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The day I bought a helmet....

About 8 years ago, I bought a Belgian Draft gelding from the wagon company I was working for. He wasn't working out for them, and I thought he might enjoy a career as a trail horse in beautiful, remote Cantwell Alaska. I

was gearing up for the first ride of the season and boy, was I excited to go! My horse seemed calm and ready, and I was looking forward to a couple of hours on the trail - just the two of us. I liked to consider myself a confident, capable rider. I didn't even own a helmet. I saddled up, worked my horse from the ground for a few minutes, then made a very tragic mistake.

My horse was so tall, I couldn't even see over his back. He was 18.5 hands of pure gentle giant. I didn't think anything of leading him over to a small stack of firewood so I could get on. I perched myself on top of the stack and put my foot in the stirrup. when I did, I knocked a piece of firewood off of the pile and spooked my normally steadfast gelding. He spun around on his haunches away from the wood and clamped my foot into my stirrup. To avoid being drug, I did the only thing I could - I quickly grabbed the saddle and sucked it to my chest. This action only served to frighten my horse more and he continued to shy away. I kicked my foot free of the stirrup and pushed myself off of him only to learn that my hoody sweatshirt was hung up on the saddle horn. I was hanging from the saddle horn, feet nowhere near the ground, and I couldn't see a think around me. My horse flat panicked and started to buck.

When I woke up, I couldn't breathe, I was dizzy, my chest hurt. My everything hurt. I kept my horse in a paddock a few miles from my house. I had no cell reception. I was on my own. I struggled to my feet and found my horse grazing a few feet from where I woke up. I hastily untacked my horse, put him away, and drove home.

As I arrived, my husband told me he was getting ready to come look for me. I had been out for at least 4 hours. I was ghost white and still struggling to breathe. I knew something was wrong when I started to lose my vision. I could see everything in my periphery, but the things I tried to focus on were lost. It was as if I had been staring at the sun. It was all just white.

My adventure earned me a 5 hour ride to the hospital, a cat scan, spinal tap, and a whiplash injury that still bothers me 8 years later. I get headaches and have a fair amount of neck pain. I have also developed this little thing called fear, and that has been the worst of it. I have rules now.

We bought a second horse, and I never go alone. I never take safety shortcuts. I wear boots. I use a solid mounting block I wear shirts I can tuck in, and jackets with buttons if I am using a saddle with a horn. I live in a different area now, and cell reception is not a problem; my cell phone always rides on my belt. I also have and wear a helmet. every time. I am often the only one on a trail ride or in the arena with one, but one close call was enough for me. I have had several more mishaps since then but thankfully, have no more injuries to report.

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