coming back after a bad fall

Posted by KjC Rockstars on

If you have been riding as long as I have you probably have a few moments sketched in your memory where you involuntarily dismounted into the dirt. It may have been a spook, a bad distance, a buck or bolt, or a stop. However you met the dirt, it was not fun and probably in some way put a dent in your confidence. I want to describe my most recent date with the dirt and hopefully my experiences will inspire those that are struggling to remember why we do this and to find that inner passion after the fall.

It was Feb 25, 2017 I had a 9am scheduled lesson. My 17 year old OTTB, who is a saint, was being perfect as usual. His name is Sunday Drive and he lives up to his name.. SLOOOOOW and cool as a cucumber. No big deal for this big 17.1hh softie. It was one of those lessons to where its all going pretty darn good and the trainer says, "lets do it one more time". I gathered my reins, picked up the canter and headed to the first single jump. That went fine, I rounded the corner to the outside 5 stride line. We can in perfect so I sat chilly and let Drive figure out the strides. We jumped out perfect!! We landed, took 3 canter steps (my best guy even landed on the correct lead-no need for a change!) when all of a sudden he tripped, face planted and next thing I knew I was hearing my trainer yelling for help. I was laying there trying to catch my breath sounding like a stuck pig, when I finally caught my breath. (later to find out I broke my rib, hence my squealing sound trying to catch my breath) I open my eyes and my trainer is telling me to breath and to relax and just breath. I then said, "who's standing on my arm?" "no one is standing on your arm Cindy" *insert panic here* OMG my arm!! 

Now, I found out later that Drive was laying there completely still and so was this day I shiver at the sight of that and feel for my trainer as she saw horse and rider down and not moving. Disclaimer: Drive was and is 100% OK!!! Other than being probably body sore (I did mention he's 17, right/!) he was fine and I am SO lucky he is ok. That being said, I got a ride to the ER to try and figure out what was wrong with my arm that looked like a ski slope. The xray showed a shatter forearm and wrist - meaning I had to see the surgeon on Monday. So I go to see the surgeon on Monday and he says, "you will have surgery on Wednesday March 1st and I wont know the extent of the damage till I am in there" March 1st comes and I am now the proud owner of a 7inch plate and 16 screws! I am now BIONIC!! I haven't tested the magnet trick yet but I bet you I could get it to stick to my arm.

I used my time "off" to go and watch Drive be ridden as much as I possibly could. I couldn't do much but watch, but I was reminded each and every time that he is SAFE and that this was a freak  accident. As time went on, I was able to lift more (did I mention this was my right arm and I am right handed? oh yea, fun!) and help out more at the barn while I watched my guy go. My heart leaped into my throat every time I watched him jump and land- and I am still struggling with that. I have the most amazing support staff at my barn that all chipped in to keep him going and keep me informed on how he was. My doc kept saying, "3 more weeks till you can think of riding"......well, the day before Easter, I decided to hop on. It was like Christmas morning and I was SO excited. I walked, trotted AND cantered and survived. I didn't feel any nerves. I hopped on a few more times and enjoyed each one with very little nerves. I lessoned this past Saturday, May 6th, and trotted and cantered a few poles. I felt good, but had a heart dropping moment when I heard his hoof skid across the pole one time. *GASP!* (we were fine, it was all in my head no one even said a thing about it so clearly it wasn't an issue haha) My trainer set an X for me to jump and she said here we go, you canter this and can be done for the day. Think short stirrup X...the first hole on the waaaaay bottom of the standards...yup, that was my X. But, I cantered down to it, and we cantered over it. (pretty sure he didn't really "jump" seeing how small it was, but hey, it was in jump cups, it counts as a jump, right?) Everyone in the ring cheered, it was a pretty cool moment. I even wore the same breeches as I was wearing the day of the accident to break the curse. I later told my trainer that and she turned white and said "why did you tell me that" hahahah But hey, the curse is broken right? Or is it? This is where I am struggling.....was this a fluke? Was this a freak accident? We all trip, horses trip. But will this ever happen to me again? Will I ever feel confident cantering out of a line again? I honestly don't have any ambition to canter around a course any time soon, but the time will come to where I will have to rip the bandaid off and just do it. I am trying really hard not to over think this while in the tack. I know that this doesn't happen everyday and all I can do is pray to the heavens that nothing like this will happen to me again - or at least the same way with the same outcome. Not only now am I struggling mentally a little, I am battling the medical bills that just seen to come 5 at a time every day. My folder of bills is about 2 stories tall. All I can do is tackle them a little at a time-but man, its a constant reminder of what "happened". There goes any plan for showing this summer. *bummer*

