The story of an Old Man's fight with with Post Traumatic Fall Disorder
The impact of a serious fall from a horse can result in injury not only to the body but to the mind. This is the story of an Old Man's fight with what he describes as Post Traumatic Fall Disorder whereby he became frightened to ride his own horse. It is written as a series of articles following the events of that day right through until two years later. The impact of a fall on each individual will be different but this story may help others to come to terms with and overcome the problems presented when getting back into riding. This is not a medical thesis, nor is it written by a health professional - it is merely a story of a man's struggle with his own mind.
THE STORY OF AN OLD MAN'S FIGHT WITH POST TRAUMATIC FALL DISORDER
The First Fall
My cob Joe, whilst on a hack spooked at rustling caused by a small flock of sheep behind a hedge. He whirled 180 degrees to the left, took the reins and bolted back down a steep tarmacced lane. Once the horse had gathered speed, the laws of physics dictated that, despite studded steel shoes, he was unable to stop until the ground had levelled out. The rider, caught unawares, had lost control and under the forces of momentum had slowly slid forwards over the flat topped dressage saddle until eventually he had come to rest almost on Joe’s wither. He was bounced off the neck to the right and hit the tarmacced surface of the lane at around 20mph. He doesn’t remember much about the sequence of events, He had realised he was coming off. The next thing he remembered was that he was laying face down flat on the ground listening to the horse running off in the distance. Slowly he had picked himself up, and walked in a slight daze along the lane looking for the horse. Eventually he found the horse being tied by the reins to a fence by a villager. The rider asked for help to mount and then rode delicately the mile or so back to the livery yard. The horse knew the way.
Back at the yard the horse was found to be slightly lame but without obvious cuts or bruises. The rider was taken off for a cup of tea. There was no blood. The rider could walk and talk, be it in a subdued fashion. He even later drove the mile home although sitting in a car seat with a lump forming over his spine proved to be uncomfortable. He arrived home and laid on the bed face down. Just another fall he thought.
At the hospital it was found that there was a growing lump - a haematoma- forming over his lower spine - which eventually grew to be the size of a rugby ball. There were scratch marks over the shoulder blades. The skull was tender around the base of the skull where the hats sits. There were scratches on both hands. During the medical inspection I had felt subdued but a little euphoric in that I and the horse had survived. If a car had been coming up the hill at the same time, all parties: rider, horse and driver may have died from a head on collision.
The big question to answer from the medics was whether I had been knocked unconscious.. Well there were gaps in my memory as to the sequence of events, Some parts of the journey back I did not remember at all. Importantly, as I was to discover, shock was settling in. My brain was addled and I was disorientated. Was I in pain? - well nothing intolerable. Had I broken any bones - not seemingly. Did my bodily functions still work - well yes as far as I could tell. Regardless I did not want to be kept in that hospital overnight for further examination. Eventually the doctors agreed after further examinations to let a 69 year badly bruised old man go home. I was given a few pain killers and sent on my way.
My lower back came to look like a camel’s hump. The bruising which was to extend two foot deep around my lower my was already beginning to show as were the bruises around the hips and rump. The scratches were only superficial. I did have a head ache . Later when I examined my riding hat I could see why - it was pitted with gravel, from where my head had hit the ground. My riding jacket was torn on the arms. Despite all this, I honestly thought I had escaped lightly. It had been my turn to fall off. I was wrong, as time would tell.
Unbeknown to me at the time, Joe the horse had in fact torn a check ligament. He would be on box rest - confined to stable for three months, which would in turn bring about secondary issues. But at least the period of recuperation would give me time to recover.
Investigations, recriminations and decisions about how best to proceed were to follow.
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