University of Vermont AAHS


The Death of a Friend

Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

[reproduced from Caution: Horses Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1999]  

1999 marks the first time that I have lost a friend due to a horse accident.  She was trailriding with friends on a clear, brisk, winter day.  She was riding a horse that she rode regularly, often on the trails.  She was a professional trainer.

It was chilly and windy.  The horses were fractious and she was turning her gelding in circles to keep him under control.

The gelding stumbled and fell on her.  She was airlifted to a city hospital but she never regained consciousness.  She died of massive head trauma caused by the back of her head striking a rock.

The funeral was attended by hundreds of friends who walked from the church up the hill to the cemetery where she was buried.  Afterwards there was lunch in the basement of the church.

There were so many comments from her rider friends.  Some said that if she could have chosen a way to go that would have been the way, riding her horse with her friends on a beautiful day.  Other friends commented that those freak accidents can happen to any of us.  Many pointed out how we all take those risks each and every time we get on a horse.

I had the helmet conversation with her once and she just wasn’t interested.  Oh, she knew it would “probably be a good idea” but she had always ridden that way...I wonder if now even her family would insist.  Instead of attending the funeral we could all be visiting her in the hospital and teasing her about tripping her horse.

We cannot say this enough times, friends.  A serious head injury is forever at least 80%  of the time.  Please think before you ride out without your helmet.  Think about all the things you have planned for the next week, all the rides you plan to take and the blue ribbons you want to win.  Think about watching the kids graduate.  Or how they will struggle without you.  Think how much fun you will have at the prom in a wheel chair.  And yes, all you can-chasers out there, have you ever wondered why flat racing and jump jockeys are required to wear helmets?  Think about it.  You barrel racers are probably going as fast or faster.

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