read part I
The first fall didn't effect me much, just knocked my confidence a little when it came to trialling other horses. But it was only a couple of days later that I found the horse of my dreams anyway, and as soon as I started riding him I didn't have a single doubt in my mind. Rusty ticked all of the boxes (and all of my mums for what I shouldn't be riding): 16.2hh, off-the-track thoroughbred with the potential to take us both up the levels with ease. But unfortunately, that never got to happen. Next thing I know, we bought him and I was off on a plane to Vanuatu, leaving my brand new horse to sit in the paddock for the next ten days.
July 1st, 2015
The second I got up I raced out of bed, excited to finally ride again. I tacked up the brumby I'd been training (Charlie) and headed to the bottom end of the field to do some show jumping. My little sister Keeley came with me to film. She said if I fell off again she wanted to document it well this time (Looking back, that's super ironic considering she wasn't even paying attention when I actually did fall off).
We started to jump and everything was going absolutely amazing, it felt insane to be back on her again; flying over jumps at top speed is the most incredible feeling in the world and being away from it for even a week is close to unbearable. I could feel her speeding up as I approached one of the jumps, but I didn't have time to stop her in time with out her crashing into the fence, so I just let her go for it and tried to slow her down a bit. I knew what was coming so as soon as we landed I tried to pull her up but it was already too late. Trying to stop an animal ten times the size of you is hard enough at the best of times, let alone when they're going full speed and determined keep at it. So, as usual, I just tried to hold it out instead. She started bucking and my mind went completely blank. Trying to sit a buck is the strangest feeling in the world. It's probably different for everyone, but for me it's like my body's too focused staying on so my mind becomes completely void of any thoughts. I sat there, thoughtless, holding on for my fucking life when suddenly, for a split second, I doubted Charlie.
Trust is the most crucial element of riding, especially if you've lost all control. Unless you're riding a true psychopath, it's pretty easy to make the assumption that they don't want to kill themselves, so as long as you manage to stay on you'll be right. Something triggered me though, and my mind started filling with one thought - "this is it. This is how I die; galloping headfirst into some trees while my little sister stands and watches". And in that moment, less than a second of doubt that Charlie knew what she was doing, I lost my balance. It was rare for me to come off, but when you start to think up the worst that could happen, things never end great. My world was about to be flipped upside down, but I had absolutely no idea just how much.
My head was spinning at a million miles per second. I couldn't think over the constant ringing. It was so fucking loud, like nothing I'd ever heard before; like nothing I ever hope I have to hear again. I grabbed my head out of sheer pain and realised the helmet I'd been wearing was cracked, but I left it there anyway. Every single bone in my body - every muscle - was in excruciating pain, but my head was without a doubt the worst of all. I opened my eyes but all I could see was darkness. Where was I? Why was it so dark? It was so hard to think over all the pain. Who was I? How did I end up here? I felt the ground around where I was sitting - I was leaning against a tree stump. I placed my hands at the top and tried to hoist myself up. It couldn't have been any higher than knee height, but for some reason I didn't have the strength to lift myself up, no matter how hard I tried. I figured something must've been broken, but I couldn't pin point the pain. All I knew was one thing: I was fucking terrified.
stay tuned for part III
I was never naive. I always knew there were risks with riding, and I knew better than to assume that nothing bad would ever happen to me. Every time I rode I was well aware of the dangers. Not to say I was scared as such, but I definitely knew what I was getting into. I'd seen things, heard stories, that could turn peoples stomachs and scare them off horses for life. But in all honesty, thats what I loved most about the sport. Theres something so raw about putting your life in the hands of an 800kg animal. Something that doesn't speak your language and could kill you at the drop of a hat if it wanted to. Life is all about risks and if you hold yourself back because you're scared of dying, are you really living? I thought I had thought it all through - but there was one thing I never even stopped to consider: what if I didn't die? What if I made it out alive, but became paralysed? or brain damaged? I thought if you had a bad fall you'd either be dead, or back on in a couple of months tops. Except that wasn't the case for me.
June 21st, 2015
I had been searching for a new horse for quite some time. I had spent the past year training up an insane brumby called Charlie, and while she was incredibly fun to ride and taught me so much, I wanted something that could take me up to the top end levels of eventing beyond 1*. So I looked for the complete opposite: something tall, gentle, well trained and ambitious. I thought I might've been onto something when I trialled a horse called Ronnie. He was a 16hh off-the-track thoroughbred; he moved well, had a nice temperament and good scope in his jump. I took him back to my stables to trial him for a while and rode him almost as soon as he arrived. Everything went well in the warm up, so I put up some jumps to see how he'd go. The first jump went smooth with no dramas, but as we approached the second he started to slow down. I didn't mind though, I thought to myself "he's not my horse, I'll let him stop and have a good look at the jump and then we'll come around again and give it another go". Except he slowed down to almost a full halt and decided to jump it anyway. I landed harsh back in the saddle and next thing I knew he was going full bronc. Usually it wouldn't have been an issue at all, if Charlie taught me anything it was how to hold on for your fucking life. Except of course, I hadn't landed in the saddle properly, so I had no chance. I flew head first into the arena wall and knocked myself out, but after a bit of a dust off I got back on and decided Ronnie maybe wasn't for me.
read part II