How is my arm you ask? Well, it's doing pretty good. The scar is long and pretty badass. I am stuck in a handshake position and my wrist wont rotate any further. I am hoping in time that will come. I am staying positive with that. I can do most things that I wasn't able to do such as put a pony tail in, button my pants, and tighten a girth!  I struggle with turning a door knob (due to the lack of rotation to the right) and accepting change from a cashier. (force of habit is to stick my right hand out  and it all falls because my hand is not level)


So, I am looking for some words of wisdom to whom out there has been through a riding incident and it left them feeling a little inadequate- or come on, completely freaked out. I want to hear how you got through it. What was your go to method to push through? Or did you just get a year supply or red wine to supplement the worry? ha ha!


What am I without horses? Horses are my inner most pleasure. I have to remind myself that maybe this accident was a little moment to force me to slow down and enjoy life a little more. Enjoy my horses in a different way while I heal. Observe the horses in motion and understand they are animals and things happen..right?


Thank you for reading this if you even got this far. It felt good to get this all out as I am struggling with all this in my brain. I tend to be long winded, so I apologize but I hope at some point in here you smiled or maybe even shook your head in agreement remembering a similar thought process.


your fellow bionic rockstar..




  • I also had a bad fall. Almost 2 years ago… Wow. I was able to ride about 6 months after my surgery until I tripped and fell one day (not riding, it was me and some stairs- so graceful) and had two additional fractures in weight bearing structures in the Pelvis and femoral head. My original injury was a shattered femoral head that required a bone transplant and many months in a wheelchair and non-weight bearing. 14 weeks pre-surgery waiting for a donor match, and 10 weeks post-op.

    My first two months back on were perfect. We progressed, found our groove, and did extremely well. After my second injury I realized I am very much more fragile than my teenage self. I took an additional 7 months off and just got back in the saddle 2 months ago. This time around has been so much more difficult because of my mental state. My OTTB is a saint. Neither of my falls was off of him yet the tensing of his back will send me into panic out of my own fear. I can barely canter for more than a circle and will hold off from jumping at all until August. Building up my mental guard is a task my trainer and I work very closely on. It is a team effort, but no amount of encouragement will make you discover it. You have to realize it on your own and in your own time. It is delicate. Not something pushed to the back of the closet, but not always directly addressed. It is slow and cumbersome at times, but at no point can you let it affect how you ride. The days my fear makes me tense and hard on his mouth are the days we are direct and intentional. The days things go nicely are the times we throw in new movements or work longer than 20 minutes. I have no rush to enter the show ring again and taking my time is going to be the only way I will get my head on straight.

    Your horse is your partner and getting back in the saddle is for the both of you. I make an effort to never sacrifice horsemanship for progress or progress for fear. It is only time in the saddle that can build confidence. Some days will be a walk/trot ride without cantering or even just a long hack and that is ok.

    Jess on

  • So I had a similar accident, shattering my left arm and wrist. Mine wasn’t as severe as yours medically, as I’ve no metal in me but the psyche part still remains to a point and this was over 14 years ago. We want XC schooling on Sunday. My first time to school in over 15 years, as I swapped to fox hunting. I wasn’t real nervous per se, but did have increased breathing speed and sweat. After the first 10 or so fences, I was fine. This was my horses first XC school as well, even though he jumped everything in the hunt field. This is different though. Just keep trying. If you get scared, back down until you gain confidence then try again. Remember. This is supposed to be FUN. If you show, just concentrate on you and your riding, not the bit of ribbon or points or anyone else. Keep being as brace as is comfortable for YOU and not someone else. Good luck- and have FUN. ??❤️

