The diary of the home-made livery yard: ‘I realised the severity of the situation when I couldn’t move and had turned religious’

  • It’s been a fortnight of ups and downs. Quite literally, in one case.

    I kicked off with a triple win for Chunky, one of my liveries (pictured above and below), at his second ever competitive outing. He won all three of his intro dressage tests with 70%+ scores. I was absolutely delighted with Chunky’s performance, how relaxed he was in between tests and that he travelled happily on his own.

    I took devious glee in knowing how little of a threat we must have looked to the other competitors in the warm-up arena. With me jumping off between each class to give Chunky a rest (he’s not exceptionally fit and I like to give his back a break) and feed him polos and Chunky with his winter coat, sturdy conformation, golf ball plaits and hairy beard, I think we looked more like a batty old woman and her baby elephant than potential dressage winners. However, I had full confidence that Chunky could pull out all the stops if we went in and did our best and that was exactly what we did.

    Me with Chunky

    Two days later, I was spectacularly bronced off of one of the youngsters I school at home. I can look back and laugh, but it was actually pretty horrible.

    There was nothing out of the ordinary in terms of the circumstances. I think plenty of us have parted company with a fresh horse before. Unfortunately the mechanics of the incident meant I was rocketed upwards out of the saddle, did a full somersault in the air and then landed, with the entire force of my (not insignificant) bulk travelling at full speed, on my lower back.

    It was a little bit ouchy. Incredibly ouchy, in fact. I knew I was in a lot of pain because, apart from the agonising ripping sensation across my lower back, I was doing labour contractions-type breathing.

    The severity of the situation kicked in when I realised I could not move and I had turned spontaneously religious (“Oh God, oh God! Oh Jesus Christ! Please help me, God!”). As an atheist, I only have religious tendencies when under extreme stress — childbirth, alcohol poisoning or times of intense panic, such as hearing a child fall down the stairs.

    At this point I started shouting for help, something I’ve never done after falling off. I was in so much pain, I could not move and I did not know what I was going to do with the horse, who was standing quietly by the arena gate, wondering why on earth its human had thrown herself on the floor and broken herself so badly.

    But in Woolley, no one can hear you scream. Nobody was on the yard and our neighbour, who I had seen mowing his lawn, had no hope of hearing me over the noise of the motor. I don’t ride with my phone, so I couldn’t call anyone (well, it’s an expensive phone — I don’t want to break it if I fall off!).

    So after a good few minutes of BBC’s Casualty-worthy yelling on the floor, I realised nobody was coming to help me and I started to feel a bit silly, as if the horse was going to grass me up later for being a hysterical wimp.

    I started to weigh up my options. What did I really want in the way of help? An ambulance? My in-depth knowledge of medical TV drama told me that any suspicion of a spinal injury would involve a precautionary neck brace, spinal board and whizzing off to A&E for a CT scan. This did not bode well for evening yard chores getting done or any hope of a hot bath and bottle of wine before midnight.

    Did I want my husband? Well, yes, I did. But, it would depend on what mood he was in. I only wanted him if I wasn’t going to be in trouble for breaking myself.

    Regardless, with no one around, the only way was to help myself. Adrenaline must have kicked in and I managed to crawl on all fours out of the arena, find some lungeing equipment, lunge the horse while hopping on one leg (the owner had paid to have the horse schooled and I didn’t want to disappoint), get back on and hack him home.

    Happy Easter from Spice and I

    When I got back to my yard I suddenly got stuck in the middle of the car park. Whatever it was, adrenaline or sheer stupidity, had worn off and I could not put any weight on either leg. Bilateral grade five lameness. Had I been a horse, you would have had me shot there and then and put me out of my misery. I was completely stuck.

    I crawled on my hands and knees across the concrete to a patch of grass and waited there until my husband, Jerome, arrived, explaining my predicament to the liveries that were starting to arrive with quizzical looks on their faces as to why their horses were still in the field at 5.30pm.

    Ruby’s owner, Lauren, and Jerome caught the horses in for me and Jerome was given an emergency crash course in five-star horse care (“No, dear, that’s the arse end of the rug. I don’t think you will find the leg straps will fasten very well around the horse’s neck”).

    Continued below…

    I really did struggle for the next couple of days. It was near impossible to put any weight on my right side at times and I was walking with a stick for a while. What was lovely, was the support I had from friends and family both at the yard and at home (when they weren’t too busy taking the p**s because I was walking with a true ‘Grandad’s’ varnished knobbly wooden walking stick and, playing the part of senility well, forever forgetting where I’d put it). I was very lucky not to be seriously hurt and I am very lucky to have such wonderful people around me.

    I’m not hugely superstitious, but I can’t help noticing that my triple win with Chunky was while wearing my new hat from sponsors, Gatehouse, and my crashing fall was while wearing my knackered old one. The logicist in me won’t allow me to make too much of this, but the thought niggles nonetheless.


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