IF YOU ARE AWARE OF WHAT COULD HAPPEN… USUALLY IT WON’T. Unless you become complacent (lazy?), Like I DID!

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   Every Superbowl Sunday, I am reminded of my Superbowl Sunday MAJOR FUMBLE 7 years ago…  I was just so comfortable with my regular routine that I didn’t notice I had the wrong end of the lead rope in my hand before I released her…  She didn’t do anything wrong.  I did.


How did you spend your Super Bowl Sunday?

This is how I spent mine…

This was last night, after surgery.


I was being very negligent and foolish.  I made a series of ridiculous decisions based on my never having any trouble like this before.  Basically, I had become complacent, lazy and over-confident when working around my horses during every day chores.


I was moving horses from one pasture to another.  Easy.  Simple.  I usually just either open a gate and they go by themselves, or I put a rope halter around a neck and lead them to where I want him/her to go.  Easy.  No pressure, no issues…  I’d done it a million times.

Of course, for new horses or young horses I put the halter ON before I move them.  And, if it was a a windy or stormy day, I’d probably be more cautious with all my horses and secure the halter before trying to move them.  Makes sense.  Seems like I’m being reasonable.

So why did something happen today?  I was moving the calm and trained BG, it was a sunny day and no different than any other day.  I did what I always do when I move her:

I grabbed the nearest leadrope which happened to be a training leadrope with a training halter attached to the huge, brass safety clip (mistake #1), I didn’t unattach the rope halter attached to it (mistake #2), I didn’t bother to look which end I was using (mistake #3), I just swung the rope willy-nilly over her neck (mistake #4), I didn’t think about the fact that this was a 22′ leadrope (mistake #5) and I didn’t consider that something might spook her just as I was about to release the loop around her neck (mistake #6).

You probably recognize the style of leadrope…heavy and long.


Well, I remember grabbing the nearest lead rope, swinging it over her neck.  I remember thinking that I shouldn’t really use this heavy leadrope but she was calm and perfect so I brushed off that thought since a trip to the barn to get a proper leadrope would take another 2 minutes…,  I led her along, not thinking of how I had this contraption around her neck.  Then, I opened the gate for her to go into the next field. I remember her bolting when something unexpected popped out from the bushes.  Instead of her going left, she went right – back into the pasture where I was.  Running.

I saw her rump move away from me and she was about 15′ away when it happened.

I knew I hadn’t been hit by a hoof.  But, I had no idea what hit me.  I was wheeled around so fast and on the ground that I was totally confused.  How did I get here?  Luckily, I saw the ground coming and I put out my arms.  But, when I put out my arms, I saw the blood.  So much blood.

This is what hit me at a very high velocity

I took a second to gain my composure and I closed one eye and then the other.  I could see out of both.  Phew.  OK, but I’m bleeding really badly so I better get help.  However, no one was home here.  Hubby was on a hike in the wilderness with the girls.  No cell service there.

I wobbly-walked out of the arena and towards the back door of the house – I didn’t want to get blood on the carpet, of course.  I passed BG and she looked at me so concerned.  (This morning when I fed her she looked right into my eyes and sniffed my wounds – BEFORE she dove into her food.  Unheardof.)

Once in the mud room, I grabbed a kitchen towel and put it to my head.  I did notice the bloody trail I was leaving everywhere behind me and figured that if I didn’t make it, ANYONE could figure this one out.

Then, I went into the downstairs bathroom to look in the mirror.  Well, I couldn’t see a thing for all the blood.  I swear it was just pouring out and running into my ears, eyes and down my neck.  It even ran into my mouth.  Ugh.  I felt like a vampire.  So, I decided to keep the towel in place and forget about looking.

I went upstairs to get my phone book.  But, I couldn’t read any numbers of neighbors because of the blood.

ANOTHER THING TO REMEMBER:  (duh) Put emergency phone numbers in big black marker somewhere near the phone – or have the speed dial number spelled out somewhere.

Anyway, after misdialing a few times, I found a neighbor who was not at home but in his car several miles away.  He hears the fear in my voice and now I’ve scared the beejeezus out of him – but I have to hang up and call another neighbor.  So I do.  He is home and he rushes over.

In the meantime, I call Hubby and leave a message that I’m going to the ER but I’m fine.  Great.  If I was fine, why was I going to the ER?  I wasn’t thinking too clearly.

Neighbor comes, loads me into his car and cannot hide his horror.  By this time, I have bled through the entire towel and the blood is all over my riding clothes and running down my arm.  He tried to make small talk as he drove faster than a speeding bullet towards the nearest hospital 30 minutes away.  But I could tell that he was scared for me.

