Getting Back on The Horse: Equine Related Traumatic Brain Injuries Part 2

Last week I introduced traumatic brain injuries and told the story of my classmate Kate whom suffered a severe TBI due to a horse related accident. This week I would like to share Jessica Hedges story. She is a cowboy poet, mother to 2 buckaroos in training, and a day working cowboy. Sound familiar? I originally connected with Jessica through the cowboy poetry blog I wrote a few weeks ago. Jessica’s story began with being bucked off a colt and a kicked in the head. She suffered what is known as a shear injury, “a type of Traumatic Brain Injury where your head bounces around inside your skull (think shaken baby syndrome).” For Jessica, her symptoms post incident where issues to her vision, damage to nerves, and a lot of fatigue. She also sustained slap tears in her right shoulder from not letting go of her rope once she was bucked off. 

Jessica proves that a lady can really do it all, even from the back of a horse.

Like Kate, Jessica has been riding for years, about 10 to be exact. Being a day working cowboy she spends a significant amount of time in the saddle. And riding was not something she was willing to give up. “I first got on a horse 4 weeks after my accident. I use the word riding loosely as I had to get on with a stool, learn to use my legs to cue, and was off in about 10 minutes. The neuro surgeon has released me for more, so it’s just a game of slowly building up and working around January weather. I'm now getting on unassisted, trotting, and figuring out how to rope again.” I was interested to know what kind of therapy one goes through after suffering such an injury. Jessica shared this: “I currently do some sort of physical therapy and walking (weather permitting) daily. I do the word searches, Sudoku, and adult coloring books suggested for my brain daily, multiple times if I can. I try to dummy rope a couple times a week, learning how it feels with my shoulder now. I try to go out a couple times a week to brush mud off the ponies because it’s good for my right shoulder but more importantly, my heart. Horses can be the best medicine!” I believe it was Winston Churchill who stated that “there’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” These words have never been more true! 

For many of us, we don’t think much of saddling up and hoping on our horses. But imagine if you had to relearn something that had been like second nature for almost a decade? Both of these incredible women had to relearn some of the basics that most of take for granted.

Furthermore, they learned some valuable lessons about horses and life that I think we can all benefit from. 

For Kate, it was about perspective. “I was in a wheelchair but I regained my ability to walk within two months. I had to relearn how to walk, talk, use my left hand, and a million other things but, I have relearned them, and I’m doing well.” 

For Jessica, it was about letting go of the little things and focusing on appreciating what you have. “It's made me realize how blessed I am. It’s made me more focused on my family, thankful for good horses and that much more hungry to cowboy again. God puts desires on your heart for a reason so do not weaken. Progress can be slow, but if you are chasing dreams, the work is always worth it. Quit worrying about other people, don't sweat the small things, and do your thing in your time!”. 

I hope the stories from these two incredible women can help raise awareness about traumatic brain injuries, but also help all of us appreciate each day we have. In addition to helping us appreciate the impressive beasts that we climb aboard every day. 

-Emily Bomgardner

LifestyleFarhaan Thawer