On the Importance of Safe Tack

Caveat: semi-graphic images below. Lots of swelling and bruising.

IMG_7665Winter storm warning, freezing temperatures, ice and snow… Surely, my lesson is cancelled. But this is the second week in a row, and Lord of mercy did I need some horse time. So Megan was kind enough to invite me out to visit my handsome man, the fabulous Audio K.

My parents kindly bought me some new “fat breeches,” as I so kindly call them, since my old pair has some serious holes worn through the thighs. With new breeches and new zocks, I was pretty thrilled to get to the barn. I thought I was going to have a private arena, but because of the weather, school was cancelled and the IEA girls were there to get in some last minute practice before regionals this weekend. Megan kindly invited me to join them in a good butt-kicking session. Naturally, I excitedly accepted.

Because I arrived later, I hurried through grooming Audio and mostly did where the tack went and hooves. (In hindsight, I feel AWFUL about that; he deserves better.) We tacked up quickly and I put on my helmet. Since I couldn’t find my spurs, I just decided today was going to be leg day.

Now, this lesson was definitely not my shining moment for position or effectiveness as a rider. I didn’t have much trouble getting Audio to respond to my leg, surprisingly enough. But I did notice how much I’ve been faking my leg strength and pinching with my knees. When I dropped my stirrups, I did a lot more than struggle. I found myself slipping and sliding all over my saddle. I so wish I could have a note pad and paper in my brain to take note of all the “A-ha!”s in my lessons because I would learn so much more.

When we were cantering right after some grueling trot work without stirrups, I kept finagling my stirrups to get them in the right position. Maybe there was too much mud on my boots, maybe my joints were stiff in the cold and I couldn’t keep my heels down. But because I kept trying to rotate the irons just right, my weight would shift from one leather to the other. I bought my saddle for $600 on eBay. The stirrup leathers came free. I take good care of my tack with good soap and good conditioner. But the simple fact of leather is that it loses integrity with each hole you put in it. There were a lot of holes in these leathers. The right one finally just gave out on me and split. It just picked a moment where all my weight was on that hip.

Time to go shopping, I guess...
Time to go shopping, I guess…

I wish I could say I fell gracefully. Once I felt my foot plummet from where the iron originally rested on Audio’s side, I (apparently) yelled, “Oh shit.” Next thing I knew, I was in a world of agony. I landed toes first on my right foot. I heard a pop. I crumbled to the ground, screaming. Megan was by my side in an instant. Grace’s mother yelled that she had heard something pop. This pain was unbelievable. It was very clear that I hadn’t just jammed my foot.

“Do you want me to call an ambulance?” Megan asked, somehow extremely calm when I’m hyperventilating so bad that I’m shaking all over and about to throw up from the pain. Grace’s wonderful mother already has her phone in hand, ready to call 911.

“Call my mom,” I told them. I tried to pull my knee closer to my body. “Actually, call an ambulance. Then call my mom.”

I was vaguely aware of Morgan hopping off Scooby and collecting a very confused Audio. Honestly, I didn’t even see Audio. I just saw two sets of reins in her hand. I was in that much pain that I didn’t even notice the two biggest horses at the barn.

With Grace’s mom holding my right hand and Megan on my left, both struggling to keep me in any semblance of calm, I more or less writhed in pain. I was still hyperventilating and crying and proclaiming how this was the most painful thing I ever experienced. Every move sent motion through my leg and that just caused even more pain, which caused more movement. A vicious cycle, if such a thing existed.

Everyone brought the horses back inside just before I heard sirens. As the fire fighters walked down the hill, my only concern was, “Are they attractive?” They asked the usual questions: how are you doing, what’s your full name and age, what happened, are you on any medications, are you allergic to anything. Gasping through pain, I was able to inform them that I’m 21 and I have a panic disorder. I think they caught on that I needed to relax before they could do much else. They got my BP and on the third try managed to get an IV in my hand and pump me full of drugs so they could get my boot off and get a splint on my leg. They were kind enough to save my boots (bless them, I am seriously attached to my schooling boots). The drugs didn’t help much because I still screamed when they lifted my leg to put it in the trauma splint. The absolute worst was when they had to rotate me to get me on the back board to get to the stretcher.

Have you ever ridden in the back of an ambulance? Let me tell you that they do not have shocks. You feel every bump, pebble, and crack. Atlanta’s roads are not the best. The hospital was a good twenty minute drive and I spent the whole time hyperventilating and crying and occasionally screaming in pain. Megan rode in the ambulance with me and kept me updated on my mother’s whereabouts. She was meeting us at the hospital.

My feet are so pretty
I should be a foot model

Once inside my room in the ER, they had to get me off the stretcher and on to the bed, then off the back board. It was excruciating. I’m quite proud of myself for keeping the cursing down to a minimum. We took probably a dozen x-rays of my foot and ankle, my shin, and my thigh just to get a clear look at the damage.


The fracture is localized to my ankle only. But, it is fractured in three places. I was once told that if I was gonna pull a rail in the show jumping arena, I may as well take the whole fence with it because it’s still only four faults. Inadvertently, I applied that strategy to breaking my ankle. My PA said that it is the most major fracture possible in an ankle, a trimalleloar  fracture.


I’m at home now, resting comfortably with my poor leg elevated. I’m already scheduled for surgery tomorrow with a good family friend who is an orthopedic surgeon. All I want is a Mike’s Hard Black Cherry Lemonade, but I’m erring on the side of caution and not mixing alcohol with all my pain killers. And of course, shopping for new stirrup leathers that I can’t afford. And new breeches.

So please, fellow equestrians, LEARN FROM ME. If your tack is wearing thin, REPLACE IT.
It’s a safety issue.

I’m not going to be able to walk, let alone ride, for at least six weeks. Because I prioritized things I didn’t need over new stirrup leathers, I’m out of work for six weeks. I’m going to miss playing in the snow with my dog. Most importantly, I am going to lose all that muscle I’ve struggled to rebuild since November and miss all that time with Audio. Those $120 Prestige leathers I wanted don’t look like such an unnecessary aesthetic now. Needless to say, I’ll definitely have Megan help me check my saddle for my first ride back once I’m all healed. I don’t ever want my tack to get the best of me again!

Tl;dr: check your tack or you might break a bone, which hurts REALLY bad.


  1. I must go into shock because I’ve had two ambulance rides and really barely remember either as being good or bad. On was for my arm being broken in several places too. Last time I got really hurt I broke my collar bone in two places and didn’t bother with the abulance, just called my parents to come get me.

    On the leathers, I haven’t read enough of your blog to know what you would need, but I have a pair of very lightly used Beval leathers for sale if you need a deal. They are actually too long for me and I’m tall, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut them down. PS I love Prestige leathers, have them on both my saddles.


    1. You’ll understand why I’m a bit cautious about used stirrup leathers at the moment. But yes, Prestige is such a quality leather!


        1. Prestige is a truly exceptional saddler and their products’ quality far surpasses anything else I’ve tried!


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