Thursday, March 6, 2014


I was at a barrel race last night and had the misfortune to witness a horrible wreck. A girl I do not know had just crossed the finish line when her horse just crumpled and flipped forward, summersaulting over her. She was crushed into the dirt and I was pretty sure the horse broke his neck in the fall. There was an instant of frozen silence before anyone moved. The girl was out from under the horse and was sitting up by his head. but obviously was completely dazed. The horse laid there for a second but then tried to get up, further battering the dazed cowgirl in the back. By that time, people had come flying from every direction, but were approaching the horse slowly from behind, instinctively trying not to startle him and cause him to try to get up again. The girl would have been severely trampled if the horse had succeeded in floundering to his feet.

Once contact was established, people piled on the down horse to keep him from getting up, while others tried to determine the extent of the girl's injuries. Nobody wanted to move her, but at the same time, she needed to move to get out of harms way. Finally, she crawled a few feet away and collapsed on the ground.

Once the girl was out of the way, guys pulled the horse's saddle and I could see one of them look up and shake his head at another one. The horse's neck wasn't broken, but his shoulder looked dislocated and one leg was flopping. That simple head shake told me this horse was done for.

Even though I had watched the wreck with my own eyes, I couldn't tell what had happened. The girl had just crossed the eye and hadn't even had time to sit up yet to stop her horse, when he just crumpled and flipped. The general consensus was that his leg had actually broken (just behind the knee) on that last stride and that is what had caused the flip.

The girl ended up being okay enough to get up and was helped out of the arena. I never saw her again, so I don't know if they took her to an emergency room for good measure or what. I would hope so.

I couldn't watch anymore as I was getting physically sick to my stomach, but eventually I looked over at the arena and the horse was up and being slowly led from the arena on 3 legs. He didn't make it any farther than out the gate though and that is where they had to wait for the vet to show up to put him down.

And not to sound callous, but the barrel race could not continue with the horse standing in the gate, so after what seemed like an eternity, I pulled from the race, untacked my horses, loaded up and went home. The vet was there by then, the horse had been moved and the race continued, but I had lost any interest in running. As had many of the other barrel racers. About half of them had already pulled, loaded up and left.

The biggest joke there is about barrel racing is that, 'Barrel racers have to be cremated...Because the ground is never good enough', but I've never seen girls exodus a race like they did this one simply due to poor ground conditions. This was not a ground condition accident. It was just a really horrible, we-know-this-can-happen-but-never-admit-it-to-ourselves accident and it shook a lot of us up.

Last summer a good friend of mine's horse snapped a hind leg in the alley before his run. He just set to leave to make his run and (snap). To this day, she won't talk about it. Not that I've asked her, because I can tell that she still thinks about it, but is desperately trying to block it from her mind. Some people like to talk these things out and some people don't. I did talk to her husband to see how she was really doing, because she has another horse now and is back to running and he said as much as I had already deduced. She rushed into buying another horse just to get back into the arena. That horse didn't work out, so she bought yet another horse and tried him and he didn't work out either. Under any other circumstances, she would have known those horses weren't right for her, but I could sense her desperation to keep moving forward. Not to just keep competing, but so that she did not get sucked into the web of fear that might prevent her from ever coming back. Everybody is different in this aspect. Some people need the time to mourn, some people deal by pushing forward.

If you've been around horses for any length of time, you know that those suckers can destroy themselves in a padded stall if they so chose, so knowing that they can break when we chose to ask them to do extreme events is just a given. This is why we spend countless hours and untold amounts of money to provide and do things for them that a lot of people think is unnecessary and borders on extreme; therapy products, feed supplements, injections, massage, accupuncture...I mean the list of things competitive people will do to protect and extend the life of a competitive horse is just endless. And in the back of our minds, we know...One misstep, one slip, one kick...That's all it takes and a career is over and sometimes the life too.

Moon looked at me a little funny when I started untacking him. He knew we were there for a race. Sensing his confusion, I gave him a hug and a little petting and told him, "Not tonight buddy. Tomorrow maybe. Friday definitely. But not tonight.".


Funder said...

God that sucks. Sounds so much like that ride I went to in Washington last year, where the mare spiral-fractured her leg with a slip at a walk and had to be coaxed down from the hill. It's really sobering, but yeah, what are you gonna do? We do the best we can by them, but sometimes shit happens.
About all you can do is go home and hug your horses and make sure there's no lesson to be learned from what you saw. :-/

C-ingspots said...

What a tragic thing to have happen. So sad and so fast. Hope the gal is doing alright. I would have gone home too...

Cut-N-Jump said...

Wow. That is so sad. I hope she is ok.

As we all know, it can happen at any time, anywhere and like you said- one bad step and it all goes kaput.

With all of my horses and even the older horses, I still wrap their legs, I still use boots, I still do what I can, when I can and something is better than nothing. Yet if their leg were to snap, the bones fall apart or whatever is to happen- happens... It's going to happen whether the leg was wrapped, boots on, protective gear in place or not.

The sad reality is that we each face this with every horse we own. It's even more difficult when that particular horse owns us.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Dang. Horrible story, but beautifully written. I just found out yesterday that my old horse trainer nearly lost one of her clients when she was trying to teach her how to tackle city streets on a horse that wasn't ready. The horse spooked and bolted, the lady came off and nearly died. Hearing stories like these is sobering.

The weird thing is that I always had an unsettled feeling when that trainer said to me, "You're okay. Nothing bad is going to happen while I'm here."

In reality, no one can help you but yourself when things get really out of control on a horse, and sometimes we can't even help ourselves.

TeresaA said...

what a terrible accident to have happen. My heart goes out to the girl and her partner.

Shirley said...

I think one of the reasons I don't do the speed events any more is because of my fear of a wreck at full speed. With age comes caution!
My heart goes out to the girl who lost her horse, it's a horrible way to go. You can do everything possible to safeguard your horse and yourself- and Lord knows barrel racers do a lot to ensure the fitness and safety of their horses- but stuff happens despite best efforts.

Cindy D. said...

I'm kind of speechless on this one. I guess I'll just ditto what everyone else has said. Heart goes out to that girl

smazourek said...

Same response as Funder: God that sucks. My dad lost a weanling in a halter class one day when an absolute moron of a handler broke his neck. I don't think he ever went to a show again. If you're around horses you're going to see shit happen. Sucks.

fernvalley01 said...

so sad. that is all just so sad

kestrel said...

Aw man, that just stinks. And like you said, sometimes they can kill themselves in a padded stall while wrapped in bubble wrap...while some mangy outlaw gets away with everything with never even a scratch. Go figure. Sometimes it just is what it is. Hugs.

Allenspark Lodge said...

You are so right; the freakiest of accidents can take the strongest of animals. Our prayers to your friend.
Bionic Cowgirl