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Trail Ride Scare

Published: 9/15/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

I ride alone.  I wear a ballcap as a helmet.
I know I’m stupid.
I take precautions, honest: I let my family know where and when I’m going. I usually carry a cell phone. And a knife
Read First Aid kit and additional safety tip article here.
Read Large Animal Rescue article here.
Review Safety-related articles here.

But even when we're cautious, things can happen when you hit the trails with your friendly half-ton companion.
Here’s a nightmare for us to contemplate. The account was sent to me from Kathleen Hagerty from Serenity Mountain Stables in Augusta.  Thankfully, it ended on a positive note.
Thanks, Kathleen!
From Kathleen Hagerty:
This is what happened to me yesterday on trails in that are marked for horses. Please feel free to share with others so they are aware of these bridges.

My beloved Will fell on an unsafe bridge yesterday, on the Androscoggin trails in Turner. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me on a horse in my entire life, it was just like one of those things you see on TV and watch in horror.
There are bridges there unsafe for horses. My precious Will is lucky to be alive today. Thank you, God! His hind foot slid through an opening causing him to fall to his side in a ditch with his leg twisted underneath him, his hind quarters up on the bridge and the rest of him in the ditch. He lay there helpless but thankfully, he did not thrash around.
There were four of us riding. One person called 911. The other gathered the horses and tied them, then went to his head to talk to him and the other person tried to find something to unwedge his foot.
Of course, you think we’ll need a saw, screwdriver or some tool to be able to cut this board. I know time is of the essence. I kept trying to unwedge his foot. Because of the torque from his body being in the ditch it seemed impossible. At that moment, I’m thinking, “my horse's leg has got to be broken… I must free him somehow.”
I was able to move it a little and then my hand got wedged in with his foot. When I felt totally helpless and no one would have been able to get to us in time to save my horse, this great strength came over me and I was able to wiggle and free his foot.
He laid there for a few moments and then we were all holding our breathe as he got up.
Thank God he put weight on this leg and moved.
Just as we started to walk our horses out by foot he nudged me as if to say, “Thanks Mom.”
The following day:
I can tell you this I'm still shaken today. I just look out in my pasture to keep an eye on my best friend. Will is so happy and loves life. He is a 20 year old Tennessee Walking Horse with the biggest heart ever, takes care of all his riders.
He was so trusting and just laid there waiting for me to save him.

I keep seeing his innocent face laying on the ground as I struggled and struggled to get his foot free. We all were shocked when he finally stood up on all fours. The other thought that crossed my mind is the 911 call.
How the heck are they going to know where we are? We were pretty far into the trail. I feel that there needs to be signs posted on that trail warning about the bridges, we also passed one where one of the boards were broken by something walking over it. The opening my horse’s foot went through was so narrow you would say that could not have possibly happened but it did.

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9/15/2010 Michelle R
Thank god the writer and her horse were ok! i worry about the same thing happening up here. we have acess to the four wheeler trail system *with their permission* and they have bridges that crosses streams that we cannot cross as they are unsafe.they are soo old that they look unsafe, i'm not about to test it with my horse.
9/15/2010 Kathie Tuck
Last year some of us were up riding and we talked with the wardens that were there. They asked if there were any concerns about the trails. We told them about the unsafe bridges and what they could do to make them safe for the horses. They told us they would be fixed. I guess they need to be reminded.Glad you and your Big Boy are O.K. You should report it.
9/16/2010 Kathleen
Kathie, are you talking about the same trails? If so I'm going to really push that they either fix them or warn people. Michelle, there is a group that can help make the bridges safe: Check out Maine Equestrian Trails dot org
9/17/2010 robin
I had a somewhat similiar experience. The spaces between the boards were very, very narrow and I got off my horse to lead her across. She got about half way over and realized she could see between the boards and she panicked and jumped off the side of the bridge..YIKES! She only ended up with a few minor scratches, but it could have been a disaster. I felt so STUPID for even leading her across. But I learned my lesson... NEVER, EVER again will I cross a bridge that has ANY space between the boards no matter what.
9/29/2010 Elisabeth Taliento Zappala
Wow Kathleen! I am grateful that you and Will are both could have been killed. I know how much you love your boy...We need to pull together and get these bridges safe and also posted properly...
11/3/2010 Curious...
My only question is: why take your horse over a bridge that you deem unsafe before you even begin to cross it? Just because the trail is marked for horses doesnt mean it is actually safe for them. Alot of the people that mark off these trails arent even horsemen and women, and cant accurately judge a trail for rider safety. Im very happy that noone got seriously hurt, but as riders, its our job to make the right decision, and not put our lives and the lives of our beloved companions in danger.
11/10/2010 Molly Stark
In 2009, Morris -my quarter horse who hates bridges reluctantly, but trusting in me, began crossing a very long bridge at Bradbury Mountain - Yup, his hind foot fell through bout halfway. We were able to keep going and we notified the park staff immediately about the bridge situation (all the bridges needed work) - we haven't ridden there since becuase the bridges are really not built for horses - people, bikes etc; not horses: What about META - Maine Equine Trail Alliance? Thats what they specialize in, should there be an inquiry in to team up with all us equine people and see what can be done?
12/5/2010 Vicki
there was a time a long long time ago that i was out on trails that were for horses only...they actually were carriage trails.... and the horse that i was on fell through the bridge....both hind legs and as we fell in broke another board with my back....thank god they were carriage trails therefore the ambulance was able to get to me.... my horse thankfully just had a few scratches...i on the other hand was very very sore for about a month or so....the dr's at first though i might have broke my back....thankfully just pulled muscles and tendons.....

"It is the hardest pill for all of us would-be horsemen to swallow, but it is absolutely true - if the horse is not responding properly, we are doing something wrong" - Mary Twelveponies