It took less than 20 seconds from start to finish, and I’ll spend the next 6 weeks feeling these 3 reminders daily:
- Sometimes, shit can go wrong faster than you can move.
- Horses, even small ones, are exponentially larger than we are.
- No one is above the previous two conditions coming together and putting you in your place.
Actually, not that much. I was helping a friend hitch a large pony, and he had a spook at an awkward moment. Things got a little dicy for a moment or two, he stopped, we unhitched, and he was fine. As I say, it was about 20 seconds of “shit, shit, shit” then, “Ok, we’re good.”
I then asked another friend who was busy loading up her trailer just outside the arena to call an ambulance.
Janet: “You want me to call an ambulance?”
Me: “Ya, call an ambulance right now please.”
Janet: “For who?”
Janet: “Wait, are you serious? (in an incredulous tone) You really want me to call an ambulance to come pick you up right now?”
This conversation may have actually had one more round, I don’t quite remember. In Janet’s defense:
She hadn’t seen what was going on in the arena. She only heard a momentary scuffle, and when she looked over, everything appeared to be well in hand. The pony was unhitched and standing, nothing looked particularly out of order.
I was standing up, calmly walking around, and talking slightly above my breath. She had no idea that I was keeping myself moving to be certain that I wouldn’t pass out or seize up, or that I was using such a quiet tone because one of my lungs was partially collapsed and in reality I was talking as loud as I could.
For me, this was just the beginning.
Wait, What Really Happened??
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Hitching and unhitching are the riskiest moments in your drive. It’s during that moment when your horse is between hitched and unhitched that if things get weird, they go south quickly.
When one shaft was fixed to the harness, and the second shaft was coming into place, the pony heard a pony devouring demon somewhere nearby. Naturally, he decided to take evasive action. He only got about a step ahead of me, but that was all that it took.
I stopped him quite firmly and quickly, but with just one shaft attached, the carriage was out of sync with the pony. When he surged the carriage lagged behind, dragging from the harness awkwardly. When he stopped, the carriage was still mid-surge.
The push-pull action escalated the pony into a little bolt. We stuck together for a dozen yards or so, but then found ourselves among parked carriages, chairs, cones, and other stuff. I tripped just as he leaped, I went down as he went up.
I remember being pissed about finding myself in the one place I didn’t want to be with no room or time to maneuver. I looked up from my back as the pony was returning to earth from his leap, also with no time or room to maneuver. His front feet planted on my chest as if he was trying to give me CPR.
There was snapping and popping, but not nearly as painful as you might imagine. As he scrambled off of me, I could see that he was going to do me one more favor by dragging the carriage over me (comparably less painful than a pony landing on me.)
I stood as soon as soon the carriage was passed. He carried onto his “safe place” in the arena about another 10 yards away, stopped and stood. We popped open the tug, releasing the tension on the harness, and he just stood for moment. It was over… Well, for the pony anyway.
Time to Reflect
Ironically, this is the first time I’ve been seriously injured while working with horses. Sure, I’ve had my share of bumps, scrapes, and bruises. I’ve been stepped on, thrown, kicked and bitten, but never seriously enough to spend a night in a hospital.
Well, I got 5 nights, and 4 days to reflect on this. There was some Monday morning quarterbacking going on in my mind. What could have prevented this, what had I done wrong, and how can I keep this from happening again?
In any such incident, there’s seldom just one thing that lead to the problem. It’s usually a combination of triggers that stack one on the other. Every person and pony has their “Tilt” limit, and once those triggers stack up over that limit, things tend to go sideways.
There wasn’t much to point to in this instance. This was the pony’s second work session for the day. He ended his morning session in a great place, with a great attitude. Likewise, he arrived to this session, calm, relaxed, and ready play silly human games again.
The main factor really comes down to the pony being young, inexperienced, and not very brave. Those factors have to be treated as triggers that have already been put into the stack. That leaves even less room for other triggers to enter the equation without going over the pony’s tilt limit.
So, while appearing to be calm and quiet, he must of still been harboring some heavy anxiety. A simple sound outside the arena when paired with a touch while hitching was enough to induce his flight mode. To his credit, he did return to his senses pretty quickly. It just would have been nice if he had done so before I tripped!
So the remedy is more time and experience for the pony. He’ll need some extra time standing, getting brave, and probably a third set of hands on the ground for hitching. Of course, since I’m now on the injured reserve bench for a spell, he’ll get that attention from another professional.
No, he’s not ruined as a driving pony. He probably isn’t even thinking of that scary moment as something specific to carriage driving. Despite the fact that it was a really bad outcome for me, he probably was more concern that he landed on me than he was with the carriage (as evidenced by his halting afterwards essentially on his own.)
