By Mackenzie Shuman
My day started off like any normal IEA show morning. Got up at the crack of dawn to drive myself and four other IEA girls to the show to tack up the morning horses. The show was going super smoothly until I heard that there were burgers down at the barn for lunch.
Following my stomach like I always do, I headed down. However, I never got to eat that delicious, juicy, burger that was waiting for me. Instead, I went into a stall to help untack a horse. As I was undoing the girth, a gust of wind blew through the stall and rattled a door.
Long story short, I ended up on the ground after being kicked once on my upper left thigh and once on the left side of my stomach. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such pain.
I owe my life to one of the barn mothers who, ignoring the appointed EMT at the show, took me straight to the emergency room at St. Francis Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was given a series of tests and after some fun CT scan time, the doctor said my spleen was “shattered” and I signed the papers to be admitted into emergency surgery for a splenectomy.
I can’t really say that I miss my spleen. I know it was important for fighting off infections and keeping an extra liter or so of blood. But, other than that, my body functions quite normally now. My recovery in the hospital took five nights of pressing the morphine button, getting asked how I was every few hours by diligent nurses, and trying to keep down the broth and Jell-O they gave me.
Lucky for my friends, they got to visit me while I was doped up and super funny (apparently). From what I can remember, I told a story that I had been attacked by a tiger in Africa (where tigers don’t exist which baffles me), and I danced to the beeping of the machines I was hooked up to.
All humor aside, I was visited by my trainer, Lorelei Cudney. She brought not only her daughter who hugged and cried with me, but also the sportsmanship award for Zone 8 IEA and posters filled with notes and signatures from dozens of IEA riders and trainers whom I had never met.
I don’t think I’ve ever cried that hard before. The kindness displayed in those notes was extremely humbling and showed me that I had a huge system of support to help me get through this small scratch. Still to this day, I am awestruck at the so many good hearts and souls who signed those posters, as well as those who sent me endless cards, flowers, and treats.
My recovery was not easy by any means. I wanted to get back in the saddle the day after the surgery. But instead, it took me quite a bit longer to even walk down the hall of the hospital. Once discharged, I spent my nights sleeping on the upstairs couch because that’s where I could be closest to the fridge. Thanks to my parents who made me walk laps around the kitchen to regain strength, I was soon vying to get out to the barn just to pet a horse because I was having major withdrawals.
I know what you’re thinking: why on earth would you want to go back out to the barn to see horses when one had just literally kicked your guts out? It was my instinct, my passion, and my escape. The barn is a happy place for me, and I certainly was not going to let a small bump in the road detain me from experiencing that happiness.
After weeks of hard and tedious recovery, I got back on a horse. While yes, I do now have more of a healthy respect for those four little hooves, my experience will never stop me from loving and cherishing every moment with horses.