Resilience- an unexpected part 3

I love riding. I love the freedom it brings, the energy of the horse, my favourite discipline has always been jumping – though dressage I love to watch as it is so graceful. But having never learnt it, it isn’t within my ability – yet. I love being on horseback.

However, there are risks involved, the horse has a mind of their own, and if you are not in complete sync with your mount then falling off from a height and at a speed may happen.

All riders fall, and in the horse world, usually comments are made “you aren’t a proper rider until you have fallen off”, my great uncle who got me into horses said I wouldn’t be a proper rider until I had fallen off 7 times. I remember counting each time I had fallen off, but at fall 7, I don’t think I regarded myself as a better rider, or even a proper one.

My grandmother told me that riding was a dangerous sport. As a former nurse, she was the first one to tell me worst case scenarios, possibly with the intent of frightening me into giving up riding. But it never has.

One of my falls that my mum witnessed was from a lovely riding school pony, Tetley. At the end of a pony camp, we did some games and I think the grass was wet. Tetley slipped and we both went down. I actually don’t have any memory of that, but I know my mum does as she reminds me about it – despite it being over 30 years ago!

My other memorable fall was going over a log on a cross country course on a Friday night. The stables that I rode at, was just down the road from us. I remember parting company with the horse and then not being able to move my ankle. That was my first horse related hospital trip, I must have been about 15 I think.

Mum had her head screwed on for that, we didn’t want to be in Accident and Emergency on a Friday night without dinner. I wasn’t bleeding, I didn’t hit my head, so it wasn’t within the definition of an emergency. We had dinner first and then I was taken to A&E at Antrim Hospital. Mum dropped me off at the door since I couldn’t bear weight on the foot and then went to park. A hospital porter found me a wheelchair. On the way to the X-Ray department, mum wheeled me at double doors, my injured foot was horizontal – the double doors where not automatic. It was a comedic episode. No further damage was done, but the hospital staff then came to open the door that was neither automatic nor had been opened by my injured foot being rammed against the door. (Ok rammed is probably a little over dramatic!) I left the hospital on crutches with nothing more than a badly sprained ankle and bruised pride. The ankle wasn’t broken and a few weeks later I was back on the horse riding the same jumps.

There have been periods in my 20s and 30s where I didn’t ride. I was the occasional rider, going on a beach ride etc, and when the opportunity came to ride in China I wanted to.

I found my current stables, Fonlleau about 9 months ago. It is an hour from school which isn’t as convenient as the stables 20 minutes from us. But it is in the countryside, not in a shopping mall and the open fresh air is gorgeous – though not in the humid heat. The paddock is large and the horses well cared for.

Where we are staying for 5 nights, Naked Water, is 30 minutes away from Fonlleau. So I went on Tuesday morning, and then booked in for Thursday. I have been riding at 8am these past two days because of the close proximity to the resort and more importantly because it is cooler.

On Tuesday I had been jumping a typical riding school horse, one that you have to work at to get going. On Thursday, I was given a horse that was leaner, and was definitely more receptive to moving.

So we warmed up. Jumped a couple of cross poles, and then we jumped again and after landing I made for a left turn, but my horse went for the right. My weight wasn’t in the right place, I hadn’t sat upright enough and so for a good 10 seconds I was clinging on. I knew it was only a matter of time and what I didn’t want was for my foot to get stuck in the stirrup and be dragged along for that would be horrific.

But what I didn’t reckon on, was how close the outside fence was, nor the physics of me falling off at speed. I didn’t just drop down like a dead weight, I was flung against the fence, back first and then I landed face down in the sandy arena.

My first instinct was to check that everything was moving. So taking deep breaths I wiggled toes, legs, arms and gingerly lifted my head from the sand. I had three instructors round me – all with limited English, but we soon established that I was ok. I spat the sand out of mouth several times before getting onto all fours and unsteadily but supported I got to the mounting block to sit down and drink some water while taking a lot of deep breaths.

There was a bit of dizziness but I put that down to shock and heat though I was aware that there could have been a head injury. I made it back to the office area and phoned Martin. “Hi, I am ok, but I have fallen. Please can you come and get me and take me to hospital”.

