Take the risks, accept the consequences

It`s pretty easy to accept the premise that eventing, and riding in general, is a high risk activity, in a sort of  “Sure, I know, but it won`t happen to me” sort of way. But then it does happen. Sometimes “the other guy” is you.

I`ve been competing every year since 1954, 57 years without a bad accident in a competition, and then a couple of months ago, a green horse slammed on the brakes in front of a ditch, dropped her head, and lawn darted me into the front log of the ditch, and broke my neck. It was A Chris Reeves type of fall, but I was lucky, because there was no nerve damage.

But for the past couple of months I`ve been living in what`s often referred to as “halo hell”, so I`m paying for my long established tendency to put myself at risk. And I think we who do this need to step back once in a while and , just as we accept the premise of risk, ask ourselves if we could also accept the consequences. Not to scare ourselves away from riding, but as a reality check, a litmus test for two things:

 One–Are the risks I`m taking  “within reason” or stupid risks?  And, two, How can I learn to tell the difference?

I knew that the horse I was riding was green. I knew that I didn`t know her well, how she reacted in various situations, but just figured it would be fine. Because, usually, it is fine. But, in retrospect, it wasn`t a smart move.

So, as they say, you can`t undo the past, but you can use the past to help direct future decisions. So, what wisdom I`ve just learned the hard way, that I`d hope more of us will consider, is analyse both the degree of risk you are getting into BEFORE you do it, and analyse how you`ll deal if suddenly “the other guy” is you. I think this approach, to take reasonable risks, if there are such things, is one thing, but to take very risky risks, is, perhaps, something to avoid.

And, more than anything, to do those calculations BEFORE just assuming it will be just fine. It`s like not wearing a seatbelt, or not using a helmet, act first, regret later. Try not to do that, is my hard learned experience. Think first, then act according to smart conclusions, not stupid ones!



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2 responses to “Take the risks, accept the consequences

  1. Hannah

    Well said Denny. I am sorry you’ve been recovering from such a bad accident. It has been almost 3 years since my really bad accident. Like you I took a very risky risk, but just thought it was part of the job description. Horses can be dangerous. Since climbing back in the saddle, I am certainly evaluating the risks more before I decide which horses and under which circumstances I will ride.

    • Hannah, Say you tack up, and go out to the spot where you mount, and you sense your horse is high, or even explosive. Do you get on and hope to ride out that excess energy, or do you stick him on the lunge line for 10-15 minutes, let him blow it off, and then get on?
      To me, this is one of those decisions that can save you, me, whoever, a lot of potential grief. I had a friend whose motto was, “Better 10 minutes on the lunge line than 10 weeks in a cast.”

      Another–You feel you “should” move up, say from beg novice to novice, but you are secretly uncomfortable. Do you move up anyway, or stay within your comfort zone?

      Another–This horse is a known rearer, not always, but it`s there. Do you ride him?
      Another—Are you anyway near an athlete, or are you unfit, not agile, not strong? You can change that, and make life much safer, or is that too much work?

      I think THESE are valid examples of ok risk versus not ok risk, but each person has to make the choices.

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