CW/TW: The following blog post unpacks many details of an accident, and accordingly some aspects may be challenging to folks that have experienced trauma – especially with large animals.
Some details of September 13, 2022 will forever be in my mind – and others that I will never remember.
On that particular day, I woke up at 5:30 am and immediately started going through my task list in my head. It was the beginning of a new academic year – and I was finally almost settled into my life after being on a mental health leave from my doctoral studies.
I had just finished a mental health leave – spending the past few summer months in a familiar space, and I felt rejuvenated.
I felt ready to begin the academic year as a second year doctoral student.
Little did I know I would soon be on another medical leave – one that would be incredibly more difficult to process through than my first leave.
Once the first load of laundry was in the washing machine, I got ready and headed to the grocery store – arriving as it opened for the day. My assistant was scheduled to spend the day with me and help me organize my home. One of her tasks was to start stocking my fridge and freezer – and prepare quick meals that I could take to my on-campus office.
But our first action item of the day was to spend time at the barn – at my happy place. A space where I felt the most at peace.
Since my arrival back home from my summer journey, I had visited my horses a few times – but on this day was my first riding lesson since May.
And I was so incredibly excited to feel a horse’s movement beneath me.
And feel a sense of freedom I could not experience anywhere else.
Once I put away the grocery haul, I went to Tim Horton’s and ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte – then started my walk to the barn. I still remember the autumn smell in the air that day, and the calves that were located in a field I passed by.
I still remember the joy and the peace I felt that morning – as though my soul was being nourished and preparing itself for what was soon going to happen.
Upon arriving at the barn, I put my Pumpkin Spice Latte and a few snacks on the picnic table and proceeded to slip on my barn boots. That morning is still so very clear in my mind, as it happened yesterday, instead of a year ago.
I believe that it will always be present within me – and I like to think of it as a space of comfort and grounding, where I can gravitate towards when nothing makes sense.
As I start writing the next section of this post, I must make a few disclaimers in order to remain completely transparent.
Firstly, it is important to recognize that these following experiences are my own – despite the fact that I may not remember them accurately and/or fully.
Secondly, I have decided to omit some parts of my experiences that are impossible to comprehend without key information – and it is not the purpose of this specific post to unpack them.
The last memory I have from that day brings me to a riding lesson.
When I look at the pictures taken throughout it, I think I remember being very content as the horse I was riding walked around the arena. That horse was very calm, and I believe that together, on this particular day, we had a good lesson.
This memory is very disorganized in my head – but one very clear moment I still remember is from another horse that was in the arena with us.
That horse was tied to a wooden fence that overlooked fields with other horses – including both of mine – seeming very unsettled, but I did not think anything about it.
I was surrounded by individuals who were much more knowledgeable than me – and, as I reflect back to that time, I believe that it is the reason I did not think about the importance of speaking up and inquiring about the horse’s behavior.
My riding lesson ended without any issues – and the unsettled horse was still gazing outside the opened garage door. I might vaguely remember dismounting that day, but since I had previously done that at the same location, I might also be thinking about another time.
I absolutely do not remember the next events and, as a result, I am struggling to find the words that must be written. I am not certain to articulate a story that I want to tell – one that I feel is not derived from my lived experiences.
But it is very much something that I experienced – which has ultimately impacted my daily life from that very moment.
Shortly after my riding lesson, there was a loud sound. I cannot describe the sound as I am still attempting to put pieces of that day together. The unsettled horse from earlier spoke and backed up with great force. That movement ripped the piece of wood the horse’s lead rope was tied to. And out of fear, the horse started running in circles.
In past occasions, when I was in the arena with horses, I would always remain behind the mounting block. I always felt at ease with a barrier between a working horse and myself – albeit how small that physical horse was.
On that particular day, however, at a moment where being located in space could have changed the outcome of this journey, I was not yet settled behind the mounting block.
Instead I was standing directly in the path the horse would be taking. It is essential to note the fact that the horse was injuring itself as well – which undoubtedly amplified the state of fear they were currently experiencing.
As the horse passed me, it did not touch me. But the board, which was still tied to the horse’s lead rope, hit the back of my head – sending me towards the mounting block. Despite my friend calling out my name and instructing me to stay where I was, I started pulling myself up each stair of the block.
Even without having any recollection of this, it is obvious that, at that point, I must have been disassociated from my crip body.
I would not have attempted to do this if I was thinking clearly.
If I was not fighting for my own life.
Because climbing a wooden mounting block with gaps between each step is definitely not within my capabilities on the very best of days.
Upon doing its second lap, the horse’s direction changed slightly, and, as a result, the horse was heading towards the mounting block – where I was now located.
The horse naturally jumped the mounting block. It was during this time that I sustained most of my injuries.
The horse’s front knee hit the back of my head.
The horse’s back leg, as well as the board (which was still attached to the horse’s lead rope), hit my back.
At that point, I was directly between the horse and the mounting block. And the impact of the horse’s body on my own caused the front of my body to hit the stairs that I was still laying on.
I went out of consciousness for the first time that day.
The only reason I can share my accident with so many details is because I was not the only one who experienced it. Amongst the individuals present that day was someone I love dearly – someone who supported me to the very best of their capabilities until the paramedics arrived.
Someone who witnessed the entire accident and still had enough capacity to help me stay alive.
That individual did not only attend to my injuries when possible – but also comforted me as I transitioned in and out of consciousness.
I know with certainty that my story I am now sharing would be significantly different had it not been for their actions and presence.
It is here that I choose to end the first part of this blog series. I may have been physically injured, and the one who spent time in the hospital, but my accident was not only experienced by me. As such, some pieces of this story that makes it a complete one will not be shared – at least not through this means. There is so much more to my journey though; this story is just beginning to be told.
September 13, 2022 marks the beginning of this season of life – but it is not yet over. I am still journeying through so much grief, trauma, and regrets that are all connected to that day. This blog series is my outlet to unpack such components and to critically reflect on aspects I could not voice in the past year.
Thank you for embarking with me on this journey.
I appreciate you.