As an aside, neighbor asked me to call Hubby and tell him which hospital we were heading towards.  I obliged and as I leaned forward to get my purse in the footwell,  I became Old Faithful.  OMG.  I was spurting like an oil well.  I decided to sit back with my gusher and not move again.

Hubby found what was left of my sunglasses in the arena. Thank God I was wearing them.


I was brought in right away – for obvious reasons… That kinda gore isn’t good for waiting rooms.

I was thrilled to be wisked inside.  I wasn’t too happy to hear terms like “bleeder, gusher, fountain, artery, can’t stop it…” but I was happy to be inside.  They didn’t even triage me.  Straight in.

No one could stop the bleeding because I had cut an artery.  The 7 nurses did their best to assuage the flow while waiting for a surgeon to arrive.  Ugh.  The place looked like a Slasher movie.  After I passed out due to low blood pressure, they wheeled me into the OR and put me under.  Hubby was there by then and took a few nice photos.  During all of that mayhem, I had a CAT scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding or fractures and an EKG to make sure I was OK.

15 stitches later and some massive bruising, I’m A-OK!  I thank my lucky stars that I was wearing sunglasses when it happened or I would have severely damaged my eye.

The real photo is much bigger and graphic but I think you get the idea here…


I think that when she bolted, I held onto the wrong half of the rope.  I held onto the rope part and the halter/big brass bolt part was hanging around her neck.  As she ran away, the bolt was gaining velocity on the opposite side of her neck and running along her flank.  As she shot past the bolt and halter part, it whipped back and smashed me on the right side of my face.

The force of the blow threw my head to the right and my body followed – that is how I ended up on the ground.

The bolt must have hit me vertically instead of horizontally because I am bruised from my eyebrow to my lips.  The inside of my lip is totally purple.  I cannot chew on that side.  And, Hubby thinks he can see the impression of the curved part of the snap in the cut by my nose.

The good part, which one of my dear friends pointed out, with all the swelling it looks like I’ve had a nice filler…  I chuckled.  I wish!

I was leading her like this (my model is Gwen, not BG) by the halter end and a piece of the other side. As she ran away, I think I let the wrong end slide through my fingers until it had completely strung itself out 22′ along her body and then whipped around her and back at me.


Don’t be as foolish as I was!

I’m not saying that using a rope instead of a halter over the neck of a quiet horse is a bad thing.  I’m sure I will still do it.

But, think about what you are doing…  It was so stupid of me to put that heavy bolt and halter over her neck and for me to grab the halter end and the rope together instead of switching the rope around so I had the bolt end in my stationary hand or on the ground.  It was stoopid to not realize what end of the rope I had and didn’t have.  Truthfully, I should never have used that kind of a lead rope to throw over her neck in the first place.  It was too heavy, too long and still had a halter attached.

I should have ‘let go’ when she bolted although I’m not sure that would have done anything to help the trajectory of the heavy brass hook.  I think it was coming my way no matter.

You can see the other half of my glasses about 10 feet away from the arrow indicating where I landed.


So here I sit feeling very, very lucky with yet another medical bill (yes, I am insured, thank God!), a hugely swollen face and a lesson learned…

And, a big Thank You to whatever little voice told me to wear sunglasses instead of a visor on this fateful day.  I’m glad that I listened…

Day 1. I took this photo before I started writing today…  That is a bruise, not a mustache!XXX


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43 comments have been posted...

  1. Bonnie Ebsen Jackson

    Dawn, your piece reminded me of how I always tell my students, “Don’t put your face in harm’s way.” And then came the day when I leaned down to treat my aged gelding’s injured coronet band and he quickly picked his hoof up (to help me, I’m sure) and clocked me in the eye. Also wearing sunglasses, thank God, but I remember not having vision in that eye for a few moments, the trip to the ER and the bruising! Your mishap sounds so much more like a fluke, but I will now be mindful about how I lead horses to and from the pasture. Thanks for that! ?

  2. Ellen Sensel

    I am sooo sorry that you are injured. I will pray for your swift recovery. We all have done the same thing with the lead rope attached to a halter. This is a wake up call for all of us. Thank God for the sunglasses and good neighbors.

  3. Mary Lu Kennedy

    I remember that horrible accident. I can’t believe that it has been so long ago. I have been looking
    forward to reading your stories every morning for a long time. No more accidents!

  4. Dawn Stephens


    I read your column when it was first posted – not long after I had subscribed to your blog. I want to thank you for sharing your experience as many times since then when I throw a lead rope around one of our horses, I think about your accident. I’ve even changed ends of the lead rope a few times when I realized that I had picked up a lead rope with a big, heavy bull trigger snap.

    Thanks for your blog- it’s one of the few emails that I NEVER miss. I’ve tried to blog about our rescue – and hope to master it someday – and it’s HARD WORK to do it every day. Once in awhile it’s fun, but to do it as you do, it’s a gift to all of us who get to read it every morning with our first cup of coffee.

