Preparing for (not Planning for!) a Horse Wreck

Thanks to Lea Landry

Put the emergency telephone number for the County, State, or Federal Rangers for the park you’re riding in on your cell phone. The Rangers know where to find you and how to make contact with EMTs, ambulances, helicopters, and veterinarians.

My wreck was at the 2016 Mount Diablo NATRC ride. I remember how well behaved my horse was during the night and while tacking him up (including checking the girth). I don’t remember the start of the ride. I remember only a snippet of time when I was sliding sideways off of the anxious horse, in the rain, on a slippery hillside near the 1st obstacle. Then I remember waking up in the John Muir Medical Center ER in Walnut Creek. My injures included fractured ribs, “smashed” left clavicle, open wound left elbow, soft tissue injury to left calf, and mild concussion.

My horse was an 8-year-old Crabbet Arabian gelding with years of PNH and dressage training and hundreds of trail miles. His expression of anxiety is chewing on the bit. He’s now a 9-year-old Arabian gelding who goes in a bosal, gets chiropractic care, and has been treated for gastric ulcers. We’re starting over with the trail riding because of the prolonged lay off (he was in arena training while I was recuperating).

  1. Have good, no GREAT, health insurance (my medical bills were over $160,000), CALSTAR if air-evacuation is necessary. I was hospitalized for 5 days, had surgery and every form of radiographic imaging known to modern medicine.
  2. Wear a Medic Alert bracelet (or other band) that tells the medical staff all about your health situation, including medications and things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and your Primary Care Physician.
  3. Make sure your emergency contacts are up to date and that they are aware of where you are - it’s very helpful if they happen to live near the ride so they can visit and bring ice cream when needed. Put this information on your trailer, yourself AND your horse. Experience in Georgetown endurance ride: deceased rider had no identifying information on her.
  4. Have someone who is able to drive your rig and horse back home - I have USA Rider insurance, as well as a nephew-in-law who drives big trucks.
  5. Teach your horse to load for anyone and be nice to whoever is taking care of him.
  6. Buy a NEW helmet if yours is a few years old. WEAR IT!
  7. Make sure the cinch is tight enough to stay put if the horse gets antsy; use a breast collar.
  8. Don’t wear rain pants, they’re slippery.
  9. Don’t wear your best new clothes, the EMTs will cut them off in a very interesting pattern that doesn’t lend itself to repair (they didn’t cut off my boots or helmet).
  10. Make sure an EMT (thank you, GARY JOHNSON) is riding the horse behind you so he can see what has happened and call 911, as well as the admitting health care facility, and comfort you while you both wait.
  11. Have your wreck while you’re still on a road so the ambulance can come in to get you.
  12. Go to a hospital that has great food, great surgeons, and fantastic nurses and care providers, like John Muir Medical Center.
  13. Thank all of the family and friends AND PEOPLE YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE who WILL take care of you, your horse, and fur-children.

Recovery will take forever, but if you have a concussion, you won’t remember much and you’ll be grateful for everything that’s been done.