Recently, you may have encountered more horse pictures on your Facebook timeline than you normally see. That is due to the horse community uniting after several tragic losses.
Seventeen year old Olivia Inglis from Australia was killed when her horse fell on her at a jumping event. Shortly thereafter, her horse had to be put down due to the injuries sustained in the accident. The loss of this great team has the horse community in mourning. (Read more here on why you’re seeing #RideForOlivia.)
Right before that, Lara Deweese, a well known professional barrel racer, was killed while participating in the sport she loved with all of her heart. (Read more here on Lara’s success in barrel racing and her tragic death.) This really frightened me as I have friends that compete in barrel racing events. The horses are, of course, traveling at an extremely high rate of speed to make the best time for the event.
My youngest daughter has expressed an interest in both jumping, like Olivia, and barrel racing, like Lara, but I have not been able to push my fears aside to get her involved in these events. Instead, our time on the back of our horses is spent strictly for pleasure as we enjoy each other’s company under the vast sky riding through God’s beautiful countryside.
I do realize that horses are spooky by nature and typically have a flight response when startled so there is a risk even in trail riding. That is why I’m posting this today. The English riders typically are the only ones that wear helmets, yet I encourage everyone to wear protective helmets no matter if they are taking a leisurely stroll through a familiar forest or if they’re participating in events.
Western riders typically do not wear helmets, and we have gotten teased by some of our friends when they’ve seen us out riding with our helmets on. I’ll admit that I do not always wear my helmet, and I often times slip my helmet off for pictures because it is hard to tell who is under the helmet and sunglasses if I don’t.
Plus, I like having pictures to look back on, and who doesn’t want to look good on the back of a horse?! But, safety is paramount! For us, even if the adults in our party elect not to wear their helmet on an outing, any one under the age of 18 is required to wear one when they’re with us. We will not make any exceptions to this rule.
I realize that the issue with Olivia’s accident wasn’t whether she was wearing a helmet or not. I imagine in the event she was participating in, it was a requirement. She lost her life when the horse landed on her, from what I’ve read. It is so very tragic!
In the case of Lara, though, from what I have seen and have been told about the sport, barrel racers do not wear helmets. Lara’s horse slipped around a barrel, recovered, and then bolted with her on the back unable to regain control of the horse after the reins went over the horse’s head.
I can only imagine the horror both of these young ladies, their families, friends, and spectators felt witnessing or learning of these accidents.
With horses, we go into the sport understanding that there is always a chance there of something happening. We pray that it won’t, but … we aren’t always as fortunate when we climb up on the back of these beautiful creatures. I know firsthand, as I had a horse bolt on me. In my case, I was lucky that my head did not strike the ground, although I still sustained a concussion from the impact of being shaken around when the horse bolted as well as when my left hip struck the ground. As much as everyone says that you can stop a horse with the one rein stop (pulling the horse’s head around to the side with one hand), nothing was stopping the pony I was on that day from bolting and bucking. I, too, lost the reins at one point, and I was holding on for dear life until I got thrown off. I was lucky to literally be able to walk away from this accident as later it was discovered at the emergency room that I had a fractured hip and fractured hand. Even still, I knew that if I didn’t get back on a horse when I did, I never would. So, two months after my accident, filled with anxiety, complete with sweaty palms and racing heart, I got up the confidence to climb back on one of our well trained and calm horses. That’s all I wanted to do was sit there in the saddle to prove that I could overcome my fear … and I did! The feeling, love, and passion for the horses and the sport, the desire to still be an equestrian after the accident was there so strong.
And here I am.
We are approaching the two year anniversary of when I was thrown off the back of a pony that we had no idea was not suitable for anyone to ride at that point. The pony was what they considered “green” (as in: inexperienced, had not been worked with extensively or trained. The horse was not broke to ride, yet the person that sold this horse to me for my daughters was not honest. I am reminded of the result of my trusting this person’s word as I still have aches in the hip that was fractured, but I’m thankful that the accident wasn’t any worse. I thank God today that I was the one on that pony when it bolted and not my precious daughters!)
I am proud to be a part of the horse community, and I am uniting with equestrians around the world to share my pictures and story in honor of Olivia, Lara, and all other equestrians who have lost their lives or have been injured pursuing their dreams on the back of a horse.
Please pray for the families and friends left behind, for all that are looking to get into the sport, and for all who enjoy the thrill of the ride and getting back in the saddle as often as possible.
May God be with us all.