It was our first trail ride of the new year, and our fourth trail ride total. We'd already conquered a 4 1/2 foot long rattlesnake (our second ride), and a scary giant flag at the subdivision behind the barn (our third ride). Nearly all my fear at riding a green horse off the property had evaporated. I was confident in my filly, and I knew a few spooks here and there would be no problem at all. Little did I realize what was in store for us today.
We left the barn at around 1:30 in the afternoon, ambling down the driveway to the front gate. I rode with C and J, two other women from the barn. C's Paso Fino gaited excitedly ahead of us, with J's placid older horse plodding along behind. Halo and I walked briskly in the middle, alert, and happy to be heading out.
We went down the road, the horses occasionally stopping to ogle a horse-eating fence post or drainage pipe. We crossed by the house in front of which was the rattlesnake's former abode (the barn owner shot it the week after we first saw it). We moved aside for cars and talked amiably as we passed by the subdivision and scary flag, occasionally calling to the barn dog that had followed us to get his furry butt out of the street.
Before long we were already near the end of the road where it Ts into a busier street. It was almost time to turn around and head back home. As we paused to turn around, I noticed two red SUVs turning onto the road.
"Cars!" I shouted ahead to C and J. We all obligingly began to turn our horses over to the side of the road, but something had captivated Halo's attention in the fenced pasture across the street. She was far enough to the side of the road that I didn't press the issue, as I could feel her tensing up beneath me. I looked out into the distance to try to see what she was looking at, and realized that the SUVs approaching us were in no way slowing down despite three horses in full view.
I muttered some colorful phrases under my breath as the first SUV passed, Halo dancing in place. And as it passed, I had the misfortune of finally seeing what had Halo's attention in the pasture. It was a cow. Not your typical cow, standing in the pasture, minding its own business of eating and shitting all day. This was 1,000 lbs of hamburger on hooves, ears forward and galloping in our direction, with the occasional leap over brush and logs. Halo's eyes widened to the size of saucers as she drew her neck up toward my face. The second SUV passed altogether too quickly, and C started yelling at the driver to slow down. Meanwhile, the cow continued its charge in slow motion.
I believe "oh, shit" was my last coherent thought as Halo's filly brain finally fried. She whirled around 180 degrees, scrambling forward on the pavement, attempting to evade the gallumphing hunk of tenderloin behind us. I slipped further to the side as she struggled to regain her footing, finally passing beyond the point of recovery. A split second decision was made, and I let go, dropping onto the concrete.
I landed flat on my back, my head connecting the ground last with a resounding crack. Halo bolted about five strides, skidding to a stop when she remembered there was grass to be eaten on the side of the road. I jumped to my feet, probably more quickly than was advisable.
"I'm okay," I said. Then, realizing the foolishness of that statement, I added, "I think I'm going to sit down for a second." I did body inventory, moving each limb in turn. Amazingly nothing seemed to be broken or even particularly sore. Except my head. I decided not to waste time, so I walked up to Halo and grabbed her reins. I was relieved she hadn't bolted clear back to the barn, and even more relieved that she appeared unhurt from her little slip and slide on the pavement.
We did the walk of shame back to the barn, my head aching more with each length of ground we covered. I got Halo untacked and checked her legs. She looked good, so I put her away and headed home. When I finally took a look at my helmet, this is what I saw:
The crack went almost around the entire left side of the helmet. My mother, from 2,000 miles away, insisted I go to the emergency room to get checked out. So, an emergency room visit and a neck brace later I was diagnosed with bruising and a sprained neck (basically whiplash). Can you imagine what my injuries might have been if I hadn't been wearing that helmet? Although I've spent the past few days extremely body sore and with one of the worst headaches of my life, I am grateful that those are my only complaints.
I'll be back in the saddle soon, but not until I replace my helmet. And I may take Miss Halo by the cow on foot to let her get a better look that won't end up with me flat on my back on the concrete.