I was overdue for a good fall, but I was hoping for something more epic.
During the sweltering summer months, I’ll take lessons at 7 a.m. before I head to work. I arrived at the barn and saw that I was to be mounted on my trainer’s green project, Ivy. She is a 7-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse with a lovely hind end and kind eye.
While walking her around the ring, I knew she was going to be a different ride than my normal Connemara cross. She was leggy and long. I had to use all sorts of muscles to keep her collected.
We were warming up over three ground poles. She trotted over them with ease and grace, stepping and swinging in an even cadence.
“Once more from everyone, but this time halt on the line,” Joanna, my trainer, called.
I measured the rhythm and distance and we floated over the poles. With my gaze set ahead, I began to sink in for a halt, but just as I touched the saddle Ivy lurched forward. My contact had been soft so the reins slipped down with her head.
I watched as the ground came closer and her neck fell farther. The motion turned from tripping to stumbling to face-plant in a matter of seconds.
With nothing to brace myself, I impacted the ground on my left side then bounced onto my right, all the while thinking, “Please don’t step on me.”
Ivy did not freak and run away, which spared me even more bruises and scrapes. Once the dust settled I was looking up at her long white blaze now streaked with sand and dirt. Poor thing had collided with the ground head first.
“Are you OK?” Joanna asked. I noticed that everyone had halted – the equestrian equivalent of taking a knee.
“Yeah,” I was sure to add some spunk to my voice. “Just a little stiff.” I stood up, taking a mental note that sand is not as soft as it looks.
“What did you land on?” Joanna had walked over and was holding onto Ivy for me. It all happened so fast I couldn’t remember.
“Where is the most dirt?” I turned around for Joanna to observe.
“Oh you landed on your butt,” she sounded relieved. “Are you alright to get back on?”
I nodded my head and assured her that I was really fine, it was a freak accident. She advised me to take my time. I took a few minutes to adjust myself then I hopped back on.
The rest of the lesson went fine. I felt no worse for the fall, glad I hadn’t hit my head, and Ivy wasn’t lame in any way.
I drove home to prepare for work and felt snoozy. I shrugged it off as a week of restless sleep.
At work my movements were sluggish and it took more cognizant thinking to perform the simplest tasks. I would go to open my web browser and accidentally miss the icon and open my email. Caffeine wasn’t kicking in or if it had, I didn’t recognize the effects. It dawned on me that I might have a concussion, which seemed silly since I hadn’t hit my head. I pride myself on being a tough chick and one fall from a tripped horse wasn’t going to stop me.
I went home for lunch and had set my work badge on the passenger seat of the car. I parked and sat for a second in the car, still feeling tired. I looked over at my badge and thought, “Oh, I’ll need this to get into the building,” and grabbed the lanyard to slip it over my head. Then I paused. I wasn’t at work. I was in my driveway and didn’t need a badge to get inside my house.
At that moment, I couldn’t deny the surmounting facts that I had sustained a minor concussion.
My father is a physician, so over the phone he explained that even though I didn’t actually hit my head, my brain still suffered whiplash from the impact. From what studies tell us that best way to recoup from a concussion is rest. Rest means no activity that stimulates your brain, so no reading, exercise, or recreation. With a weekend packed full of activities, I wasn’t happy with the diagnosis.
I know as riders our pride says, “Get back on that bronco!” But truly a head injury should be the brakes to a day of riding. #mindyourmelon goes beyond wearing a helmet. It means knowing when to take a step back and heal your head. It was tempting to feel weak for calling it a day, but in hindsight it was the wisest choice that enabled me to come back riding 100 percent.