The Horseback Fall That Almost Broke Me

The Fall That Almost Broke Me

... and the road back.

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My Senior year of high school, I was working with a very inexperienced paint horse I had named Pink Floyd. Pink came to me on a buddy deal, and I honestly knew better than to take on such a job at this busy time of my life, but nevertheless, I started working with him.

In the Spring of 2016, I hauled my horses to a local arena alone, as I had done countless times, to work them. I saddled Pink and began working on simple skills as we always did; nothing out of our typical routine. About twenty minutes into our session, Pink became agitated and began refusing to cooperate with simple cues he had mastered and learned to read with ease. Before I knew what had happened, he lunged into the air rearing up. I leaned forward to regain my balance, bracing on his neck as he lingered in the air, but he didn't feel right. I felt his balance faltering and began getting ready to bail.

As I tried to kick my stirrups off, Pink fell backward. I bailed, barely landing out of the way of the saddle horn as it stabbed into the ground. My vision was foggy as I caught glimpses of the horse rolling over the top of me in his struggle to regain his footing. I passed out waking up to an unnerving numbness.

I laid in the sand of the arena in complete fear. I was scared to move. I began trying to prepare myself for the worst-case scenario. After what felt like an eternity, feeling began to come back. My head ached, there was a stabbing pain in my lower back, and a throbbing sensation in my right leg. I rolled onto my stomach and my world was spinning. As I blinked sand out of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of Pink standing quietly at the far end of the arena. I managed to get onto my knees, then stood up with stinging tears in my eyes.

I hobbled across the arena to check him out. Through gritted teeth, I managed to check him over. He seemed to be unscathed. I unsaddled Pink and loaded both horses into the trailer before calling my mom. After both horses were safely home, I agreed to go to the doctor.

After X-rays and an exam, it became apparent that I had done serious damage to my sacroiliac joint, the joint that connects the upper half of your body to the bottom half. In addition to the damage to my back, I had a concussion and a hematoma on my right leg. To this day, I have issues with my back, but I am so lucky. Although I was bedridden for several days, I was okay. I was so fortunate to have been spared from life-altering injuries, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't appreciate how blessed I am to have survived being crushed by an 1,100-pound animal.

After the fall, however, I had some trepidation about climbing back into the saddle. I'll be the first to admit that I was scared. I was scared of falling again and I refused to ride any of my horses. It was hard to face the horse that could've killed me and even harder to accept that I was afraid of something that had once given me such joy. But, more than anything, I was ashamed that I couldn't find it within myself to face this horse. In the world of western riding, you're told to be "cowgirl tough" and I felt like a failure. I considered quitting, I almost thought cutting my losses and selling my horses would be better than getting back on that paint horse.

Finally, almost two months after the fall, I decided enough was enough, and I pulled him out of the pasture. With shaky hands, I saddled him, and with wide eyes, I mounted him. I rode him like a beginner, clinging to the saddle horn for dear life, but I rode him. It wasn't pretty, and it was a short ride, but I did it, and I am so glad I did. I faced the horse that could've ended my riding career, and I am all the better for it. I do not claim to be the best rider, and I am no cowgirl, but I conquered something monumental in my life. An insignificant ride to most, but probably the most important ride of my life.

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Shortly before my husband and I officially moved out onto our own, he surprised me with a puppy in hand on the morning of our anniversary. Moving out, tackling college, and everything in between, I thought another huge responsibility was the last thing I needed. However, in reality, Oakley, the lab/Australian shepard/collie mix, was exactly what I needed to get back to "me."


He provides emotional support

One of the most obvious reasons is how much emotional support dogs, (and other respective animals) can provide. His paws have been accidentally stepped on, and he certainly isn't a fan of the forced flea/tick medication doses, but less than 30 seconds later, he is without fail immediately by my side again, tail wagging and ready for more kisses. Although he is not trained or certified as an ESA, it's without a doubt he has effectively (and unconsciously) combated random anxiety attacks or feelings of being alone.

He requires being cared for

You'll heavily judge every crazy fur mama, as did, I until you become one. Getting Oakley immediately got me consistently back on my feet and forced me to ask myself, "What does he need today?"Even simple, easy tasks like taking him out to run/go to the bathroom had me excited and forced me to find a motive in the day to day activities. I loved no longer having even the mere choice to be unproductive. Don't want to start your day? Well, Oakley needs his day started, so let's get moving.

He serves as protection

It's no surprise how far a dog's loyalty will go to protect their owner. For decades, specially trained dogs have had life-saving responsibilities assigned to them. Even being married, my husband and I's schedules vary significantly to where it is not uncommon for me to be alone. The slightest sound or shadow from outside our door immediately initiates barking. In the bathroom taking a shower? He's there. Knowing that Oakley is looking out, even when I get carried away with tasks like cooking dinner, always calms my nerves.

He's become something to look forward to

The nice thing about having Oakley is regardless of how my day goes, I know exactly how it is going to end. Whether I passed an exam with flying colors or got the lowest grade in the class, I know what waits for me when I open the door at home. After a long day, nothing resets my mood like walking into a face that is just as happy and excited to see me!

He encourages bonds with others

If you want your social interaction to sky rocket: get a puppy. No, I'm serious. You'll have people wanting to come over and visit "you" (let's be real… your puppy), like it's your last day on Earth. For me, this was exactly what I needed. Getting Oakley had family members constantly checking in to see how he was growing, learning, etc. Not only did this encourage more interactions with family and friends, but it also "livened" my husband and I's home life. Instead of the "normal" weekend nights consisting of Netflix and MarioKart, (which are enjoyable in their own respective ways), spending our nights playing Monkey in the Middle with our new four-legged friend has proven much more entertaining.

So ideally was it the right time to get a dog? Probably not. However, adding Oakley to my small little family combated anxiety and depression in ways I wouldn't have ever thought possible.

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8 Thoughts Your Pets Have When You Come Home From College

Wouldn't we love to know what really goes through our pets minds when we finally return to them?

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1. What are you doing here?

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2. Why do you think it's okay to just come and going as you please?

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3. My human is back!

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4. Now that you are back, let's take a nap! Too much excitement for one day.

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5. I'm so excited I don't know how to control my emotions

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6. I guess since you are here...where are my tummy rubs?

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7. Uninterested

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8. Well well well, look who finally decided to come back home.

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