Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Horse-Obsessed Teenager

The other day, Matthew asked me to tell him (yet another) story; in particular, he wanted me to tell him a true story about myself - one involving an injury (of course - he most loves the stories that include some kind of battle scar!).  So I told him this true adventure story that happened in the summer of my 15th birthday...

...As per usual during summer holidays, I was scheduled to take in a couple of weeks of summer camp.  That particular year, to the chagrin of my mother, I'd decided to attend Ranch Camp - which involved a week spent riding at Camp Arnes, followed by a second week with horses at Camp Seton.  Yes, I was your average horse-obsessed teenage girl for a while...but don't distract me. During the first week, we campers practised saddling up and bridling our horses, grooming, and we did a lot of riding - all in preparation for taking some riding test we would try to pass the following week.

We spent the second week at Seton, a remote camp designed for those who enjoyed roughing it a bit.  The only building in the camp was the tack house (for saddles, etc) - a tidbit that will be important later in this story. We lived in tents and used outdoor latrines; showers were not an option because they didn't exist.  I was assigned a lovely, albeit stubborn, palomino horse by the name of Timothy.  He and I had a great week together - even though we both became rather stressed during one of our longer rides, when we somehow ended up in the midst of a herd of beef cattle and one (horned) bull kept rubbing up against my shin and ankle as my foot sat in the stirrup.

Anyway, on the Wednesday of the second week came the big riding test.  We equestrians lined up outside the main coral and waited our turn for the exam.  The test was to be done bareback - which was a hard thing to do after riding saddle for the past almost-two weeks.  Nonetheless, I gamely got onto the horse I was assigned for the test - Flame was a spectacular, it a bit high-strung, chesnut horse.

Flame and I were almost through the exam when it happened.  Half way down the last length of the corral, a rabbit hopped right into Flame's path.  And, sigh, typical of a horse when it's been spooked, Flame took off at a run, transitioning from 0-100 in about a half second flat.  I was completely shocked and was trying frantically to gain control of the situation/horse.  In horror, I realized as I slid slightly to the side with no saddle to hold me in place, that I was going to fall beneath the hooves of a galloping horse.  Oh yay.  To complicate matters, I had never taken any lessons in horse jumping.  Thus, when Flame decided to launch himself over the fence, my body refused to go along with that plan.  I was thrown from Flame's back and landed with full force on my right ankle, then somersaulted onto my shoulder and went head-over-heels before landing on my back looking up at the sky.  To this day I marvel that I wasn't killed, trampled, or permanently injured.

As it was, I crawled (literally) all the way back to the tent to rest. In the meantime, my counsellor (incidentally, a nurse) arranged for a nail to be taken out of the tack house building and used to attach two small saplings together to form a rudimentary crutch for me - the taller sapling was approximately the height of my shoulder, and a one-foot piece was attached crossways at the top with the nail.  That night I had a fever and tossed and turned sleeplessly all night; the next morning, someone stepped on my ankle while getting out of their sleeping bag, causing me more than considerable pain.  Let me just say that I don't remember much of anything over the following two or three days until camp was over on Saturday and we were loaded onto a yellow school bus to go home.

The next real memory that I have is finishing the trip in a high school parking lot, where parents were waiting to greet their returning children.  I was last off the bus and employing the little sapling crutch I'd been using to get to and from the bathroom for the previous couple of days.  Though I was in some pain, I remember smiling, glad to be on the way home.  I was envisioning chicken noodle soup and toast. My mother, however, took one look at me, gasped audibly, reprimanded the counsellor, loaded me into the car, and took me straight to Children's Hospital.

Sure enough my ankle was broken; in fact, it was so swollen that I had to have it splinted for a week before a cast could even get put on.  (Remind me to tell you another time how I broke three toes on the same foot just days before the cast was to come off seven or eight weeks later.)  The funniest part of the whole experience for me, though, was arriving at the hospital with my mom.  She found a wheelchair for me and pushed me down the hallways in it, me holding onto my sapling crutch like a spear in front of me.  As she wheeled me along, she kept turning from side to side to look at the hospital staff that we passed, saying in an apologetic and whisper-lowered voice: "My daughter's been at camp for the past two weeks - I know she looks dirty.  Yes, she's been at camp. She was thrown from a horse and she hasn't had a chance to shower."  Clearly, she was more concerned about my admittedly grimy, tangled-hair appearance and about what people might think of her parenting skills than she was about my ankle! I still love teasing her about that day from time to time.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story as much as Matthew did!

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