Experience is what you get when you were expecting something else, and there have been many times when I was expecting something else! The important thing is learn from those experiences, and find new ways to screw things up!
Incidents like this are relatively few and far between in my practice these days because of that attitude. You don’t have to repeat the past if you can learn from it the first time. You don’t have to be afraid of things going wrong, if in the end, you’ll have more experience.
Ya, sometimes you get hurt along the way… boo.
As for me…
For the time being, I’m resting uncomfortably at home. Life isn’t too bad other than the fact that a sneeze causes thousands of flaming demons to rise from within to shred and tear my body to pieces from the inside. Note to self: stifle sneezes.
Broken ribs have a funny way of letting you know just after you’ve made a movement they don’t approve of. This too shall pass.
I’m certain that I’ll be teaching long before handling the reins as I return to pony life. Sitting at a computer is more challenging than I expected, so the online class schedule has been set back a bit. In the mean time, there are quite a few past classes to revisit here.
I’ll have something new for you to chew on soon enough. Go enjoy your ponies! Just remember, they’re faster than you think, bigger than you think, and you’re not always going to come out on top.
anyone who spends enough time with horses will eventually have that “oh shit” moment… been there, done that… The story and comments tell me too many of these animals are being hitched before they pass the “still test”. You say “young, inexperienced, and not very brave” and now needs 3 to hook…. NO NO NO a lot more on line work is needed with a great deal of “weird is normal and not scary” training.
Also, I will not hook an equine that will not “stay” while I bump and poke it with the shaft, raise them up and down, and passed the head and over the body. If they aren’t confident enough for that, they are not ready to be fastened to the “monster”.
I’m so sorry to read about your accident. I too spent almost a week in ICU after a driving accident. A wild turkey accosted my horse and we lost out. 2 broken ribs, lacerated spleen and blood transfusions ( all mine, the horse and carriage were essentially unscathed). Your accident resulted in savings for me and the inspiration for continued learning. I hope my little bit helps with those hospital bills!
oh Andy so sorry to hear this. Lots of rest and a few hot Toddies, it’s the season to be Merry
Cheers Stay warm heal up fast
Sorry to hear of your accident. Having experienced both broken ribs and collapsed lung, I agree sneezing ( along with coughing or laughing) cause great discomfort. It will pass. Rest and heal.
…. and one more comment, my friend: I know you got hurt before in your other hobby – skiing. Now with driving ! Don’t have one with your other pastime – sky-diving – as accidents there tend to come out a lot worse 🙂
cheers and speedy recovery, from your friend
So sorry to hear of your injury and suffering. So good to hear you are healing.
Lord have mercy, Praise God you will be ok. I’m praying for a speedy recovery.
My heart goes out to you. We really never can be to careful – even with seasoned horses. Heal quickly. Our thoughts are with you.
Wow. Sorry to hear of your injuries, Andy!. It sounds painful.
Thank you for sharing about it though. It is a helpful reminder to always be mindful and watchful.
I hope you have a quick recovery!
Oh my goodness Andy. And you wanted to teach me how to skydive!!!!
Recover slowly, take deep slow breaths, have a glass of wine, and try to be good and heal right.!!!!
Oh my goodness Andy… Sending you positive thoughts, love and healing energy your way… Now I feel silly having a simple cinching question yesterday!
Thank you for sharing your experience. Great information, very detailed with just the right amount of humor.
Take care –
Hope you are feeling better. Thanks for sharing this experience with the driving community. Open review of difficult experiences really can help other drivers. Maybe another potential lesson learned is to program one touch 911 into a mobile phone which you always have on you. Fortunately there was someone there to make that call, but a quiet accident at one end of farm might not be noticed for some time.
Oh Andy – shit happens- hope you heal quickly
So sorry you are having to deal with being hurt and sidelined. Darn critters esp ponies are so quick! Heal fast!!!
Ouch – glad to hear you are recovering although it will take some frustrating time. You just never know when bad things are going to happen to good people/horses. One of my well trained minis put me in a wheelchair for months and has altered my mobility forever! Hang in there – it will get better!
Recovered from broken ribs earlier in the year. SNEEZING ADVICE…. take index finger and press hard up onto the center cartilage under your nose open your mouth and do ah ah ah….inhale.
You will learn how to move in bed while keeping your core muscles frozen…using your legs and other muscles but not your core.
so so sorry…horsemanship is not a gentle sport. I feel your pain. I remember the crackle crunchy sounds.
I found Aleve liquid gel caps 12 hr. helpful.
