PTSD & riding

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When I broke my arm, I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep eventing.

It was a serious, “what am I doing” moment for sure.

I considered selling everyone,

Except Baby T-Rex of course

because she really is the perfect horse.

I imagined taking her on trail rides,

sleeping on her extra wide back in the sun……

Maybe going on the occasional fox hunt.

The rest could all be top eventers for someone else & I’d keep the one I raised myself & who is by far “the safest.”

I thought about it.

While the physical therapist was testing out her sadism on my shoulder I thought about it some more.

I wasn’t even allowed to run while my arm healed so I bought a stationary bike……..

and for the record there is very little exercise in the world I loathe more than a stationary bike…….

I still remember when the surgeon said,”you can ride a stationary bike. NOT A REGULAR BIKE! Only a stationary bike.”

So after nearly dying of boredom pedaling & going no where, finally going for an actual run & then finally getting on a horse was a huge relief.

That is……

until I went to school XC & there was a skinny chevron standing in the way calling my name.

A skinny chevron was the “scene of the crime” when I got broken.

I’m fairly certain the first time I jumped one after the accident I had my eyes closed.


I eventually managed to jump one

and then a skinnier one & then a skinnier one still……

Then I finally got to my first show at the same level – you know – the same level I got broken at…….

And jump 6

was a skinny chevron.

As I walked up to it I thought

Maybe not such a good idea………

Then I told The Fearless Leader I planned to trot the chevron.

You know, at Intermediate.

on cross country…

I’m pretty sure all I got in response to that declaration was an eyeroll.

But seriously,

How do you get over the post traumatic stress when coming back from a big accident?

Art by Tegan Henderson

Well here it goes.

1. Don’t try to pick up where you left off.

I didn’t come back out & jump around at Intermediate the first time.

First we did stressage flat work for months.

Then we schooled beginner Novice.

And when that went well…..

Next outing we hopped some Novice fences but definitely NO skinnies!

Then we did training level ……

Then we jumped around at Preliminary……

And when it seemed like it made sense we moved back up to Intermediate.

Stephanie Burns wrote an entire book on getting over fears called Move Closer Stay Longer if you want to delve into this technique.

2. There was a female racehorse jockey who was coming back from a serious accident. They did an interview with her about her come back & they asked her how she got over the PTSD. She said, it sounds silly but the therapist told her when she went to the start gate to just say one word over & over that she could focus on. Something like, “Straight!”

And it worked.

My version of that is to count strides & focus on what I should be doing. Sit! Down!1, 2, 3!

3. And sometimes……. you just need to go blow bubbles.

Seriously. Try it.


And a special shout out to the BadEventer fans I met today at the LandRover Kentucky 3 Day that inspired this blog.

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