A few Saturdays ago, Amanda Stapleton’s horse hit the eject button on her, resulting in a broken pelvis and a doctor-ordered grounding from the barn. That might discourage some people, but true horsepeople are a little… different.
As I carefully stepped out of my shower today I was just thankful I was able to do so without throwing myself into a another bout of extreme pain and without my boyfriend’s helpful shoulder there to support me in case I slipped. I am finally becoming (slowly) independent again after what has to be the scariest yet calm fall I have ever had off a horse in my life.
I have been riding since I was 3 or 4 and was the proud owner of a 5 year-old homebred Trakehner mare at the grand age of 10. She was 16.2-16.3 and well, I was nowhere near tall enough to even tack her up without the help of a step stool! She threw me several times, including once when she balked at a jump. I remember flying over her head, hitting the standard with my knee (OUCH!!) and crying for twenty minutes while my stepmom told me repeatedly that I had to get back on her or I would never ride again. I quite crying and got back on her.
This takes us to a few Saturdays ago. I am now the age of 23 (don’t ask me how I made it, I am still shocked after the horses I have been dumb enough to mount) and after a hiatus of six years to figure this whole life thing out (still don’t know any more than I did six years ago) I am the proud owner of two OTTBs, both more recently off the track. The love of my life is a beautiful chocolate-ly bay with a splash of chrome, 17.2-hh, 7 year-old named Shumaker. He was a lucky find on Craigslist (I was sure he was a scam–we live in the Mississippi Delta, not the heartland of horse country for sure!) and after spending several hours with his then-owners, we loaded him up in a borrowed stock trailer and came home.
He started as a ride for the boyfriend, but he soon realized that Shumaker would never be happy as a trail horse. He is hot, athletic and equipped with a work ethic many would kill for. He is also my event horse in training and although we have had a few setbacks this year due to an unknown bone spur, he is back to new after some injections.
I have still been taking it easy and this particular Saturday was not different. But after an amazing workout in my makeshift dressage arena, it seemed like things were starting to click for us. He was on the vertical, elastic through his hind end, back and mouth. We had just started tackling leg yields and after a few tries, he was leg-yielding like he had done it his whole life! Our turns-on-the-haunches and forehand were easy and not rushed like he had attempted them in the past. Even though we mainly had been doing this all at the walk with some trot work, this was a huge breakthrough ride for us. So I decided to call it quits for the day and cool him off with a lazy walk around the farm we are currently renting.
During a pretty common walk in one of the fields that had somehow managed to not yet be planted with corn or soybeans, my very relaxed horse spooked. BIG. After the third buck I was on the ground, wondering if the gallop I was watching as Shumaker tucked tail back to barn would look as wonderful on the XC course. And I was silently cussing him for being such a baby and leaving me behind. My real worry started when I attempted to stand up and walk back to catch him before he broke into the feed. I had never felt such extreme pain in my leg. I almost instantly fell back to ground. Thankfully the farm workers saw me and drove the work truck over and gave me a ride back to the barn after my halfhearted comments that I was fine and would walk back myself (did I mention I am EXTREMELY hard-headed?) After a slightly panicked phone call to my boyfriend telling him that I was hurt and needed him to get to the barn ASAP, I was sure that I had merely dislocated my hip. A trip to the ER revealed a broken pelvis, more specifically, my pubic bone.
Two weeks into my bed rest I have had even more time to think about what I want to accomplish as a rider and how far I really want to take this. My dreams may be on hold but they have not wavered. I still plan on riding in Rolex within the next 10 years and I will finish college at Mississippi State and plan on finding a working student position so that I can further my own experience and learn what it really takes to make it in our ever-changing industry. Thankfully I have had a few phone calls for working student positions, and even after telling those all about my injury and current inability to do anything besides lay in bed, I think I have found the right barn/trainers for me and my boys. They also are willing to let me heal up and don’t mind I have a few tattoos and that I didn’t do the Junior/Young Rider programs, nor do I have two show-ready horses or really a ton of show experience.
I guess my determination to heal and continue to train and ride eventers was enough to show that I will work hard and give my all to whomever I go to work for. For the moment, though, I am just happy to push my walker around the barn when I can and love on my horses. I am ever thankful for my amazingly supportive boyfriend who has to take my place. He is getting a real crash-course in bell boots, leg wraps and supplements that would run most non-horsey men off. That is life, and injuries are a part of our sport. That is what scares many off. For the rest of us, we do what we can to prevent getting hurt, but we must realize that when you work with 1,000+ pound animals every day, it’s not so much IF you will get hurt, but when and to what extent. And it is what you take from your injury that can make you a better rider. I wish I could go back and change that day. But I can’t. I have learned my lesson the hard way. But I know it will make me a better rider. And that is the best lesson learned.
(As I write this I am waiting for the boyfriend to get home so I can disobey doctor’s orders and push my walker around the barn. What can I say? It will take more than a broken pelvis to keep me away from what I love!)
About Amanda: My name is Amanda Stapleton. I am 23 and proudly owned by two OTTBs: Shumaker, my 7-year-old eventer and Tunes, my 5-year-old dressage horse in-training. I grew up on a dressage training/breeding/sales facility, and after a six-year hiatus I finally got back into horses on my own. I now live in the heart of Blues country–the Mississippi Delta–with my boyfriend Mitchell and our two dogs and various barn cats.