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True Helmet Stories from HORSE-SENSE Readers

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The Jump That Stopped Time by Krissy

It was in October 2002/2003. I was training for the Haflinger National Show in Ohio. My instructor wanted me to enter a jumping class, so she started to teach me.

I've jumped about three feet before, so I wasn't too scared when she put up 2 two foot jumps on the right side of the arena. Sting, the 10 year old gelding I was riding was known to be stubborn, but he and I got along well.

I was never that good at jumping, and so it turned out, Sting caught on. He never wanted to take the second jump. Being only one stride away, neither did I. My instructor got upset (she often did) because I never whipped him when he balked. I didn't see a reason to hit him, I never did. So she told me, "I want you to hit him harder." And she told me to hit him at a stand still to see what hard meant to me. I tapped him. She grabbed the crop, Sting freaked, and then she kicked him hard in the side. As he shied away, half-rearing in the process, she yelled, "THAT'S HARD!" Sting was only 12 hands, so she really clobbered him one. That's one thing I hated about her. I calmed Sting and took him around.

As we approached the first jump, my instructor told me to hit him, so I stupidly listened and smacked his shoulder. I knew immediately that it was too hard. He flew over the first jump, clearing it by at least 2 extra feet. My feet slipped out of the stirrups and I pulled back hard on the reins to stop him. But Sting had got the message and flew over the next jump. I had his mane in my hands as he headed for the wooden fence. He veered to the left at the last minute and I sailed off.

I don't ever remember hitting the floor. I don't remember wrapping my arms around the pole I just hit. I don't really remember how long I was unconscious. It wasn't long, but the only reason I came to as because I heard someone screaming. It was so loud. It turned out that was me. I opened up my eyes and saw Sting's belly. My instructor was yelling at him to move. He was actually standing over me, my feet between his back legs and my head behind his front right. He finally moved, and I was still crying. My instructor told me to let go of the pole, so I did and screamed in pain. My back felt like it ripped in two. One of the cats jumped from the bench she was on and started to lick my face. I could move, so nothing was broken. Except for my front tooth. I chipped it in half.

I ended up brusing several ribs and discs in my back. I couldn't ride for about two months let alone sit. When I got home that day, my mom picked up my helmet and gasped. I didn't know why. I asked if it was broken. She turned it to me. On the back of my helmet was a dent in the Troxel foam. It was about 4-5 inches long and 1 1/2 inches deep. When I fell, somehow I missed my face and instead hit the back of my head. But I could never explain how I ended up facing the pole.

Sting and I placed last in our jumping class, because he picked up on my nerves. Go figure. But we did get 2nd in Western Pleasure, and guess what. In my jumping class...even though he didn't listen to what I asked, I never did one thing...I never hit him. I think that's why he and I had the ultimate trust.

I left that farm. I hated letting go of the bonds several of the horses and I shared, including Sting. I know share that bond with Sunny, the miserable Paint that no one likes. Except me. So far, I've been told I'm the only one who's ever gotten him to gallop, and the only one he hasn't run away with.

Still, I never get on a horse without my helmet, and you shouldn't either.

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