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!