According to a report from Britain’s Department of Trade & Industry, injuries in the U.K. last year included 36 people injured by teapot covers. Even more dangerous, placemats were responsible for injuring 165. And in case you thought the bathroom was a safe place, beware of the lowly toilet roll holder, claiming 330 casualties! (That’s one more than meat cleavers.)
A friend of mine was injured recently. She’s a career horsewoman who rides eight cantankerous dressage horses every day. She fell down the stairs while doing laundry and she wasn’t wearing her helmet. She may have broken her arm. Another friend broke her ankle when she slipped on the wooden stairs while running back to the house to get her helmet for her riding lesson. Yet another seasoned rider was left hobbling in a cast after she tripped over her cat.
Last week another two fellow riders were side-lined by head injuries right in the middle of riding season. Naughty horse? No, that would be too easy. One got hit in the head by a tennis ball whacked by her guilt-ridden husband who will now be her nurse while she recovers from her concussion, while the other ran into a doorknob while chasing a cocker spaniel. I think she needs a taller dog so she can keep her eyes up while she's chasing it around.
Riding is fun but it has its risks. I know that we can and should try to keep ourselves safe around our horses, but there’s just some things we can’t predict or control. What we can do is deal with what we can control.
I came off a friend’s horse a few years ago. Hard. Short of a seat belt there wasn’t any way I was staying on a mare I affectionately call the Little Red Rocket once she decided to buck. The impact blew the buckle right off my chaps when I hit the ground and I lied there for quite a while, unable to move, calling out instructions to the friend I was with about how to catch the horse and unsaddle her, get my wallet and health card and pull the pickup truck closer to take me to the hospital.
We searched long and hard for a reason so I could have something to fix, but we still have no idea what got into her head that day. We assumed the mare had PMS and we’ve since stayed at a respectful distance on those days when the whites of her eyes are showing.
When it came time to debate whether or not I wanted to get on another horse, I found that I had choices:
Give up riding.
Give up riding the Little Red Rocket.
Use a combination of Crazy Glue and Velcro to hold me on.
Work towards developing a deeper seat, better posture, and better balance to help me stay on when my next mount did something unpredictable. (Not if, but when.)
I can’t change what happened that day but I can prepare myself to reduce the risk.
Legislation requiring riding helmets looks after our young riders. Common sense will have to look after the rest of us, with lots of preparation and a little luck thrown in for good measure. There are things we can do to keep ourselves safe: carry a cell phone, let others know where you might be, wear a safety vest on the roads, don’t ride beyond your personal comfort zone, and ride with other riders who know how to look after you and your level of skill. Take some time to expose your horse to stuff you’ll encounter on the trail or at the show – dogs, kids, dirt bikes and bicycles, plastic bags, cars, anything you can imagine. You’ll need to convince yourself that it’s not scary first before your horse will buy in to it; if you get scared of what he might do, and then he’ll read your lead and get scared too.
I heard a clinician once tell the audience that the best time to get off your horse is when the thought crosses your mind. I like that advice!
Riding is not an armchair safety level sport: part of the appeal of horses is the challenge of working with their unpredictable instincts. But next time you see one of your horsie friends in a cast or nursing a concussion, ask them if they were actually anywhere near a horse when they had their accident? All I know for sure is that laundry is too dangerous a sport for me!
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