    Karen on

  • I completely know what that is like. When I was 15 I was riding a friends crazy horse, fell in love and decided this crazy Ottb, who just turned 23 today, was my soul mate. (Which we still are) so I had been riding him for a little over a year. We had gotten over,some crazy rides. He was one of those who would buck and crowhop while flying around the arena and when he felt he had dismounted his rider he would stop amd look atound to see where the landed. Well, I didnt come off. Never,once,still,to,this day has he ditched me on purpose. With that said, I go out and find he has lost a shoe. Damn. So I tack up the older teens Ottb, 17.2 hand been all over the world doing 3 day eventing all over the globe, was a steapalchaser (sorry for the spelling) and had been a lesson horse for years. I hop on mid March, beautiful day, and I realize someone had borrowed my saddle and not put the off side stirrup back all the way in. No big deal, in 15, I’ve literally changed my stirrup lengths at all gates, I bring my leg up and hey did you notice its a beautiful day for a run? He takes off, my leg goes over his neck, 2 times around and hey he finally heard me say ho! (For the umpteenth time. Well he stops I don’t, crack my helmet on the fence post, and land in the uneven rut of the ring. No,this place only dragged the arena flat once a YEAR! Crack. Broken arm. While I’m healing my soul horse startes misbehaving again for the owner and she decides to sell. Amazing my parents understood what he ment to me and that I could work through it amd they purchased him for me. I got back on the horse that threw me, and I still up until 2 weeks ago couldn’t change,or fix my stirrups while on the horse. 2 weeks ago on a horse I am leasing, as my baby Ottb is not a baby anymore and semi retired, I felt a comfort I hadn’t felt in years and I was able to fix my leather length without having to get off. It took a long time and many different horses since to get,back,that feeling of safety. So just be patient and trusting of your ride. Enjoy being on your horse and never give up. It will get better.

    Kelley on

  • THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you that has chimed in. It’s funny you blurb all this stuff out and don’t even think anyone will read it or make it through all the rambling. Thank you for chiming in and sharing your experiences…I am tickled that you cared enough to comment. THANK YOU! All of this is so healing and warms my soul and helps me remember why we all do this…for the cherry on top!! The horses…we LOVE them..their velvety noses, their difference nickers, their personalities and the way they make us feel like “us”.
    THANK YOU everyone!!!

    And cheers to you for your healing process, your incredible brave tendencies and your caring hearts!


    cindy hm on

  • The mind has its own protective mechanism which is designed to keep you safe. Yours may need some re-training as will your arm. Go slow. It’s okay to be afraid (although you may not call it that). It may take some time to convert that “fear” to a business as usual time in the saddle, but it will happen. Just let your mind take its time to re-adjust. When it feels right it will be. The fact that you are riding and X railing is shows you are up for the process. Just take your time.

    My story is not unlike most of us whose life is about horses and riding. Like all of us, I had plenty of falls during my active riding years. My worst fall was in front of the crowd at a famous horse show. I was 15 and it was entirely my fault. Aladdin and I never did well at the beautiful grass-covered ring at Hitchcock Woods in Aiken, SC. On this day our performance was worse than usual. I had our distances wrong, so he chip-shot every fence all day long. And I doubt we hit a single correct lead an any of our flat classes. By the end of the day I could have cared less about getting a decent ribbon. My head was just to get around and go home. In the last working hunter class of the day, it was twice around four fences. Two big Aikens down, a turn to the right and two more up the back side. The turn after the second fence was low and had collected some water on the grassy surface. Most of the riders, including me, had been avoiding the worst parts of the turn all day. My grand old man was bare foot in the forgiving sandy soil that dominated our region of South Carolinas and Georgia. In the turn, which I took too sharply, he slipped on the wet grass and went down hard. He got up…I didn’t. I don’t remember, of course, but they say I was unconscious for a considerable time. My mom who was frantic I’m told, and my dad who was level-headed as usual raced me to our doctor 17 miles away. He told us to let me sleep it off. I was out of school for several days. Within a couple weeks, I got back to the barn. My horse suffered no ill-effects from the fall, and I don’t remember having any trepidation about getting back in the saddle or jumping. I continued to show for another three years, but that was my last time in the ring at Hitchcock Woods.

    M. D. Ewing on

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