Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Driving is Dangerous- Our Near-Tragedy

I learned this today in the most vivid sense- driving is, indeed, potentially a very dangerous sport. Here's the story. . .

Louie has been doing just phenomenally pulling the sled with a bale of hay in the indoor arena. He's pulled people, etc, even me in the sled driving him now. Well today, in my overzealous stupidity, I pushed him a little bit too far perhaps. Maybe not even pushed, just didn't think through my actions.

After driving around the arena for a while, I decided it would be a good idea to expose Louie to a little different sound behind him- something he should probably get used to eventually. So I asked Sharon, the barn trainer/instructor, to walk at Louie's head while I drove him out of the arena and onto the gravel road. I just wanted to go about 10 steps and be done with it.

Well we got 5 steps, he was fine, then he got a little spooked by the noise. He half stopped, and just as I was going to get out of the sled to unhook before anything happened, it did happen. Louie got startled, got away from his header, and took off down the driveway. I thought I had installed some pretty good brakes on him, but the adrenaline was in full gear. I fell, I think, out of the sled, and all I can remember is Sharon yelling- "let go! let go!" Well it's a good thing she did because it's sure not instinct to let go. I've got some nasty rope burns (I'm wearing gloves from now on), but that's the least of my concerns at this point. My horse is galloping down the driveway, sled in toe- flying like a kite behind him. I'd imagine that this would probably be a little scary.

I figured he'd stop when he saw the horses ahead of him, but no. On he went, out the driveway and onto the road at a full gallop. I was sprinting trying to keep up with him, knowing there is NO chance of that happening, yelling "Sharon get a truck!" By the time I got to the end of the driveway, Sharon and another boarder, Fred, were behind me with his truck. I jumped in the back and we started our drive. At this point I was envisioning the absolute worst- hit by a car, 4 broken legs, stabbed through the chest with the "shaft", trampled a pedestrian, you name it.

All of the passerby's were pointing us in his direction- thank God for good neighbors! I'm sure it was quite a scene for them. Half a mile later, we came upon him, standing calmly (well mostly calmly) in a "quiet" neighborhood, behing held by a very kind woman who probably knows next to nothing about horses other than the word "whoa," which she told him- and he listened! I can't decide whether the blinker hood was a good thing or a bad thing at this point. Granted he couldn't see the flying sled behind him, but he also couldn't see much else of where he was going. . .

After a brief and panicked thanking of the woman holding him, and my trying to gather my thoughts in a totally flustered mind, we unhooked Louie, put the sled in the truck, took off his blinders, and checked him out. He was just fine. I am amazed. Not a single mark on him, still has his shoes even. I walked him off, and Sharon and Fred drove the truck home. Louie and I enjoyed a nice long walk home, as I inspected him for injuries and learned about my own.

All in all, we are incredibly lucky that the only damage done was to my fingers. I'd imagine I won't have much skin on them for the next week or two once all the blisters open up, but I can't stop thinking about how incredibly lucky we are that neither of us was hurt. He will probably be a little sore for a few days from his escapades, but I don't see any major trauma. Now, definately a little bit of psychological trauma for both of us, but lesson learned! Should I never be so stupid again is a good goal to aim for. If I had thought it through ahead of time, this would have been totally preventable, well at least it would have gone differently.

I just hope I haven't ruined him as a driving horse. With how sensible he is, I am fairly confident that he'll bounce back just fine when we start back over from square one- um, probably after my fingers heal. I am also lucky that he thought to stop- at least he was smart enough to figure out that stopping makes all the scary stuff go away. But I just can't help feeling incredibly guilty about this. My hands hurt so badly that I couldn't even give him a liniment bath- did I mention that rope burn hurts- yeah it really does. . .

Well I guess this is a somewhat common incident, though really I could have lived without it. It was like living a nightmare. I hope to never experience anything like that ever again. We will recover in time. . . I am just thankful that someone was watching out for us today. And I'm incredibly thankful for everybody at the barn who just dropped what they were doing to come to my rescue. I am lucky to be in such a wonderful barn with such wonderful people. Ahhhh. . .. now back to my ice pack. :(


  1. When I read this….

    I decided it would be a good idea to expose Louie to a little different sound behind him-

    I could just hear the scrunch of gravel under the sled and I’m going “No Leah… NOT the gravel!”

    And when I read this….

    "Sharon get a truck!"

    I remembered the story of a friend chasing a Saddlebred colt and cart down the road and bulldogging him from the back of the pickup.

    These things DO happen! I guarantee the next time you hook him, your knees will be knocking a lot harder than his.

  2. oh for sure they will! I will probably have to have a friend hook him and I'll just be a helper. We're going to back way up and do a LOT more desensitization. Tomorrow if my hands are okay, I want to drag that sled with a hay bale out down the gravel in front of his paddock. That way he can see and hear it and realize it's no big deal while in the comfort of his paddock with his buddies. He needs to get over the sound of the gravel. Though I know it was a really bad idea, my brain was just not with me today, and my was it windy. Lots of different plans for the next time we approach this. . . the barn manager also offered to ride her horse and be a pony for us- she has ponied race horses, harness horses, etc off of this horse for years and she said having another horse there with them makes them so much more relaxed. That's probably why a lot of people start horses out in a team with an experienced horse. Makes sense. But after we heal up, we're going back to basics for a while and working back up slowly- even if I never take him with the sled out on that gravel again, a cart driving on gravel is never going to make that sound (unless you have big problems), so it was really an un-necessary thing to do anyhow. Stupid me. . .

  3. Jeez, I practically had a heart attack just reading it, I can't imagine having to live through it!

    Hope your hand gets to feeling better soon. Don't worry too much, young horses bounce back pretty quickly from this kind of thing. They just like to keep us humble. ;)

  4. Thanks Kalin! Yeah I've re-lived that in my mind several times over since it happened. . .

    Yesterday and Thursday I spent lunging him to make sure he was okay (which he is), and yesterday he was really feeling his oats! I was lunging him in the indoor and he went bucking and kicking, lunging, etc, when I asked him to trot and canter. Then he settled down, but he was having fun playing. Sharon, the instructor was in the arena and says, "well he looks none worse for the wear- that's what he looked like running down the driveway too!" lol.

    I also hooked myself up to the sled with a hay bale in it and walked on the gravel by his paddock about 20 times on Thursday. At first he got pretty wriled up, but after he realized that that sled, making that noise, sometimes delivers food to a horse, he settled down and started FOLLOWING IT around! Hahaha A few more times of doing that I think will be necessary, but I still don't think I'll ever have him pull the sled over gravel (intentionally) again.

    Thanks everyone for your throughs- my hands are feeling a LOT better already, though I've got 3 bandaids on them because of cracking/open blisters, etc. lol We're getting back to it. . .