    Thanks again!


  5. Debbie Bebernes~Buckler

    Well… I will have to say, your full lips were the first thing I focused on. Good lesson learned at your expense. Glad you are posting 1 year later and in good health.

  6. Kym Sargent

    ((((Hugs to you Dawn)))) Hope you recover quickly. Thinking of you!

  7. Jody

    WOW! I am so very sorry this happened! I am so glad you are ok and will recover. One good thing though, I and many other people have learned from your booboo. Never even thought of something like this happening. Although When I do this, I usually use bailing twine. No brass and if my horse gets out of hand, I can just let go. Rope burn is a very good possiblity with bailing twine, but they are so light that the slightest pressure of spooking or anything, I would let go. Nothing to loose in baling twine…not like a lead rope that your mind tells you to hang on, you gotta save it, it cost you money, yada yada. Just take it easy and rest. GET WELL!

  8. Donna

    Plus One sends his healing thoughts your way girl…. What an Aweful way to get a reminder of Safety First. Take Care of YOU.

  9. michelle

    OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just came upon this today! I’m so sorry! What a reminder to ME to be aware around my horsey critters. Shit girl. Take care of yourself.

  10. rose

    So you’ve had horses forever, you weren’t on a horse when this happened and were not in any way annoying the horse when it happened. This wasn’t a horse incident it was a rope incident! We need some rope lessons “Making your Rope a part of the Herd” ” Teaching Your Rope to Stand While Tied” ..

    Hope you feel better soon

  11. Vicky

    First time comment, long time reader.
    Thanks for posting this, what a wake up call, I have done the same thing before. (And I know better). Hope you feel better and get well soon.

  12. Sue

    This is the first time that I have seen your blog. My trainer sent it out to her students. I was once complacent and tried mounting bareback without a helmet. Without a lot of detail, I couldn’t get my leg over his back and he started slowly walking, so I decided to drop back down. I fell very hard to the right and slammed my head down. The result was a subdural hematoma, a borehole in my skull to drain blood, and a lengthy recovery( I should have stock in the hospital). I now wear my helmet anytime I get on my horse. I must say, I didn’t look nearly as beat up as you do. Hope the pain is under control and you have fast healing. I will register for your blog. Thanks.

  13. peg

    Glad you’re gonna be ok,but you’ll scare small children (and adults ) for a while..
    Good thing you weren’t knocked out..

  14. Robbin

    Wow! What a doozie! I have to admit I snickered a couple of times while reading this, and wouldn’t have minded seeing the up close gore. I’m glad you’re okay though -it could have ended up way worse!

  15. Carol

    OHHHHHH Dawn! You must be in SO much pain! I wish it was not at your expense, but a big thanks for the reminder that even the “perfect” horse is still a horse. Hope you heal quickly!

    Maybe titanium frames for your next pair of sunglasses :)

  16. Nadine

    Oh my, I do this all the time with whatever is handiest. Never again, I send you cosmic aspirin to make you feel better.

  17. Lorraine

    I was shocked to see that first of image of you looking so brutalized. Thank you for a timely reminder – I am sure that I have done the exact same thing many times over – fortunately, without having your results. I won’t any more though.

    I am very glad that you managed to survive with your sense of humour intact – albeit a trifle bruised perhaps.

    Well wishes – get better quick :)

  18. Pete O.

    Geez, where do I start? First, let me just say, I am glad you are OK, considering. A friend of mine passed me your blog, and this is the first thing I see when I visit. It just so happens I just created a blog which focuses on Horseback Rider Safety. http://www.BeyondNatural.wordpress.com
    I am in the medical profession and I see too many horsemen left in the dirt. Too many…Anyway, you mentioned “complacent, lazy, over-confident” in your article, and I completely agree with you. I learned that complacency has hurt people in the Aviation (26 years) biz, and it will do the same with horses as well. I appreciate you “coming clean” with your experience. I learned something from it. Too many horsemen would understate it, or blame the horse. As a side note, I am not sure the glasses really helped. Unless they are really shatter proof, I am glad shards did not go in your eye.

  19. Ronnie

    OMG! I do so much enjoy your blog – lurking here, reading – but you have prompted me to write – OMG! Glad you are ok – in a relative sense. Could have been better, could have been much worse!

    Horses move 4 times faster than people – in a literal blink of your eye lid, $h!t can happen. My four don’t wear halters nor do I use ropes. I open gates and point.

    Please get better soon!! I look forward to your missives everyday! xox


  20. Susie

    Oh I am so sorry to hear that this happened Dawn. I hope you feel better soon!

