-air vests. This safety vest was initially designed for motorcycle riders. Definitely not as cool as cowboy hats and fancy attire… (Alan looks amazing in a cowboy hat, but I digress…) I have worn a helmet for years. When Alan started riding with me, I made him wear one from the very beginning. But we didn’t acquire the hit-air vests until last year. The Finnster was definitely a factor… but it was more than that. It was all about hedging our bet.
As we have ridden numerous trails in the beautiful Rocky Mountains this summer, I can’t say I have seen too many spots below me where I’d be happy to land if I came off my horse. There are sharp rocks, cliffs, and numerous other hazards at every turn. My head and my spine would undoubtedly hit something that would do some serious damage. I feel much safer in my not-so-cool but oh-so-smart vest.
When I lived in Estes in the past, I purchased a Garmin GPS unit that had radio communication capabilities. That allows us to get on the park ranger frequency if we get into trouble. When I lived here before, I often rode by myself. That was hedging my bet with respect to riding alone.
Lastly, we wear medical information tags that would provide First Responders with our name, allergies, medical conditions, medications we take, emergency contact, and any other pertinent information like blood type. When I am calm, cool, and collected, I’m not sure I could rattle off all that information about Alan. For sure, if he were lying in a heap on the rocks, I wouldn’t be able to think coherently.
Keeping information on your phone?
A friend of mine said she didn’t need a Rider tag because she had all of her information on her phone. Let’s imagine for a moment… If your phone is on your horse and your horse takes off, not good. If your phone is on your person and goes down with you, that’s better. But what if it gets smashed? Let’s assume it survives the fall. Is it password protected? No information is available. If it’s not, that’s great. Is it visible, or did it fall a few feet away?
If you are lying on the ground with serious injuries, how likely is it that First Responders are going to spend any time at all searching for your phone and getting into it, and then searching for your information? Even if you have friends standing by, are they calm enough to do that? Why take the chance? Why not have that information readily and easily available?
My friend who said she didn’t need a tag decided maybe she did. Her husband mountain bikes for long distances. He’s not a young man. I asked her if he has critical medical information on his person when he’s biking? She didn’t know…
The lady who had the horse wreck last week told me she will be replacing her helmet and wearing a vest after she heals and returns to riding. But first, her broken ribs and vertebrae need to heal.
Hedge your bet. Do what you can to be sensible about the variables over which you have some control. Horseback riding involves some risk. We all know that, and we’re okay with that because we love it and we love our horses. But be smart about it. No decision is a decision. Don’t leave everything up to fate!
Immediately after completing this blog, I received a message on my phone from the Nextdoor neighborhood app. A mountain neighbor who lives less than a half-mile from me posted that she was just at the Dunraven trailhead and her horse got loose. He was saddled, but no halter or bridle. She provided a physical description of him.
The Dunraven trailhead is 11 miles from us. It is getting ready to storm. I would guess she is frantic. She posted her contact information. Wouldn’t it be amazing peace of mind if she had an ID tag woven into his mane? No halter, no saddle, no bridle, no problem! When someone finds him, it’s an easy phone call. Without it, she’s dependent on Facebook and Nextdoor apps, and signs like this one in the window of the General Store. What is the likelihood that the person who finds the horse is going to know who to contact? How long will it take that person to figure out where the horse belongs? My heart hurts for her. I need to see her about tags for her horse.
(Please contact me if anyone learns anything about this missing horse.)