By Pamela Rosenberger
“Hats Off” is a light-hearted, though slightly painful story about a recent riding accident. I am not trying to preach helmet safety, rather, just share my story for insight and entertainment. It may be more entertaining with a glass of pinot grigio, but I’ll leave that up to you.
I would like to have a big, dramatic, opening to my story…you know, “I was riding when a lightning bolt hit the side of the barn”, or “I was riding when a wild coyote ran into the arena and nipped at Dolce’s fetlocks”, or “I was schooling one-tempi changes on a tightrope when”…But, no. I was simply cantering on the right lead and turned into a sharp circle when my horse lost her balance and wiped out. In my head, I see the scene from the movie “Ice Castles” when the skater wipes out into the seating area into tables, chairs, and chains, but many of you readers are too young to have seen that movie. I digress.
I compare this experience to being body-slammed from the top rope of a wresting ring by Hulk Hogan. But, let’s face it, horses are stronger, faster, and heavier, making the impact indescribable. I think that the imprint of my body is still in the middle of the arena, like a bad crime scene.
Upon impact with the dirt, (thank you to SCF for the new, soft footing) I did a quick body scan. Stomach moving, check – I am breathing. Move left and right hands, check. Move left and right toes, check. What I can’t figure out is how I am lying on my back, but feel like someone hit me in the head between the eyes with a 2 x 4. As I lay there, I see my horse from out of the corner of my eye. I was afraid to move my head, but she was standing up on all four legs. I am told that she was covered from nose to tail on her left side with arena dirt. My poor trainer had to walk from A to C, approaching a motionless student. That must have been terrifying, as we hear about many riders who have to be life-flighted out.
Jump to the point of this story…the back straps of my helmet were not sewn into the inner lining of the helmet. Rather, they were connected to just under the plastic of the back of the helmet. When we fell, the straps cracked off, shoving the front of my helmet into the front of my head, right between the eyes. Crack! went my left nasal bone. Ouch!
I was banged up, had a headache, left knee bruised, but otherwise felt pretty good. I opted NOT to go to the ER. My husband picked me up and drove me home. After ice packs and Tylenol, I soldiered on…laundry, vacuuming, cooking dinner, and playing with my son. The next morning, I felt bruised but GREAT! Homemade pancakes for everyone! It was exactly 24 hours later, when I was filling up my car at the gas station, that I knew something wasn’t right. I just couldn’t drive. My balance was fine, I was not nauseous, but I wasn’t “right.”
Off to the ER with a very concerned husband. After an exam and CT scan, I was told that I had a broken nose and a concussion. Estimated recovery:2-6 weeks.
Yes, I am blessed to have no major broken bones, but a concussion really stinks. No one can tell you how long it will last, and life is somewhat challenging. Usually, when one is injured, you can binge-watch television, play on your phone, and catch up on your reading, but with a concussion, you are hyper-sensitive to all stimuli. Did I mention, no driving and no riding?
I am currently 3 weeks into recovery and I still have difficulty driving. The sun seems to be my biggest enemy, and I run from it like a middle-aged vampire. Some folks have asked me if I am afraid to get back in the saddle. Truthfully, I am not afraid of riding, but I can’t say that I won’t be cautious about canter lengthening down the long side. I may also never look at an 8-meter circle the same…I don’t know.
In closing, for those of you who wear helmets, look inside and really see how and where the buckles are located and how it is constructed. I own 3 different helmets: one for trail riding, one for schooling, and one for showing, but I never really inspected them. They were all certified, so I thought I was covered.
The helmet that fell apart in my fall was not cheap, it fit well, it was not very old, and it was fitted securely. Just remember, regardless of how well you ride, if the horse goes down, so do you, so make sure that you wear something to withstand an unexpected trauma. And, don’t be a hero…go to the ER! We may be hot, itchy, and look like we have a giant walnut on our heads, but it is well worth the price of a permanent brain injury! (Note: my horse is doing amazing and shows no sign of injury!)