Before we get into this blog post I need to put in a disclaimer or two. First, some of the injuries described here were not horse related. Equestrians are prone to the same risks that all of us are as well as those that come from riding. I was at a show recently describing with great excitement to a mom about how resilient horse woman are and as I was describing some of the extreme cases that are to follow here I saw the color start to drain from her face. I had to quickly shift gears and tell her that in all the time I have been taking photos at horse shows, I have seen very few falls and have not seen any falls where there was an injury worse than a bruised bum and a slightly tarnished ego. Under the care and teaching of a good riding instructor, this is a relatively safe sport and I encourage anyone who is interested in riding to take lessons. My point with this blog entry is not to scare anyone away from riding but to show my admiration for some of the bravest woman I have ever met.
For a long time now, I have felt that any man who is a chauvinist should be forced to spend a week at a horse barn, more specifically a barn filled with Hunter Jumpers. At the end of that week if he is still a chauvinist then there is no hope for him.
The more I get to know these woman the more I respect them, in fact the term respect is not strong enough. I'm hard pressed to find a word that conveys how much I admire these woman. Following are a few reasons as to why I hold female equestrians in such high esteem. These quotes may be embellished just a bit as some of them are coming out of my deep memory banks but they are a true representation of what I have heard.
“Can you take a photo or two of me going over a jump. Now that I can get my foot in a boot I want to see how my form is?” Considering Melissa had been jumping in an orthopedic boot or soft cast before her broken ankle had fully healed how could I say no? Not only could I not say no but as a professional photographer, I had to give her copies of her images for free. How do you charge someone with that much guts for a photo so she can check her form?
“The doctor put the cast on my arm in such a way that I can still ride.” This came from Charlene who then went out and lunge her horse.
“Can you give me a leg up, I can't grip the saddle horn with my broken arm.” Yes Tanja, I can give you a leg up! As her arm healed this turned into, “Can you spot me from the other side of the horse? I can pull myself up if I wrap my arm around the saddle horn.” What can I say to that? Of course, I can spot a rider in a situation like this. “After I broke my back I started riding again before my doctor wanted me too.” How do you get your head around a statement like that? As it turns out Georgia is not the only rider I have met who has broken their back. But wait it gets better.
“As I went over the front of the horse with my head pointing down all I could think of was Christopher Reeve. I tucked my chin in before I hit the ground. I got up and finished my ride. Later that day my hands started to feel numb. I went to the hospital and they told me my neck was broken.” My friends, this is a true story. Again what does one say? Elise got back on the horse with a broken neck and continued to ride. Elise is one of two woman I know who have broken their necks and not suffered paralysis though I must add the other injury was caused in an automobile accident and had nothing to do with riding a horse.
“I can't bend over can you zip my half chaps up for me.” OK, this was me. Contrary to popular belief men do ride English. I can think of at least six other guys that I have seen in the Carolina's who put on the breeches and climb into an English saddle. I had taken a fall off my boy Wings and had landed flat on my back. It was my fault, I was trying to get him to do a tight turn in a cantor and I went flying. Three days later on the morning of my lesson it took me 45 minutes to get out of bed. I had a bruise that went from my spine all the way around my side. I am nowhere near as tough as the woman I have written about here but knowing how resilient and determined they are, I had to get in the saddle for my weekly lesson even if we had to use a crane to get me on the horses back. How could I not take one for the men after having experienced just how tough women are?
I think these woman need a special adjective all for themselves. When you see what they are capable of words like strong, courageous, tough and resilient just don't do them justice. If girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice then I think someone got the idea to add some “whoop arse” to the recipe to get an equestrian female. These woman transcend toughness and the place they hold in my heart is ethereal and difficult to convey with mere mortal words which is alright because when you see what they endure one starts to think of them as almost immortal.