It all started with a grey mare. It was a blustery day in January, and I should have been curled up in front of the fireplace, but instead, I donned my thermals and Carhart and headed out. The wind was biting and I honestly just wanted to get it over with. Such is life when training horses feeds your family. I had a barn full of show horses and show season was right around the corner. I was off to help a lady with her horse, recently home from another trainer. She'd had the mare home about a month ago, and I was just going to get her started back to work. We brushed and saddled in the barn while I asked questions and she relayed what she thought to be her mare's level of knowledge. Then we headed for the round pen. I always use a round pen to get to know a horse and this mare went right to work like a seasoned pro. She knew verbal commands, and she was attentive to my every move. She did everything right! I put her through the paces and, before long, she was trotting slowly, nose dragging the ground, eyes soft, and licking her lips. I felt we were sufficiently warmed up so stopped and waited for her to come to me. She came in and I stroked her and talked to her. A gust of wind roared by and she raised her head, but came right back to my hand. I checked my girth. This mare was flat, withered and round. I turned her head slightly toward me and put my foot in the stirrup to mount. As I stepped up, the wind blew and something flew across the field several feet from us. This is where everything changed. I went to throw my leg over, and my jacket pocket caught on the back of the saddle seat and the saddle shifted very slightly my direction. There's a split second where you decide to step off and start over or go for it, and I chose the latter. Wrong choice! I almost had my pocket unhooked and the mare jerked her head hard to the right while launching herself off the ground with her full force. My 110 pounds was nothing for her and I flew straight into the air. I came down hanging upside down from the rail with the pin connector stuck in my right leg. (I would like to pause here to stress the importance of putting those L shaped pins into the joints from the outside and NOT the inside.) I crumpled to the ground, head first, my leg released from the pin at about the half way point of the 6 rail panel. I vaguely remember the rest of that day. Between the mild concussion and the torn up leg, it gets fuzzy. I tore everything on the inside of my calf when the pin went in and then ripped and separated tendons and muscle all the way to my foot. That was the first serious injury I had ever incurred. It took a year of physical therapy to heal and basically ended my full time career training horses.
There is a happy ending! I am now many years past that injury and I have had the pleasure of working and training many other horses. Ironically, it wasn't until this year that I went to do some work for a lady with a big, grey gelding. She called because he had dumped her, more than once, and she couldn't fix it. I had no idea that I had been carrying around a silent fear for all those years.
I worked Silver in the round pen a few sessions building relationship and figuring him out. When I thought we were ready to mount, I went to get on. Up until this point, I had just gone through the routine of working this horse, just like any other. He had issues standing still, so we fixed that. He was scared of almost everything, so we worked on desensitization. When I put my foot in the stirrup, I suddenly found myself short of breath and feeling a little dizzy. I stepped back a minute and a wave of emotion came over me. My eyes were a bit blurred with tears and I was shaking. In that moment, I realized that I had never really dealt with working past that grey mare. By the time I was sound, the horse had been sold. I never saw her again. I was shocked at my reaction to this grey horse. I had heard his story. I knew what he could do. I put my foot in the stirrup and mounted up. It turns out that Silver is a big grey teddy bear of a horse. I'm sure he hadn't had the gentlest of handling before his new lady bought him. He had major trust issues. Without even knowing it, this guy opened a deep dark place in my heart that held that secret fear. I didn't even know it was there. Together we conquered our fears. No therapist, no self help books or counseling, just a big grey horse who took me back in time and healed a wound.