Safety First

As many of you probably know, there was an explosion involving a hyperbaric oxygen chamber at an equine rehabilitation facility.  The explosion resulted in one horse and person being killed and a second person being seriously injured.  The details of the accident are not yet known, but my heart sank upon hearing this news.  I feel for the family and loved ones of the woman who died, the people associated with the horse, and the injured woman who has plenty of physical and emotional healing ahead of her.  There are surely many people mourning these losses and I wish them all strength.

We all know that accidents happen and despite having the best intentions, safety precautions, training and education, there is only so much we can control.  That being said, this tragedy served as a reminder of the importance of being safe when working with horses.

There have been times in my life when I had a gut feeling about something.  I felt – even knew – that an element of the situation was amiss.  But sometimes I would push on, which usually didn’t turn out well.  Let me give you an example.

During my childhood summers, two of my favourite things to do were spend time at the barn and go swimming.  On a family vacation one summer, my parents pulled the car into a hotel where we would be spending the night, and to my delight there was a swimming pool.  I was very excited, but I was also really, really tired.  After we settled into the hotel, my parents suggested that I take some time to rest before going swimming, but they left the final decision up to me.  I was torn, I didn’t know what to do: rest or swim.  I decided to make a mature decision (I was in the double digits after all) and listened to my body.  I stayed back at the hotel to rest and have a nap.  Surely the opportunity to go swimming would be there when I woke up, it was only just mid afternoon.

But, as I lay on the bed trying to will myself to sleep, the desire to go swimming got the best of me.  I got up, changed into my swim suit and headed to the pool.  To my delight, we had the pool to ourselves and there was even a slide.  I walked briskly (no running on the pool deck allowed) to the slide, climbed up the stair case, sat down at the top and gave myself a great big push.  I misjudged how much push I needed.   I ended up flying right off the side of the slide, landing hard on the pool deck, and then fell into the deep end of the pool.

I was crying and gasping for air.  My entire back was scratched and raw, in a way that only cement can do.   And then the pain kicked in.   In no time at all my parents ran over and pulled me from the water.  They carried me back to the hotel room and consoled me.   This time I lay on the bed stomach down.

My parents were sure to remind me that perhaps I was too tired to be swimming.  In fact, I didn’t get to go swimming for the rest of the vacation.

The lesson learned for me was to listen to myself, my body, my gut, and my parents.  If something doesn’t feel right, I take a moment to stop, think about what’s going on and then decide what needs to be done.  Sometimes the answer is to just call it a day and quit while I’m ahead.

Horses are large animals with the ability to make their own decisions, and sometimes they can be unpredictable.  The result of a poor decision can be costly.  We can (and do) have numerous safety measures, training initiatives, protocols and skilled individuals at MPES, but the risks associated with this job are undeniable.  Safety is paramount.

Let this be a lesson to us all, a reminder to impress upon ourselves and the people around us that safety is of utmost importance and should not be compromised.

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