OMG…so sorry to hear of this happening to you; jeez, when it comes to equines you can never be too careful….I’ve never believed in a ‘bomb-proof’ horse; more along the lines of “MAYBE… he’ll tolerate a bomb”. Healing thoughts sent your way….
Mishaps are no fun. I’m praying you heal fast. It just shows that no matter how careful you are, unplanned mishaps can happen unexpectedly. Feel better soon.
Remember an equipment failure that ended in my husband and I being pitched out of the cart. And I can clearly remember gathering myself together and finding my husband unconscious on the ground with a spectacular hoofprint over his sternum. But more worrying was the slow loss of feeling and movement from his chest down while in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
All was well in the end, but I always advise people that things can go very wrong very quickly, often without you having made any mistake to cause it!
Hope you recover quickly
Oh man! We sure do take size for granted with ponies and minis… feel better my friend… and yes those sneezes are brutal!!!
Hard lessons are not fun!
Oh, Andy … how awful. A living example of what I say, “I’d rather be eaten by a shark than have a heart attack in my chair.” This is one of those life moments where you’re going to have too much time to dissect it. If you don’t already, maybe you could use your recovery time to learn to meditate. I use an app called “Headspace” and a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones. Learning to meditate is like adding a tool to your knowledge tool box and it’s not as easy as it looks. Take care and good job with the drawing of your accident.
So sorry to hear you were injured so badly, it could have been much worse!
A little trick my granddaughter taught me that actually works—when you feel a sneeze building up, say the word “watermelon.” Weirdly, this really reduces the intensity of a sneeze!
Ribs are no fun.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery
Alison & Greg
Accidents happen so fast you don’t know what is going on until they are over.
Be glad he wasn’t a Belgian.
Be glad he wasn’t wearing winter shoes.
Be glad you were in an enclosed arena.
Be glad there were other humans around.
Everyone is glad you will be ok.
Jerry and I are very sorry to hear about your injuries. We hope you heal quickly and the pain subsides soon.
Oh, lord! Heal quickly! And thanks for sharing a reminder, that any of us could be in the same situation.
Bad news! So sorry this happened to you. Relieved that you can expect a full recovery, that’s GOOD news. Take it easy Andy, good time of the year for R&R.
This affirms what I’ve always thought: everyone who plays with horses winds up breaking a bone or two. So sorry that your turn had to be worse than just a toe.
But this could have been so much worse for you and for the pony; nevertheless, it wasn’t pleasant for either of you.
I’ve have a well-trained horse take off exactly at the same point your pony took off. I found him patiently waiting for me out in the field with the carriage overturned and the harness twisted around his body. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt him either physically or mentally. In fact, he was much more patient at being hitched after the incident.
May your ribs heal quickly and all your ponies be kind in the future.
Andy that sucks. Hope you get better soon….and don’t sneeze.
I’m so sorry Andy! I’m glad you are doing wellish. I work in the ER and it could have been so much worse! Although, I’m sure you feel like it couldn’t get any worse with those ribs and chest tube. And when you must sneeze, try hugging a pillow to support the ribs. Hopefully they told you that on discharge! God speed healing!!
I am so glad you will recover. Hang in there. Get your rest so your body will heal.
Speedy recovery my friend. Hope you feel better soon.
Yes, it happens to the best of us and it happens quickly. One can never really be ready for the unexpected, but we always need to be aware of our surroundings. In the blink of an eye our World can change.
I’m so sorry you are out of the box seat for the time being, but you will find other things to occupy your time/ mind.
Heal well . Heal soon!
Hope you have happy Holidays!!
Andy, that is what I love about you, when you have a less than stellar experience you use it as a teaching moment for the rest of us! I’m glad you’re on the mend and will be sending more rib healing thoughts your way!
Thank you for writing about it!
Glad you survived.
I can learn much from others experiences and yet I struggle with my own ‘fear’ recovering from an accident. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, I can not become complacent around them.
I understood this all too well. I had a pair hitched to a drag…full sisters, one experienced, and one in training. My helper was heading after a successful session, and as I stepped off the drag, he turned to get the halters. The ponies followed, I jumped back on the drag, but something had panicked them in THAT second, and as we made the first turn of the ring, I had nothing to brace a foot against, and was slung into the wall…thankfully, wearing a helmet.
Hope you are back to normal soon!
Hope you feel better soon. Reminded me of that old cowboy saying, the horseman’s grave is always open. My husband passed away a little over a year ago and I haven’t hitched my horses since even though they are easy to hitch. So much safer to have help you don’t need than needing help and no one to help. I enjoy your classes so much, you do a wonderful job.
Rest is natures best medicine.
So sorry to hear you were injured, Andy. Hope you heal well and can get back to doing what you love.