Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Monday, June 18, 2018

One year ago, I guess I could have died...or worse

Sometimes what could have happened is worse than what did happen. Either way, accidents and their aftermath play with your head.

One year ago, it was a beautiful June day, and after working in the morning, I saddled Boone up for a quick trail ride. I was excited to go back to a trail we had been given permission to ride on, one I had only discovered a week before. It was a well groomed woodland trail leading about a mile or so down to one of the many water bodies here in Bremen.

I remember as I rode off from the drive, feeling like it had been a productive morning, and the ride would be great, and I had ideas in my head to get back to once in the studio.

We rode down the trail. I remember seeing a yellow butterfly dart out in front of me, and I said out loud,

"Joanne, is that you?"

Joanne was my riding buddy, friend and mentor from Oregon, who died shortly before, at the age of 85. Looking back, I think it's interesting I called out to her. I wonder now if she was there with me and maybe she helped me in ways I can't fathom.

We rode all the way down to the water, for the first time, and then headed back. At some point, I asked Boone to canter. I am not a risk taker in riding, I love to canter, but since I had walked and trotted most of the new trail all the way down to the water, I felt safe knowing the path enough to do a slow canter. At some point, nearing the edge of where we had entered the wood, I knew there was a slight incline, very, very slight, but with some slippery ledge rock, so I thought to myself,

Time to walk.

And that was it.

The next thing I remember was being in a daze, trying to figure out where I was. I had no idea. I had my helmet, and phone, my face was bloody and 1/2 of my glasses were gone. Boone was gone too. I don't remember it, but it turns out I had called Martyn six times in a row, and when I was at the hospital, he let me listen to the messages. I wanted to hear them for any clues of what really happened. They were heartbreaking to listen to. I was so scared, each message I was telling Martyn I was lost, that I could not tell which way to go. Somehow, I went the right way. I kept telling him I was scared. I was crying. I asked him to come find me. The poor guy was trying to piece the messages together while at work, and figure out what to do.

The messages lasted 20 minutes.

At some point, I found my way out of the forest, and I hung up on Martyn. I sort of remember knocking on the door but no one was there. I do remember calling 911 at that point, and I remember I couldn't tell them where I was, but I said I lived in Bremen, and I was close to my house. They pinned me and within minutes were there.

I still don't know really what happened. Boone was a cow pony in his early years, and was trained to stop on a dime if you gave even a minuscule infliction with your hips forward. I think as I came down into my saddle transitioning out of the canter, I threw him into a halt, and I lost my balance. People have their theories- a bug stung him, an animal flew out... I had no bruises, and I bruise so easily, my pants weren't scuffed, my hands weren't cut. Boone had a few scuffs on his legs, but that was it. The fact my glasses broke at the nose bridge says my face smashed into his neck, or his neck flew up as he tried to right himself.

I wish I knew. I wish Boone could tell me- he left the scene, at which point I don't know, and made his way towards the farm, only about 1 mile down the road. The fact he didn't get hit on the busy road, or get caught in the reins...it all could have been so much worse.

I had major bleeding all around my brain and was in hospital for two days, but I didn't need surgery. When they refused to let me go home, and said I couldn't eat or drink since I might need surgery, that's when I started to worry.  Recovery was slow, but I was lucky. To this day,  if I am stressed, I can forget words, or get 'stuck' while talking, almost stuttering.

It has effected me. It's easy to say get back in the saddle. And I did, about 6 weeks later. I don't know if I will ever canter again on a trail, which saddens me, but maybe I will. We have had a hard time finding riding buddies, and I miss Joanne. Martyn and I have talked about making a small corral for me so I can keep riding, safely, and still do trails but keep Boone and me in shape together. We worked through so many things in our beginning relationship, I don't want to lose that.

It changed me, it changed my perspective on lots of things. It was traumatic, it was like being so out of control. I think the part I remember the best, is standing in the forest after I came too, and I could not tell which way was the right way to turn. One way led a mile or more down into the wood, the other was probably about 50 feet from the exit of the woods. It all looked scary and deep. The fall also has changed my relationship with The Wood. I see The Wood as an entity, which I always did, but I see it more as a force that has its own motives when I'm in it, not a partner. This is something I think I will work through.

But mainly, I am grateful I didn't die, or Boone didn't, that nothing was broken, that except for some minor things I am the same physically. I still have pain in my inner thigh from it.

Life can change in a second. After the accident, it seemed every where I looked there was evidence of that. I have friends that have taken bad falls, one friend lost her beloved husband of 52 to a seizure and then a fall down stairs. I think about falling and the dangers of it more, and of Martyn or anyone falling and the consequences.

The pundits will say you have to go forward and not get stuck. Not fear. Good for them. How many have had brain injury before, or fell off their horse and had The Wood take over? These are my shoes. I think in many ways I'm still recovering. I was going to ride on this anniversary, but decided not to. I don't know if that is fear. I just didn't want to. I will ride this week.

I told someone I know Boone knows the story. But they wisely said,

"Maybe not, maybe he doesn't want to remember it either, his leader fell, that was scary for him too."

I always wondered what Boone would do if I fell on a trail and was hurt. I like to think he didn't bolt, he is not a bolter. But that he sniffed me, and thought,

"Well she isn't going to be leading me today, think I'll go check out that grass." I'm proud that he calmly wandered towards home, and the women found him and cared for him in their yard before another friend came and got him. He was calm, and stoic.

SO, Boone and i are now in our 11th year together, he is 20, I am 60. We are still together and will be, we will just work through this, we've had some casual rides this month and all was well. I am not scared when I ride, I'm just not the same...yet. Time will strengthen my memory, and it will be okay.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~