Thursday, February 05, 2004

There is nothing quite like a near-death experience to make the grass look a little greener... Yesterday, thinking we should take advantage of a glorious spring day, sunshine, mild breeze, the whole bit, Dani suggested we go out for a trail ride. I jumped at the chance, of course, as I don't get to do a whole lot of riding. So, off we went, me on Breezy, Dani on Tony. We cut down to the trail through a neighbour's place, but took a route that still required a stretch alongside a busy road.

On the way back, we decided to explore another option - a short-cut through a different field that would eliminate all road travel. Ironic, then, that this effort to find a safer way home nearly killed me!

To get to the field from the trail (the Lochside Trail, just north of Sayward Road, in case anyone knows the Saanich Peninsula), we had to navigate a fairly steep bank, cross a shallow/narrow creek, and go up a low bank on the other side. After Dani snapped off branches from bushes and trees growing on the bank, she was able to lead Tony down fairly easily, travelling at a bit of an angle so the horses didn't have to go straight down. Though Tony wasn't overly impressed and Dani got her feet a bit wet, he followed calmly and emerged into the field completely unscathed, interested mostly in snatching a bit of grass while waiting for Breezy to follow.

Poor Breezy, being a beast of the desert, has a few issues with water, and though there was a perfectly clear way down the bank, she decided that there was no way she was going to descend to the bottom where, heaven forbid, she would get her feet wet. She wound up defying gravity and her aging hocks and traversed the steep bank sideways, doing wild-eyed sidepasses through uncleared brush and saplings. Seeing there was going to be trouble, I leaped over the creek and, still holding the reins, tried to encourage her to move forward, into the water.

Mistake! Breezy took my encouragement as an invitation to leap into my arms! Have you every tried to catch a 1220 lb bundle of wild-eyed terror? Nasty. The last thing I saw was this wall of white chest coming at me like a hairy avalanche and then my head became the filling in a horse/tree-trunk sandwich. A sickening cracking/crushing sound echoed in my skull. Excruciating pain shot through my jaw and then I found myself being tossed backwards into a low fork in the tree.

Somewhere in this process I let go of the reins and Breezy plunged through the creek and out into the field where Dani grabbed her and came back to the creek to see what had happed to me. All she could see were my boot soles hanging over the tree fork. She said it looked like I had been dropped out of the sky and she couldn't imagine how I had wound up hanging upside down in the tree.

Meanwhile, I was doing an inventory of damage. Neck seemed to be ok. Arms and legs were working fine. I could breathe. I was pretty sure that judging by the noise, I had shattered my skull, so I was a little surprised I was actually able to do such a calm body-damage check. The pain in my jaw was astounding and I decided that despite my wooziness and nausea, that was likely the worst area of trouble. This decided, I reassured Dani that there was no need to call an ambulance, and extricated myself from the tree (slowly!).

By this time, Breezy had got a little dancy, so I decided that given my unsteadiness and the distance left to walk home, I would be safer on board, hanging onto the saddle horn. To Dani's horror, on I climbed and we made our way home. Dani, bless her heart, scurried around and put the horses away, fed them, threw the tack into the tack room and then took me to the hospital where I was met with many, many versions of "Wow - you are lucky to be alive!" and "You should have been a major head trauma case!" As it turns out, the shattering sound was my riding helmet, not my skull... and despite amazing swelling and bruising, and some superficial cuts caused by the helmet buckle, all the damage to my jaw was to soft tissue. 48 hours from now my teeth on the left side should once again meet up and I'll be back to crunching my way through even the crispiest of potato chips!

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