It was one year ago today that Welmingh and I had a major dismounting miscommunication. As I confidently rode around around the pond today on a long rein I started to think about just how far I have come in a year.
I want to tell this story because riding in Wellington I rarely see a rider without a helmet, top hats are no longer the norm in the show ring. I often still read things on the internet that say “I am a good rider, I dont need a Helmet” I see trainers on my Facebook without helmets and I cringe to think they are a role model for the next gen. I am a good rider and I have a relatively safe and well trained horse, what happened a year ago is a moment in time that every rider knows about and dreads the day it could happen.
It was a cold winter day and my horse tends to be a bit inattentive in the cold to begin with. There was a lot going on in the arena and I made the decision to get off in order to be safe. I dropped both stirrups and swung my leg over, and in the very moment my leg was over his croupe he moved. My leg kicked him and off he went like the well trained dressage horse he is. In the few seconds it took me to fall to the ground we had made it to the center of the dressage ring, I could feel each of my fingers leaving the reins one at a time although it were slow motion. My final landing point was near B on my head. I was wearing a helmet and I remember laying there in the dirt struggling to remain conscious. Thinking about how many horses were in the arena and that I was now in additional danger of not only a loose horse but also the other riders. I couldnt move. I didnt want to move.
My coach came running and there was another rider and friend that was a physiotherapist that came over. All I wanted was to get my helmet off, it had smashed my glasses into my face and was now very uncomfortable, not to mentioned filled with dirt. Turns out I could feel my toes! Yay! I lay there for a really long time and finally managed to move. I was met with a glass of water and some asprin and a car ride to the ER. My poor dad. Another trip to the hospital due to my antics. Although I must admit he has been great about not giving me lectures on all of the crazy things I do that end me up there in the first place.
Lucky for me when I head to the ER I have generally done a good enough job I dont have to wait. So for those of you thinking our medical system sucks I can assure that it works the way it should.
They told me I could go home but was not allowed to stay alone. My dear friend Maureen ended her date early and came over to spend the night. Thats a good friend. I woke up in the morning with the worst headache of my entire life. And I still have it today.
The next 3 months were the worst 3 months of my entire life. The pain was horrific. When I was high enough on painkillers I could sleep for a few hours and I spent most of the next 3 months between sleep and misery. I tried everything I could to get the pain to go away. Every treatment under the sun. Nothing worked. I remember taking two percacets and crying because the pain was so bad. Crying only makes it worse so it was not a good situation. I spent most days thinking about delightful ways to end my life so I would no longer be in pain. Yes even on the antidressants. Pain sucks. To top it all off the pharmacy tech when questioned failed to check the book when I asked her to see if I could combine two drugs because the pain was so bad. That led me to a drug overdose. I am pretty sure that I can say that spending a day on the bathroom floor puking in intervals, with both what I call “inside headaches” and “outside headaches” was an all time low.
I am not telling this story so that you can feel sorry for me, I tell this story because until a year ago I had no idea what it meant to have a concussion. If this story helps people ride in helmets every ride then I am more than happy to share it.
On July 4th I got the Ok to ride. Much to the dismay of my father I was in the car and headed to see my horse just a few days later. I didnt even know if I was going to be able to ride but I certainly wasnt about to share that! Knowing full well that Welmingh is not the horse you can ride when you are not grounded or present I took a moment before I got in the saddle. He was extra patient with me as I am sure not only was there some tension but I am pretty sure I held the reins a bit to tight. My coach started yelling directions almost instantly and off I went without even a moment to think about what had happened. And after 3 months in bed on pain killers I was certainly not fit enough to ride an FEI horse in a lesson for 45 minutes!!
Things that came out of this mishap, the realization that if I had gone through all of that just to ride this horse I had better make it worthwhile. We are both happier than ever in what I have coined as pony paradise. The ponds, the birds the large oak tree in the paddock it all seems a bit surreal but worth every moment.
Today my headache is very mild. I think it actually went away for a bit, unfortunately while out on a Friday night Irish dancing I hit it on the interior light in the car and it came back. Yes thats all it took.
Wear your helmet!