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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

October 3, 2011

Tragedy at the Yellowhammer

Link below:

YellowHammer on ridecamp

First my sincere condolences to the family of the 55 year old woman who died on the trail this past weekend at Yellowhammer.  Thoughts as well to the junior she was sponsoring.  Such a sad and helpless situation to be where there is a need for lifesaving help, on a remote trail.  I've been through a similar situation where help did not come in time,  with a futile attempt at resuscitation, and those experiences sure stick with you.  As riders we place ourselves in this situation frequently and it could happen to any one of us.  Especially we in the over 50 age group.  I had a very close call last summer in the heat when I was thrown off by Phebes and she ran off.  It could have turned out badly, as it was I was dizzy, disoriented, vomiting, and near passing out from heat exhaustion which could quickly have turned the page to something more dangerous. Nobody knew I was out in the woods.  I was stupid, stupid, stupid.

Distance riders take a lot of risks.  We often must out of necessity train alone.  The increasing age census of riders places us all at even greater risk.  What can we do? What should we do?

  • Make sure we are physically fit.   Those who regularly do 50 mile rides are probably the fitter of us as compared to the LD riders.  Why do I say that?  Because I hit a physical wall at 25 miles of posting the trot.  And those unfit for 50 are more inclined to shoot for the shorter distance.  In my mind that is only half-way for an endurance ride.  If I cannot easily complete a 25-30 mile I have no business attempting a longer distance until I can get myself "fit enough" to do so.  My intentions are always good thinking I'm going to complete a fitness program.  I start, but I don't hang with it.  I set at a desk all day, and I'm probably a high risk rider setting myself up for an on trail incident if I don't do something about it.
  • Carry identification and health information on your person.  List what ails you, what drugs you are taking, your doctors name and phone number, and at least two emergency contacts.
  • Carry a few emergency supplies in a pouch on your person.  Bottle of water (or sports drink), aspirin (might keep you alive with a mild heart attack), some electrolytes, and if you have blood sugar issues a piece of fruit.
  • On ridecamp someone mentioned SPOT having a 911 option that allows you to be located in the event of an emergency.  That would be step one, but still, if you are are in deep stuff.  Someone has to get to you and get you out, and get your horse out. Having a buddy network for training rides is a good idea. 
  • Drag riders.  I don't know that we have them in our region.  But we should.  AERC should award completions to drag riders as they are the human safety net of any ride.  If someone rides drag for each loop, they will eventually run across the person in trouble on that loop.  Not a perfect system but sure beats nothing if you happen to ride "turtle."
Sad and tragic situation.  I'm so sorry for everyone's loss, and all those who stepped up to assist, you are awesome people.  It sure makes you think.      
~ E.G.


  1. One more important thing you can do: be prepared to help someone else. A day of CPR/first aid training may not teach you everything, but it will give you some beginning skills to help in an emergency.

    The rest of your info is spot on. And like in your case, it can easily happen on a training ride, so don't leave things behind because you're just going out for a short ride. I just had new bracelets engraved with my contact and health info, easy to wear.

    Very sad situation, so many people affected by the tragedy. But we can hopefully learn from it as well.

  2. Another small but useful item to carry would be a chemical ice pack. One of those that have to mix to activate as well as a glow stick and small flashlight. A roll of sport tape would be invaluable to splint or bandage an an arm. A maxipad and some bandaids wouldn't be a terrible idea either to cover a cut or gash. If this stuff was somehow shrink wrapped it wouldn't have to take up much space.

  3. Could you post a link to the story? I have seen no mention of it.

  4. I did eventually find a description of this sad story. It really hit home to me as I am a 54 year old woman with high blood pressure who usually rides with her young son, and we were out on the trails this weekend.

  5. I missed the story and can't find it online. What happened?

    I don't think we can ever be too prepared...even just to head up to the barn.

    Last summer I went up to the barn in the morning to feed my horse and I ended up getting kicked in the head. I had no cell phone on me to call anyone to help afterwards, but thankfully I was able to stand up and wobble my way back to the house, after which 911 was called and an ambulance dispatched.

    But I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I been knocked unconscious after I was kicked, and had a serious life threatening bleed in my brain....and no one knew where I was.

    I know it may seem mundane just to feed or work with horses, but even now I still mention it to someone in my family that I am heading up to feed, handle, or ride my horse, just in case I get injured and I'm unable to help myself.


  6. Yeah...I'll be 54 next birthday, have a crappy heart valve, and get some bad arrhythmia sometimes. I'm most affected in the heat, and hot humid weather can cave me under in a hurry for some reason. The scary thing about heart stuff is you can have NO SYMPTOMS and have a coronary artery clogging up and BOOM, heart attack with no real warning. The docs won't check you for how clogged up you are until something happens. I think anyone over 50 should have the right to have a diagnostic procedure to check the condition of your coronary and carotid arteries as a preventative measure. I have a bad family history and this story really gave me pause. But Lisa is right, anytime you handle a horse the crap can hit the fan in a bad way and in a hurry. My husband lost part of a finger when Phebes nailed him with a hoof, and Cree double barreled him one day and I thought sure he'd have a broken leg. I've injured my pelvis, broken a finger, and had my foot crushed :( Sometimes you have to wonder what we are thinking, or if we are thinking...and yet, we love the horse stuff so much!

  7. I'm guessing that the 55 yr old endurance rider died from a heart attack while riding?

    Something similar happened to blogger friend, Kate from A Year with Horses Blog, back in June. Except thankfully, she didn't die. "Just" ended up with a pacemaker and a lot of painful injuries.

    You can read about her experience with this link:


  8. I knew someone had passed over the weekend from heart failure while riding her horse but I guess I didn't even put it all together that it was at Yellowhammer.

    So what is a practical way to carry the kit on you rather than in your saddle bag? Currently I carry a couple things on me but most of my first aide on the pony. I'm always worried that if something happens and I lose the pony that I'll be without the kit.

  9. Yes, she had a heart attack.

    As for practical ways to carry your kit. Maybe vacuum seal it to make it as small as possible and keep everything clean. Put the bare essentials in a fanny pack and wear it.

    Another item for the pack could be chewable baby aspirin (not tylenol), at least four of them. A few benadryl tablets might buy someone with a bee allergy time to get to help.

    All this is a good reason for drag riders who should also carry communication devices. The more I read about SPOT the more I think we should have them. It will send out a 9l1 call almost anywhere, and give GPS coordinates within 20 feet of your location. ~ E.G.