I searched through the "Wings Archives" to find a suitable photo for this post. I settled on this one since this is how I end up looking at the end of the story.
So if you follow me on Twitter, you already know about this, but I took a nasty fall off Wings on Tuesday. It's a long story, but the short version is this: A wayward jacket scared her and as I was trying to convince her it wasn't going to eat her, she bolted. In that split second my brain registered what was happening and I went to do a one rein stop. The nano second after I processed that, she started bucking. I think on the third one I went off. I went flying over her head and I knew that I was going to land on my head.
I hit the ground (thankfully it was in that sand arena in the photo) in some form of head first and the momentum of my body flipped my legs up and over so I came to rest on my back.
You can't tell in the photo, but the visor is actually bent inward. Hit the front of my face/head...
And rolled up on over my head as a pivot point to come to rest on my back.
In all the times I've fallen off of a horse I never in the past lay there wondering if I would be able to stand up. I moved my legs and my arms and decided nothing hurt. It was hard to catch my breath for a second but I got up with no big problem. Wings was standing there looking fairly apologetic. It all ends well as I got back on and got her to put her nose down on the jacket (you'd think she could have just done that in the first place).
From the moment I stood up the middle of my back was pretty sore. It also hurt a bit when I took a nice deep breath. Today my back is stiff and it hurts a lot to try to stand up straight with an arch in my back. I have a bruise on my upper right forehead and also strangely enough between my eyes. I am too sore to run and I am pretty shaken up.
I have had scarier falls in the sense that I've been maliciously run off with or been bucked off with no warning. I know she was scared -- she wasn't being mean or a brat. So it isn't so much the fact that she dumped me. I think it is the way I landed that has really caught me off guard. I recall being bucked off in the past and having a bruise on my forehead through my helmet so it isn't like I haven't hit my head before. But that previous time I landed more on my side and bounced my head on the ground.
I landed on my head this time and it doesn't take much of an imagination to think of how badly this whole thing could have played out. A woman who saw me go off pretty much said she thought I had broken my neck. What if the angle had been slightly different? What if we hadn't been in a sand arena? I am a decade older than the last time I rode regularly and I have a keener sense of my own vulnerability.
I have to admit this has made me question whether or not I should be riding at all. I have priorities in life (living and walking being one of them) and this fall has definitely messed up a major one -- running. Last week was a bit of a wash since I had a head cold. I had an amazing tempo run Tuesday before I went riding. Just as I was starting to feel back on track I am sidelined from running again. I skipped my run this morning and am seriously doubting whether my back will be well enough to run 20 on Friday.
If you ride you understand you're taking a risk. There are no guarantees and most likely you're going to fall off every now and then. I knew this going in, but suddenly all of that is in harsh focus for me. If I keeled over dead in the middle of a road race I wouldn't regret running. But if something were to happen to me while riding I don't think that is worth it for me.
I enjoy horses a lot but if I had to choose, I'd choose running any day of the week.
p.s. ALWAYS wear a helmet when riding a horse. If you are at a touristy trail ride, ask for one and decline to ride if they don't provide them. Even supposedly bomb-proof horses can have a bad moment. I was listening to a horse podcast once and the guy said there is no such thing as a bomb-proof horse. "I'd bet you anything that if a bomb actually went off next to a 'bomb-proof' horse, he'd react!" I know of someone whose horse actually tripped and fell down on top of her. You never know what is going to happen and it has nothing to do with how much you trust an animal or how good of a rider you think you are. I never understand it when I see people riding without a helmet.