After school and on Saturdays, I used to walk across the road to the farm of a family friend to ride their Welsh pony named Spirit. After my mother died, Mrs. B. was a second mother to me, and I was always loved and welcomed at their house. They liked me to ride Spirit because it helped to keep her tame. She didn't like to be caught in the field, and she was highly spirited when you were riding her, sometimes bucking or turning around in circles. But she and I had a rapport, and I knew how to put my arm around her head and gently slip the bit into her mouth and the bridle over her ears. Most of the fight was gone by then, and she stood still while I put the saddle on her.
After the third day of school, I had gone for a ride, but I
noticed when taking off the saddle that I had put it on too tight and
it had pinched Spirit's skin. "Sorry about that," I told my sweet
steed. So on this, the fourth day of the new school year, I made the
cinch a little bit looser. Debbie B. saddled up Satan, their feisty red
Shetland pony, and I was on Spirit. We decided to ride up Saltsburg
Road and enjoy the beautiful fall day. We were trotting along just fine
when, suddenly, Satan broke into a gallop and passed Spirit, which made
her break into a gallop because she wanted to be in the lead. Oops! I
felt the saddle slipping around Spirit's belly, and that's the last
thing I can remember. My head hit the pavement, and I was knocked
unconscious. Fortunately I fell in front of Mrs. I.'s home, and she was
trained as a registered nurse before she retired to become a wife and
mother, so she took care of me and had someone call an ambulance.
The ambulance took me to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh
where I lay unconscious for 24 hours with a fractured skull. They
didn't know if I would wake up. When I did, I had a splitting headache
from splitting my head open! The doctor said, "Due to the part of your
head that was injured, we didn't know if you would be able to hear or
talk. You are staying in the hospital for one to two weeks." All week I
lay in bed at Children's with a terrible headache. Every night after I
finally managed to fall asleep, the nurse would come in and wake me up
to take my temperature by sticking a thermometer in my rear end. At age
14! After one week in the hospital, my dad said he couldn't afford to
keep me there any longer because it was too expensive, and he was
retired at the time. The hospital bill for that week was $600.
"I will release her, but she must stay home in bed for at
least one week. If she feels up to it, she can go back to school, but
no gym class for six weeks. I'll give her a note."
"Roseann," the doctor said, "you are not to ride a horse for one
year, and, in the future, you must wear a helmet when you ride a
Primarily because I did not want to wear a helmet, I never rode Spirit again.