The wind was blowing hard as we took off through the woods. Trees bent and snapped, saplings littered the trail. The horses were spooky and on high alert. On an open stretch I let Night go, she scrambled, sure-footed over the roots and rocks, gaining speed and covering the ground between Lauren and Blessing ahead of us. A small tree had come down across the trail. Night gauged her distance then darted left to take the higher point of the jump. In that split second, I was dislodged and lost my balance.
In slow motion, I struggled to stay upright, then gave in to gravity, thinking clearly the whole time about how to take this fall with the least amount of damage. As she landed, and relaunched into her stride, I slipped below, curling my limbs around my torso into a tight ball. The small of my back took the impact of the ground. A hind hoof grazed my head and I looked up to see her scrambling to avoid me, muddy feet raised. The second hoof sounded like a shot-gun blast on my helmet, spinning my face toward the dirt. Then it was quiet. I heard Lauren calling, hoof beats retreating down the path.
“Stay very still. Count to ten. Wiggle fingers. Unfold legs, Lie prone for one minute more.” Slowly I rolled onto my knees, there were aftershocks as my back spasmed, but I was not broken. My right ear rang from the blow to my head. Night galloped back down the trail and stood looking at me. When I approached, she snorted and bolted out of sight. Moments later she was back, shaken but docile enough for me to stroke her neck and take hold of her bridle.
Falling is always a risk. Back at the barn, I removed my helmet and looked at the muddy hoof print. Without it, I fear I would not be writing this now. Life is about taking risks after all, but the stark reality of who would have the thankless task of caring for a drooling, shadow of who I am, causes me to think twice about putting myself in harms’ way…
A good, stout Charles Owen Helmet is worth every penny….