That Sinking Feeling...
Let me say at the onset of my little story, I am in my mid-60s, and straddled my first horse in 1958 – she was a 3-gaited Saddlebred, and with that first ride I was hooked. Over the years I have pretty much done it all; I’ve shown hunters and Western pleasure horses, done endurance rides, chased barrels, driven buggies and logged hundreds, if not thousands of hours on the trails of both California and Arizona.
My current horse is a lovely little bay Arabian – now, everyone is going to see “Arabian” and think “good grief”! However, my Ranger is about the calmest, gentlest, most intelligent horse I have ever known, he is dependable enough for my toddler-age grandchildren to enjoy, and has been gracious enough to give lessons to beginning riders as well. Even though he was green and almost completely untrained when I purchased him, I chose him because of his willing demeanor and basically bomb-proof disposition. After 15 years with a hot-headed, retired-from-the-show-ring Arabian stallion (the horse I had previously) riding my little Bay Buddy is, literally, a real vacation!
The first purchase after this horse was a Troxel Sierra helmet, and as it turns out, it was the most important investment of my life. The last weekend of March, 2014 my husband and I were riding in the desert across the street from my home, literally within 100 yards of our road. My husband was leading the way, riding a big Quarter Horse named Elvis, Ranger and I brought up the rear, and – according to my husband – Ranger was being his usual lolly-gagging self, falling further and further behind. Hubby turned around just in time to see my horse stumble into a sink hole – an area where the ground squirrels had undermined the earth with myriad tunnels – and to his horror, we both hit the ground like a sack of potatoes (his words).
Now, I have no memory of anything that happened between the time we crossed a dry creek bed, maybe 100 feet or so from the spot where the horse went down, and the time I woke up. So I have to rely on Brad’s description of the incident. He says that Ranger put his left front hoof down at the edge of the tunnels, but then attempted to gain a solid purchase with his right front leg, pulling it up and putting it down several times – each time the leg sinking into the soft ground for several inches. He failed in this attempt and crashed over in a maneuver that mimicked a trained falling horse going down for the camera. I was flung off to the right side, slamming the ground with my head, then my shoulder, then the horse rolled up over my lower leg. I was knocked out for a couple of minutes at least.
Brad’s horse exploded at this point, rearing and bucking, and attempting to get away from Ranger lying on the ground, and it was several moments before the horse was brought under control. I want to point out that throughout this entire incident my horse was absolutely sterling. He regained his feet slowly, very carefully arranging his legs so he wouldn’t step on me and then, turning to face me once he was up (he is trick-trained among his other talents, was taught how to “come up” to his feet after being laid down without panicking). He stood with his head over me, the reins hanging from behind his ears, while my husband dealt with his own horse. Fortunately I do carry a cell phone on me, and the fire department was summoned to our location – Ranger never batted an eye while two vehicles with sirens and lights going, then seven firemen headed right for us – however Hubby took the horses away before the medi-vac helicopter arrived. (and by the way, since I’ve been asked this a lot, Ranger was uninjured except for a small cut on his right wither where a branch jabbed him under the saddle pad)
I did end up at the best trauma center in the Phoenix area, and spent 24 hours in the hospital. However, other than a bit of dizziness there was no sign of any brain damage or permanent disability. I broke a chip off my right ankle bone, and my knee had a torn ligament, I had some very sore muscles for a few weeks, but otherwise I do seem to have come out of this alright. However the doctors have all been quick to point out that had I not been wearing a helmet, I would not be here now! I took the impact right above the right ear, and the helmet protected me from a fatal blow.
I had originally purchased the Troxel Helmet for a couple of reasons. First of all, Troxel has an excellent reputation for quality, yet that quality is reasonably priced. I was attracted by the Western “feel” of the helmet that I chose, and I also prefer “earth colors” to black – more aesthetic reasons to be sure, but important when one is purchasing a piece of equipment that is expected to last for a few years! Earlier that same month I had checked the purchase date of this particular helmet – and to my dismay it was about seven years old. I had already planned on replacing it when the worst happened. But examination by the doctors showed that the Troxel helmet did, indeed, do its job without losing any of its integrity.
Because of the extreme heat that we get in the summer here I do not store “sensitive” equipment made of plastics or leather in my tack shed or trailer, so the Sierra had been kept in a climate controlled area its entire “working life” (the same is true of my husband’s motorcycle helmet). However I am aware of the recommendations for replacement at the five year mark, and so had already planned to purchase a new Troxel Venture helmet. That helmet is now on order; but since I am off horses until October (doctor’s orders) it doesn’t matter if it takes a bit of time to get here. I cannot sufficiently express how grateful I am to have had this Troxel helmet “on my side” when the worst happened while riding my horse! And it just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how good your horse is, how experienced he is or you are – accidents can and do happen. My parting words are the same as my doctor’s were, “WEAR YOUR HELMET!” And I will always be wearing a Troxel helmet! THANK YOU!