Sunday, April 20, 2008

My horse almost got me killed

I had quite a scare today... Or at least, it should have been a scare. It still feels unreal to think how close I came to getting really seriously injured.

Today was the day for my first trail ride. Panama was in a good mood, and our grooming session went well. He didn't act annoyed about the saddle, either. In fact, he seemed almost eager to go, somehow realizing that today he was going with the others (who trail ride regularly).

Karen, Susie, and I all mounted up and started off. We walked them down the driveway, turned, and followed the narrow sidewalk on the same side of the road as the barn. I had the fleeting thought that Panama hadn't been down that side of the road very far, as we always crossed the road almost immediately, but I was still fixated on the fact that Leslie said he did really well on Wednesday's trail ride. I was overconfident, so in a way this was partially my fault.

As we walked down the sidewalk, a couple of things happened that probably contributed to Panama being freaked out: A noisy motorcycle roared past us, another of the horses (Panama's mentor in the herd) spooked about something, and my hat started to blow off. Then we came across a manhole cover in the middle of the sidewalk, and that was the last straw for poor Panama.

He sidestepped closer to the road, trying to avoid having to step on the manhole. Then, with traffic coming, he stepped sideways right off the sidewalk and into the road.

I'm not sure entirely what happened next. I remember seeing oncoming traffic as he stepped off the sidewalk. Then I was on the ground with the sensation of just having flown through the air and landed on the pavement, and the vaguest perception of having heard tires squealing.

I think what happened was that Panama was so focused on the manhole that he hadn't noticed the oncoming car. He stepped out into the road and then noticed it. Karen and Susie said that he jumped completely sideways, and I just came off.

From the time I hit the ground, I didn't take my eyes off my horse. I knew that the oncoming car had stopped without hitting us (though this was a closer call than I realized — apparently his tire stopped a mere foot from my leg). I watched, feeling completely helpless, as Panama veered into the traffic heading the other way; thankfully, the car that was coming slowed down for him, and he came to his senses and headed home.

While I was watching all this, I had somehow gotten to my feet and was trying to catch up to Panama. (Again, no memory of actually getting to my feet.) Of course, there's no way a person on foot can catch up to a trotting horse, and I was probably moving a little slow anyway. In any case, Panama headed for home, where one of the other horse owners caught him.

As I was walking back toward the driveway, where Panama was, the poor driver who almost hit us pulled over next to me. "You gonna talk to me?" he asked.

I immediately thought he was angry. "I'm sorry, sir, I was just trying to catch my horse."

"I think the horse is gonna be fine," he said. Of course, he was right — Panama was already heading down the driveway toward the barn. "But are you okay? Did I get you?"

Instantly I realized the poor guy was worried about me, not angry at me. "Oh, no, I'm fine," I reassured him. On impulse I grabbed his hand in both of mine (he was leaning across the armrest, gesturing toward me) and thanked him profusely for paying attention, for stopping, for not running over me. I actually am not sure exactly what I said, just that I said "Thank you so much" in at least three different ways.

That seemed to relieve the tension. The man smiled, we parted, and he drove off as I hurried to where my horse was being held.

I was starting to feel the effects of the fall, but in the end we went for our trail ride anyway — we just didn't do any more than walk the horses, and we didn't go for very long. And amazingly, Panama did very well. I'll tell that part of the story in my next post.

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