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DaybyDay Vlogs: Laura on Coming Back from a Fall (Part 1)

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Written by DaybyDay Vlogs

Equestrian vlogger reflects on her first horse fall and coping with the physical and mental trauma… day by day

I started riding later in life. Both my young daughters rode horses and loved it. Riding, for me, was a chance to share an experience with them–an opportunity to share their passion and bond on a whole new level.

It’s also why my family started a vlog about our horsey journey.

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Me and Storm

Of course, I knew falling was something that would happen to me at some point, especially as I built my skills and challenged myself more.

My family was actually excited for me to get my first fall out of the way! They felt it was rite of passage, so to speak, and a moment we could share and laugh about later.

The story doesn’t end here. Read more in Laura’s blog Coming Back From a Bad Fall Part II.

To be honest, I wasn’t afraid of falling. I’d watched both my girls fall, dust themselves off, and swing back into the saddle. Lessons were learned. Progress was made. We all moved on.

My first fall off a horse would happen, too. Though, I was in no rush…

The Dream

Four days before my first fall happened, I dreamed it. (Yes, really!)

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Stella and Sophia

In my dream, I was lying near the arena rail with my horse running off into the distance. I felt as though I was watching the scene from above, gazing at myself sprawled on the ground.

Everything was quiet. The world moved around me in slow motion. In my dream, I was dazed–but physically okay.

The moment I woke up, I knew that I was going to fall off my horse soon–without a doubt. I also knew I would be fine–without a doubt.

I would fall. I would be fine. And so, I felt fine about it.

The Test Ride

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Storm and Gabby

That very day, I decided to go riding with a friend. I had been learning to ride for about eighteen months and was still very much a beginner.

Yet, I felt confident enough and strong enough to hold on if and when my “big moment” came.

I would wrap my long legs around our mare, sit deep, and ride through any spook or bolt.

Except nothing happened.

Our ride was uneventful (in a good way), and I left the barn with even more confidence than before. It had been my first one-on-one ride with a friend–no kids, no distractions, no agenda–and I’d loved every minute.

The Lesson

The next time I rode was four days later in my scheduled lesson. My daughters Gabby and Sophia were with me to watch, and my husband was at work. The normally-bustling arena was empty except for our trainer, me, and our black and white Paint mare Stella.

As I swung into the saddle, I wasn’t thinking about my dream. I wasn’t thinking about falling as I walked and trotted Stella around the arena. I was enjoying my lesson, enjoying the feel of our mare, and enjoying learning to ride.

When it came time to practice our canter, I gave the request. Heels down, sit deep, outside leg on, little kiss coming out of the corner. Stella lurched into the canter, and I immediately lost my balance.

For a split second, I thought I could recover.

In the next stride or two, I’d find my center of balance again and regain control.

Except I didn’t. I couldn’t.

The story doesn’t end here. Read more in Laura’s blog Coming Back From a Bad Fall Part II.

The Fall

Suddenly, I knew that this would be “the day.” I would end this ride on the ground like I had in my dream–without a doubt. I still wasn’t nervous. I’d seen my kids bounce so many times, and I’d been fine in my dream.

Yet… everything was happening so fast, not at all like slow motion. As Stella gained speed and started across the arena, I instinctively tried to grip the saddle–tried to prevent the inevitable.

Protect your melon. Wear a helmet EVERY time you ride!

My horse rookie brain told me to wrap my legs around her and hold on tight!

My sensitive horse’s brain told her I was asking for more speed. She complied and started bolting across the center of the arena.

(Though I didn’t hear her at the time, my daughter later said my coach called out at that moment… “She’s going to fall!”)

Stella careened between jump standards in an arc that should have resulted in a smooth turn back to the rail on the far side. Except I felt myself slipping to the side… more and more with every stride.

The wall was only two strides away. Then one stride.

There was this split second when I felt I had to choose: try to right myself and hang on or let the fall happen. In that instant, I knew I didn’t have the strength to pull myself back up or ability to adjust my hold on the reins fast enough.

And so, I chose to fall. No fight. No attempt to save myself.

Falling felt like… nothing. I was weightless. I was on my horse, then there was nothing. It was peaceful. No sound, only quiet until I landed.

Then, there was pain. More pain than I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Note: If you want to see my fall, watch the video below. 

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The Pain

The pain was everywhere–all consuming and immediate. I called out ” It hurts so bad!”

My coach caught Stella then hurried over to me. From the outside, I looked fine. On the inside, the pain was unbearable.

She started her “relax… take… a… deep… breath” spiel that I had heard countless times before.

That’s when I really started screaming.

You see, the rule at our barn is you get back on the horse–or you go to the hospital.

The sheer power of the pain scared me, and I felt myself going into shock. I needed to get to a hospital. NOW.

I screamed,”Get the phone!” “Call an ambulance!”

I wanted her to hurry. I wanted the ambulance to arrive as fast as possible. I wanted my husband.

For a moment, she seemed genuinely surprised that I needed an ambulance, but she handed Stella’s reins to Sophia and ran for the phone.

