It was a gorgeous late September day in upstate New York, the sky's brilliant blue framing the changing color burst of leaves, when I tacked up my 11 year-old palomino Appy, Carmelo, and grabbed my helmet as I left the barn.
I was excited to be going on my first official trail ride with Carmelo, my very first horse, a "rescue", I had purchased the previous spring. He was extremely thin, with very little muscling in his hind quarters when I bought him,and much greener than I was led to believe, so that my goal over the summer was to improve his stability by practicing lots of transitions in the arena and had been spending much of our time focusing on ground work and simple walk-trot exercises. When the stable owner invited us to join 8-10 other riders on the Monday trail ride, I was 90% excited and 10% concerned. The trails are rough and mountainous, and I wasn't completely certain that either one of us was up for the challenge - I'm 64 and have been riding about 8 years - making me a intermediate rider on an untested horse.
Carmelo proved he was more than up for the challenge, however. He was fearless and fairly sure-footed, even when we had to canter up the rough terrain. We had been out for several hours and the sky was turning dusky when the owner enthusiastically called back to us that we were going to "run" the horses, and the 3 or 4 teenage students ahead of me must have taken off - I have no memory of anything past that point, but I know Carmelo must have assumed the goblins were going to get us, so he took off, too.
I'm told I stayed on for a quarter of a mile or so, until we came to the bend in the trail where the others were stopped and waiting for us. Carmelo must have been a reining horse in his old life, because I'm told he came to a perfect skidding stop. He forgot, however, to give me the memo. I catapulted through the air, landing head first on the left side, before I somehow flipped over, and stopped face down, with the visor of the helmet buried into the dirt. I was knocked totally unconscious for over 5 minutes or more.
The EMTs who transported me to the emergency room asked if I had worn a helmet, since it had been removed by the other riders. The attending physician asked the same question in the ER. The neurosurgeon who was called in also asked about my helmet. After several CT scans showed blood on the brain, and I spent the next several days in the hospital, the surgeon emphasized that as serious as my brain injury was, without my helmet, I most likely would not have survived, or at the least been tramatically injured.
So, Troxel, I thank you for saving my brain and most likely, my life. My helmet was not as fortunate as my head, as it cracked the opposite side, due to the impact. Since I was only one of two riders wearing a helmet that day, I can only hope that my accident has been a wake up call to the other riders who most likely would not have survived. I've been grounded for 6 weeks, but my new helmet is ordered and I can hardly wait to get back in the saddle...with Troxel. I cannot find the words to thank you enough. I'm a tough old granny, but Troxel is tougher, thankfully!!
- October 26, 2011