  21. Janie

    Holy Moly,Dawn! OUCH!! How awful. Wow — so glad you had those glasses on! Take care and feel better soon. Your blog is great!

  22. Darla

    OMG Dawn! I’m glad you’re ok….well…sort of ok…. you get the gist. Holy crap. I’m glad it wasn’t worse. But I’m sorry it happened at all! I hope you feel better soon. I can only imagine the headache you must have. =(

  23. May

    I made the unfortunate decision to read this post while enjoying my morning bowl of cereal. I really need to work on getting a stronger tummy…. urp! Feel better soon, my friend.

  24. Barbara

    Oh wow. That is one mean looking brass clip. You’re so lucky that you were not knocked out with that artery bleeding like that. Take care and hope you feel better soon. I get lazy and walk two out at a time, both with halters and leads but when I walk both it seems that they both lose their ground mannors and rush and pull. It’s had a few scary moments, but yet I still do it. I will safety first after seeing this.

  25. Becky Jeffrey

    Very Happy You Are OK!!
    Just the other day I was being complacent around my horse, cleaning stall with him in it when the horse next door spooked so he spooked nothing bad happened almost landed in the muck tub though. I said to myself no more but guess what the next day I did the same thing.

  26. Linda Horn

    I sure wasn’t expecting to see THIS when I opened your email. You’re one lucky lady! I know facial cuts bleed like heck, but it’s serious business when an artery is involved. Glad you’re on the mend.

    I’ve worked with that snap (not a knock-off, but a genuine “you know who”), and was told it would break under pressure. Used it on a gelding that decided one day he didn’t feel like being tied. He backed up hard, hit the the ground with his butt and continuing to use all his weight to get loose. I kept waiting for the snap to break, but it never did. I was about to cut the lead when he finally gave up and calmed down. Makes me wonder how “horse safe” they really are.

  27. Casey O'Connor

    Hay you – dang! I’m glad you came out of it ok, but take some time to recover – you’ve got blood to rebuild! I’d also get to see my chiropractor too if I were you – I’m sure your neck has whiplash! And be prepared, you’ll look at lot worse before you’re better – ugh! Poor baby. I’m so impressed you could write about this so quickly – I’d still be in fetal position, whimpering!

  28. Mary

    Wow, so glad you are doing okay. What a frightening thing to have happen. And a good reminder to always be alert. I is so easy to be complacent around the “easy” ones. I don’t think any one who has worked
    with horses, has not fallen into the “sokay” mind set. Hope the pain is bareable and you get to feel human
    again soon.
    I so enjoy your blog :-)

  29. Sharon

    Dawn, how horrible, glad you’re going to be okay, happy to read that somehow you’ve retained your sense of humor, don’t know what I’d do if you stopped writing cuz I LOVE your blog….obviously you were very lucky and this serves as a reminder about how quickly bad things can happen. We should be ever viligiant with our horses, but it’s so easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when handling a “good” horse.

    What would all your beloved horses do without you????

    You look like crap! (((Hugs)))

  30. JM Friedman

    Sorry this had to happen to you, but you’re sure not alone. I’ve never seen a clip like that one, and I’m glad I haven’t got any. I’ve been hit in the face once or twice with a standard bull clip when I was dumb enough to throw the wrong end of the rope over the horse’s neck. Just pulling it free was enough to get me a nice cut on my cheek. Thanks for sharing this reminder. It’s not wasted!

  31. Kitty Bo

    Wow, thank you for the wake up. I sometimes lead horses w/ an old lead rope that still has the brass but not the clip. Sometimes it has come back to bite me when I pull the rope of the neck. I’m gonna cut that sucker off and only use a straight rope, although after getting whacked a few times, I do try to make sure the brass is on my side and not the far side. Prayers for a quick recovery! Glad you survived and had on the glasses.

  32. Maggie

    Like I told my dentist after my little horse accident, “If you mess with horses, sooner or later, they are going to mess with you”. I hope you are feeling better. But, I know it will be a little while before all the sorness goes away. Be careful out there. Hugs.

  33. Nancy V.

    OMG! I m so sorry to hear this. Crap just seems to happen with horses. And I am guilty too. Just this morning, I moved one of my horses the exact same way, only difference is that my halter/lead combo has no snap. I never could have imagined this scenario. Got me thinking how easily a wreck could happen if his feet had gotten tangled in the dangling rope halter. Glad you are OK.
    I hope you heal quickly.

  34. D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

    Thank Horse Goddess you are going to be OK – and thank you, too, for your self-effacing humor in rather dire circumstances! I so enjoy your posts, even the ones with gorey pictures…

  35. sue tyrkus

    Ouch…hope you’re feeling better soon.

    Have done the same thing myself, with the same 22′ lead line, no stitches though! Those brass clips are HEAVY!!

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