Learn more about Day by Day Vlogs in the Horse Rookie Equestrian Media Guide.

The Waiting

It was at that point that I was alone in the arena with my nine-year-old daughter and our mare.

I was screaming in pain, and Sophia had tears pouring down her cheeks. She kept saying, “I can’t see this… I can’t see this…”

She tried to help me. Her and I alone. She told me to take a deep breath and lie back. I could see the fear in her eyes. I tried to tell her I was okay.

I alternated between yelling “Help me… please help me…” and “It’s okay, Sophie. Mommy’s okay. It helps the pain when I scream a little.”

I wanted her to go. I wanted to save her from seeing me in so much pain.

It’s a memory that still haunts me–those moments we shared that were so raw and emotional.

She and I working together to help each other through a traumatic time. Her trying to make me comfortable and me trying to reassure her.

My instructor returned with her phone and, blessedly, sent the girls to untack the horses. Finally, Sophia was gone.

At this point, I really started going into shock. My instructor covered me with a horse blanket, which surprised me because I didn’t feel cold.

I tried to figure out how to get away from the pain. I remembered my breathing exercises from child labour. I slowed my breathing, relaxed, and waited for the pain to leave. It only increased.

I knew I need to get away from the pain and told my instructor I had to stand up. I had to move away from the pain. I tried to stand. It felt as though my legs were not attached to my body.

I couldn’t identify each pain point, but I somehow I knew I’d broken my pelvis.

The Ambulance

Thankfully the ambulance was close, and my wait was short.

The paramedics had to carry me out of the arena because a stretcher ride over sand would have been excruciating. They used something called a “Scoop.” It’s basically two parts of a plastic stretcher that snapped together underneath me so I could be carried.

I had landed on my side and was unable to roll onto my back because of the pain. So, they carried me on my side, out of the arena, and placed me onto the waiting stretcher in the exact position in which I had landed.

The pain was unbearable. I saw black a few times, but I fought to stay awake.

I felt like I was bleeding inside, but I needed to see my kids safely passed into my husband’s care.

He arrived moments before the ambulance left and promised to meet me at the hospital. I didn’t want to be alone, but I needed him to be with the girls to reassure them everything would be ok.

I was given an IV of pain medication in the ambulance. It took the edge off but quickly wore off. My blood pressure was really low, so they weren’t able to give me another dose.

The ride to hospital was really hard, but the EMT was so kind and wonderful. She did everything in her power to help me.

The Hospital

Once I arrived at the hospital, I got more medication. (I was still screaming from the pain.)

The nurses had to cut my riding breeches off–my favourite breeches. I simply remember feeling grateful I didn’t have to move to take them off myself.

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Still in a lot of pain…

I was still lying in the exact position in which I had fallen.

Once my pain was under control, they sent me to get an X-ray. They had to roll me onto my back. On the count of three now… 1… 2… 3… It was excruciating. Yet, the second I was on my back, the bulk of the pain vanished.

The relief I felt in that moment was incredible.

The Diagnosis

My family was waiting for me when I got back to the emergency room.

My diagnosis: a broken pelvis. A shattered pelvis, in fact.

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I had broken both sides of my pelvis in two places, the back of my pelvis, and my tailbone. My orthopedic specialist told me my injuries resembled those of a motorcycle accident.

He said many people go into shock, struggle to stand, and try walking away the accident site to escape the pain… before falling again.

Lying on my side had basically compressed all my broken bones with the full weight of my body. It’s why the pain was so acute.

Learn more about Day by Day Vlogs in the Horse Rookie Equestrian Media Guide.

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The Recovery

I spent six days in the hospital on a bed made of air. My family was incredible–supportive, attentive, and caring.

Sophia cried herself to sleep each night, reliving the accident in her mind, until we began to Facetime before bed. She needed to see that I was okay.

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Special visitor… Levi!

I had the best care I could have imagined in the hospital.

I came home five days before Christmas in an ambulance, as I still wasn’t walking. I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to be home for the holidays. I arrived with a walker, a wheelchair, and a bedside commode.

I didn’t care. I was simply happy to be home.

For two weeks, I slept in a sit-to-stand La-Z-Boy recliner in our living room. I was so grateful for that chair, but I couldn’t wait to sleep in a real bed again.

My recovery has been swift. Only four weeks post-accident, and I’m walking everywhere. I’m driving again and getting to the barn most days. I still have pain, but it’s bearable.

The Future

At no point during this ordeal did I consider giving up horseback riding.

I will ride again.

Lying on the arena dirt, waiting for the ambulance, I worried about how this would affect my riding. (I still wonder.)

But, I will ride again.

True equestrians always get back on–to the hospital or back on. Always back on.

I will ride again. But, first, I will heal… day by day.

Laura

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About the author

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DaybyDay Vlogs

I'm the mom of our big Canadian family, and we love vlogging our lives day by day. Come join us in our adventures and our journey about owning our first horses. Watch us as we grow and change and live the life we were meant to live!