Getting Back on The Horse: Equine Related Traumatic Brain Injuries Part 1

I want to paint a picture for you all, and then I am going to share two stories of incredible women over the next two weeks. These women have something very similar in common and have some advice they would like to share with you all regarding equine related traumatic brain injuries. I am sure most of us have taken a bad fall from a horse, or know someone who has been involved in a bad wreck. For most, we suffer some mental bruises, and perhaps a loss of confidence, maybe even some scrapes or broken bones. But for others, the internal damage can be far worse than what meets the eye. Traumatic brain injuries occur when an external force impacts your brain. Equine related accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries. 

Here is how I was first introduced to traumatic brain injuries in 2015. I was driving down to Southern California to start my new job working as an assistant horse trainer. I was fresh-faced college graduate, with my whole life ahead of me. I got a call that a good friend from college who had started her training career just a few days earlier than I, was in a coma due to a horse related accident. Looking back, I am glad that I had my better half driving the truck at the time because I’m not sure I would’ve had the ability to finish my drive. That’s not a call anyone wants to hear, it defiantly put life into perspective for me. I was driving into the unknown, literally; I was pursuing a career and passion that I could spend a lifetime building and it could all be taken away in an instant. 

Kate Kempston showing off her turnaround skills on a UF Reiner.

Kate Kempston was that young woman whom I received that call about. She was 21 at the time of the accident. We had attended The University of Findlay together, completing degrees in Western Equestrian Studies. Her story begins like this “I graduated on May 2nd, 2015. A few days later I started my job down in Mississippi, working for a reining trainer. I had my accident after working for four days on May 9th. I don’t remember it, and no one saw it. I was riding a horse in the outdoor arena and my boss’s wife was in the barn. She’s the one who looked out and saw me on the ground. Both the horse and I were covered in dirt on our left sides so we are assuming that he reared and fell over on me and I hit my head, too hard. I suffered a Severe Traumatic Brain Injury. Outwardly, I had two bruises and one scrape.” Kate did not have many wounds externally, but her internal injuries left her in a coma for about a week. 

Previous to the accident Kate had been riding for about 9 years, she was definitely no stranger to horses. Even after her accident, she retained the passion for horses. It did not take her long to want to get back on the horse literally and figuratively. Kate has always had an outstanding enthusiasm for horses and life. When the going got tough, Kate seems to smile wider and keep pushing forward; and with this curve ball life threw her, it was no different. In 3 short months, Kate was on horseback again. I wanted to know what advice would Kate have for those who are perhaps going through something similar and might need some advice for getting back on the horse. She had this to say “I’m not just going to tell you to get back on. For me, it’s what I love and I wasn’t going to give it up. If it’s something you’re willing to give up, not because of fear, then give it up, I guess. That is, if fear isn’t involved. If it’s about fear, don’t give up. Find someone with a safe older horse and get on! Just remember, breathe.”  

Next week I will be sharing Jessica Hedges’ story and her experience with traumatic brain injury. I recently connected with her for the Cowboy Poetry blog, if you haven’t checked out that blog, please do. 

Till next week! 

-Emily Bomgardner

For more information on traumatic brain injuries please visit:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4142722/
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/horse-riding-leading-sport-related-traumatic-brain-injuries/story?id=38090435

LifestyleFarhaan Thawer