Tomorrow (Thursday 12th May) will be the fourth anniversary of the worst day of my life – and I’ve got the scars to prove it.
I’m usually upbeat and put the past behind me, forgetting about what went wrong, but this day will forever stick in my memory.
It started as a normal Saturday morning; my motley crew of helpers bouncing into the feed room, making enough noise to raise the dead, and clearing any hangover I may have had. I drove them up the road in the decrepit Land Rover to catch the school ponies before mucking out.
It was one of those days when extra clients turn up, horses aren’t quite right, and instructors are late or absent. Tensions ran high on the yard and at one point another member of staff started shouting at me, much to Otis’s chauffeur’s horror (I think he was fixing something in my stable). The helpers took umbridge on my part as only teenagers can, but I remember getting to lunchtime feeling exhausted and abused.
I wound myself up for the homeward stretch of the day; the clear up. Half of us turned out one set of horses who had finished their lessons, whilst my half swept the barn from the bottom up. It was going to be a late finish, I knew that already. At 4.30 or just after I led the next turnout up the road. We dropped off one of the horses I was leading in the mares field and then continued to the furthest field. The two geldings I had were very calm but I made everyone bring their horses in through the gate, turn them around and let them off on my command. Obviously I couldn’t let go of both of mine simultaneously so I let go of the little, ancient pony first, assuming it would take him a while to turn around, so I could whip off the head collar of the warmblood.
The kids let go of their ponies safely, but my ancient grey pony decided to gallop off! Which meant the warmblood also decided to, before I’d let him go. Unfortunately the lead role ran through my hand and then the knot at the end caught my finger, and I heard a large crack as I cried out.
The only boy helper I had sprinted off to retrieve the horse and headcollar, whilst I went very white. I didn’t look at my hand, but got all of the kids into the Land Rover that had just pulled up and sat in the front seat. I was joined by the headcollar saviour, and on the way back to the yard he told my friend what had happened.
Only then did I look at my hand. My right ring finger was twisted into my palm, forty five degrees from normal, and swelling rapidly around the base of that finger.
Back at the yard I was deposited in the cafe with some ice on my hand before several first aiders declared that it was broken and I needed to go to the hospital. So I was moved into the office, which thankfully was pretty empty because it was nearly closing time. I rang my uncle. “Can you come and pick me up please?” Was all I said, much to everyone’s surprise. Of course he would come, he didn’t need a reason. And besides, if I’d explained I may well have cried!
When he arrived we set off to the hospital for the long Saturday evening wait. Eventually I was x-rayed and could see that my finger was broken in no more than three places – a multiple spiral fracture to be precise. So that finger was carefully bound up to the middle finger and I was sent home to wait for surgery.
I think I spent the next four days in a codeine induced sleep and then on the following Wednesday went into hospital to have my finger pinned. My first experience of hospitals.
From the operation I had a ginormous bandage one, and when that was removed a week later, I had a bionic hand! A specially moulded splint fitted into my palm to protect the finger, whilst still allowing me to start physiotherapy to make sure I regained all the use of my finger.
Thankfully only the scars of the keyhole surgery and the fact that finger gets colder and stiffer than others in winter, remind me of the injury. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, especially when people say “you only broke a finger” when actually it was closer to a hand break, but I count myself lucky that it’s the only bone I’ve ever broken and my only encounter with hospitals. I won’t keep hold of a horse if he tries to leg it though!