My left shoulder was sore, and my left lower back ached. My front tooth felt a bit odd and only on really close inspection can you see that I have chipped it a tiny bit.

Martin left the hotel by the time I had thought about needing my medical card, (the only day where I haven’t had it with me) so some instructions were sent out to the friends staying in our villa. By the time Martin arrived I was a lot calmer, we phoned our medical insurance and ascertained that a hospital where we wouldn’t have to pay up front was 90 minutes away. We went to another hospital, government owned 20 minutes away. It is affiliated with Soochow University and is a teaching hospital and as such because it is government owned it is cheaper.

Dignity went out the window. My back had a large abrasion on it and so to clean it, I had lifted my t-shirt up, and was wearing it over one shoulder in order to allow access to my right shoulder to get ice on it. I had unzipped my jodhpurs and was showing my best undies.

Martin and I got a didi. He was the most careful driver we have ever had. He offered Martin tissues to wipe up any blood I left on the car seat (I was sitting at an angle – my back was no where near the seat-back)

My last covid test was 17 June. This was more than 72 hours prior to the accident. Martin’s test was due to expire in 30 minutes. This was going to be the test of what would the hospital do if I had no test result. It transpires that to enter in the main door you need 72 hours. But if you look helpless, dishevelled and hurt enough (and possibly because we were foreign) they direct you to the emergency entrance 5m away. I gingerly walked over. Having held it together until that point, the tears flowed.

Name and other essential details were given, then I was taken to be assessed by the doctor. He poked and prodded me, assessing where I was in pain and where I was not. At this I went back to feeling dizzy, nauseous and my fingers tingled. The doctor went to get a gurney and I drank some sprite. Within moments, the colour in my face had returned and I felt back to “normal”.

I was put onto a trolley, and wheeled out for CT scans and X-Rays which Martin had to pay for before I had them. Then Martin followed and was put to use by the porter. The porter, Martin and the radiographers would move the mattress and me onto the CT scanner and x-ray beds. It occurred to me of why they couldn’t make a hospital trolley fit for all of these purposes, as I couldn’t help but tense up for all of these manoeuvres. It also occurred to me that hospital ceilings are the most banal of places. They need to decorate them to make them a more interesting place to stare at.

The results of the initial scans and X-rays revealed what I thought – nothing broken although they wanted another CT scan because of a suspected dislocated rib (who knew that was even a thing). I was wheeled and manoeuvred back to the CT scanner (once Martin had paid) and the results came back as everything normal as I thought it would as I had had no discomfort around that area nor had I any trouble breathing or laughing.

The doctor put cold compress gel pads on my shoulder and back and discharged me with some drugs – that I haven’t taken. I have stuck to ibuprofen rather than TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) which I believe the one on the left is.

Getting off the bed took a Herculean effort. My core muscles need to be more effective! I was in much discomfort, walking very slowly and like a woman who had aged to 80 in the blink of an eye. But nothing was broken and it was now up to me to rest. The most comfortable position is on my front.

We got a Didi back to the resort and Lady G made us both lunch. Eleanor was shaken that I had fallen off and any hope of getting her back on a horse in the future has gone. But I will be back on a horse. Maybe not the same horse – at least not for a while yet. It may have disrupted our holiday – in so far as I wanted to go and see some of the Silk Road. Two days on, and I have a lot of my mobility back. More rest this week and then we shall see what happens.

It always intrigues me that that there will be people who go to the stables in their best white jodphurs that are beginners. The hat and the body protector are must haves – not the white jodphurs.

My 3000 RMB hat and my body protector bought in the UK.

My total hospital bill paid by Martin was 2418.34 RMB approx £295. Will be claimed back through the health insurance.

Now the trip to Naked Water is over. We have some great memories with our friends and my bruises that I have as souvenirs will slowly disappear. My friends and Martin and Eleanor have been so kind and caring. They have helped me get up off sofas, provided drinks and food and been there with the jokes. I am so fortunate. And telling my Mum and Dad – they probably have their own views about me riding, but whatever they are if they are negative- then they have kept those views to themselves. Will I still be riding at 90 like the Queen? I like to hope so.

I will always be careful as the moment you aren’t in sync with your horse or pony, something will happen.