By Christy Landwehr
It was a beautiful fall day in Colorado. The event was the second annual Trail-A-Thon benefit ride for Front Range Exceptional Equestrians. The ride was held in Lory State Park, a nearby foothills and mountain park with varied terrain. It was well planned with different trails selected for riders with disabilities, hikers, and other riders. For the safety of the riders with disabilities and their families and caregivers, trailers were parked well away from the staging area. After Judy rode, she grabbed a quick bite to eat and then took her tired horse, Sparky, back to the trailer for water and to load up for the trip home.
Judy removed Sparky's tack by the door of the truck and tied him to the side of the trailer. Then she climbed onto the rear bumper of the truck to get his water bucket -- a full 5-gallon bucket with a tight lid -- out of the truck bed. As she wrestled the bucket over the tailgate and went to step down, she caught her heel in the electric cable between the truck and trailer and fell flat on her back, flinging the 40-pound bucket into Sparky's rear end as she did so. It was a pretty good mountain lion attack simulation and Sparky responded with a kick. As she was landing hard on her back and head, he was landing a hard kick to her upper right arm. Judy saw stars for about ten minutes, having struck her head. Fortunately, she had not yet removed her helmet so was not knocked out. Surprisingly, Judy’s arm didn't hurt immediately and she was able to water the horse, load her tack and horse, call for help, and get Sparky home and put up before being in too much distress. Judy was lucky and sustained no broken bones or a concussion, only insignificant separation of the shoulder joint.
There are several lessons to be learned from this mishap. Although it was a good idea to park trailers away from the foot traffic of riders with disabilities at this event, there was some risk that a horse handler could be injured while alone at the trailers. In Judy’s case, she was not visible to other participants and, had she been seriously injured, she could have been unaided for some time; this is both a personal and organizational concern. Judy could have mitigated this risk herself by asking one of her fellow riders to accompany her back to her trailer and then she could have handed the water bucket to that person.
Judy could have opened the tailgate of the truck to take the water bucket out instead of trying to dead lift it over the closed tailgate. She also could have had her water supply in the trailer's tack box instead of in the truck bed or could have had the water in numerous smaller containers.
The fact that Judy was wearing her helmet while working with her horse on the ground was a very positive aspect of this scenario. Often, we think about putting our helmet on after we are done grooming and tacking and before we ride and then taking it off immediately after we dismount. Many youth programs have riders wear their helmets from the moment they step onto the stable grounds. This is a good idea for all ages and abilities of riders as incidents do happen on the ground around horses as well.
Editor’s Note: CHA wants to thank CHA member Judy Jaffe of Wellington, CO for her submission of this incident that we can all greatly benefit and learn from. If you have an incident that you would like to share for possible submission, please contact the Editor of The Instructor, Christy Landwehr, at clandwehr@CHA-ahse.org.