Why I Don’t Ride Alone

by Danielle Franchi, Courtesy of SmartPak.com

Growing up, my mom would always tell me to never ride alone. She would worry when I was at the barn all by myself, especially when I was riding horses other than my own. I never really took her warnings seriously; often times I rode alone simply because the way my schedule was I just happened to be at the barn when no one else was.

One of the many perks to working at SmartPak is my favorite barn buddy and I have the exact same riding schedule. We always ride together right after work, which is nice because at night we are almost always the only ones there. This changed after she injured herself during a very competitive horseless horse show we were having (I think she blames me). This meant I was riding all by my lonesome! I soon realized this was a lot more serious than just having no company in the ring.

On Saturday March 12th, I was at the barn super early because I was to ride my barn buddy’s horse and the horse I was leasing. After having a great ride on her mare, I tacked up the guy I was leasing. He seemed a little on edge, but I didn’t read too much into it because he was often spooky for no reason. I thought about lunging, but decided against it, so I hopped on. We walked around for a bit, perfectly sane, then we stepped up to trot and about a lap into it we lost our marbles. I blame the bird in the corner of the ring that chirped as we passed, but really it could have been anything. While I managed to hang on for a bit, I ended up getting launched. I laid face first on the ground, as I heard the horse galloping around; I was just hoping he wasn’t going to run me over.

I eventually managed to drag myself to the jump where my coat was, grab my phone, and call a friend to come get me. I caught the horse and brought him into the barn where luckily someone was there and took him from me. After a trip to the hospital the diagnosis revealed a very badly broken collar bone, which required surgery. They ended up putting in a metal plate and 7 screws to reconnect the bones, and I have the nasty scar to show it, but it’s better than the giant lump of a bone that was sticking up in my chest!

Not that riding with a buddy would have prevented what happened, but it may have saved me some extra pain. My main takeaway from this is that these are horses after all, and you just never know what’s going to happen. I was lucky that I didn’t hit my head and was fully conscious. Not that a broken bone is good, but it could have ended a lot worse. Now that I’m riding again, I’m keeping these tips in mind if I have to ride alone:

  1. Don’t blast music
    One of the really fun things about our barn is we have speakers in our indoor that play music from our phones via Bluetooth. While this is great for drowning out spooky noises, or just to avoid a quiet ride, I learned that it would be best to not to have loud music playing while riding alone. When I fell, I knew that having the music on, and as loud as I did, meant no one in the barn was going to hear the horse galloping around, or hear me if I yelled for anyone.
  1. Keep your phone on you
    I usually always bring my phone with me to the ring, but I don’t always keep it on me. This time I had it in my coat pocket, but I had taken my coat off before I got on, so it was hanging on one of the jump standards. This was not the most ideal location, because after falling I ended up having to drag myself to the jump so I could call someone. My phone is on the large side, so I don’t like to keep it my pants pockets because I’m afraid it will fall out. A product like the Cell Phone Holder is great for keeping your phone on you when you don’t have any pockets.
  1. Make sure someone knows where you are
    If you have to ride alone, it’s not a bad idea to text a friend or family member to give them a heads up when you’re getting on, and then again when you’ve finished your ride. This way if you did get thrown, and no one had heard from you, at least someone would know where you are and be able to check in.