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Madilynn Keener, 2023 2nd Place First-Year Writing

Any student enrolled in English 101P, 101, 102, or 112 during Spring 2022 through Spring 2023 may submit an essay of any kind on any topic. There are no length limits for this category. Madilynn Keener the 2nd place submission in the First-Year Writing category for the 2023 President’s Writing Awards.

About Madilynn

Madilynn Keener

Hello! My name is Maddie Keener. I was born on the Mountain Home Air Force Base and I have lived in Mountain Home, Idaho my whole life. Growing up as a child I have always been surrounded by all types of animals. This has influenced me to pursue an animal-related Biology degree starting August 2023. When I am not studying, you can find me at the basketball court or spending time with friends. Thank you for taking the time to read my work!

Winning Manuscript – Falling Hard

“You need to get up,” Deb said, looking down at me.

“I need a couple minutes,” I said, as I lay facedown in the arena sand. All I was able to do was close my eyes and wait for the pain to subside. Thoughts are racing through my head.

Is this what it feels like to break a bone? What will my parents think? I have basketball every day this week; he’s going to be pissed. This is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. What even happened? This has never gone to this extent. Is she okay?
My body is in shock. Tears filled my eyes. I can feel the heartbeat in my chest. I lift up my head so I am able to look behind me. I see Elizabeth throwing herself a tantrum in the middle of everyone. Others are quickly moving out of the way, trying not to make the situation any worse. She then throws herself to the ground; just laying on her side, giving no effort to pick herself up. I set my head down on the sand. It is in my hair, on my face, and in my shirt. It’s everywhere. The sand feels cold from the cool morning. What a great way to start this Sunday I thought to myself sarcastically.

“Are you ready to get up yet? It isn’t safe laying on the ground.”

“Yeah, one second. My body just hurts.” I struggle to pull myself up. My left knuckle and thumb are in pain, but the most excruciating pain was in my foot. My foot feels heavy, and I am unable to put any weight on it. This scared me.

I became interested in horses when I was a child. My mother had given me the choice to pick between dance lessons or horseback riding. I ran out of patience with wearing tutus and long dance practices. Horses intrigue me and I love animals. I started to ride when I was about eight years old. I developed a relationship with the owner of the horses. Her name is Deb, she has had horses in her life since she was born. Deb is like a second mother to me, she feeds me breakfast every ride, and in return, I help with everyday chores. We enjoy each other’s company. I am no longer in the “lesson” phase, but I go for the joy of riding.

As a child, I started on the horse that every kid rides for the first time. His name was Dozer; the horse was never known to spook. A word we like to call when a horse becomes scared. Throughout my years of riding, I transitioned to the horse I have today, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is Deb’s six-year-old mare. Deb bred Elizabeth from a decent bloodline and has owned Elizabeth her entire life. Ever since she was young, Elizabeth learned the overall basic skills, such as leading, loading in a trailer, and riding with a person on her back. I consider Elizabeth a “broke” horse. I have been riding Elizabeth for at least half her life, about three years. I am her only current rider.
Elizabeth is the definition of my perfect horse. She is a pretty palomino with three “socks” on her feet. She has kind eyes and a loving personality. During the summer months, I would ride about once or twice a week. This has been a routine for me for the past couple of years. This spring, I was not consistent with riding due to basketball. As a result, Elizabeth developed poor ground manners. While being saddled, Elizabeth would pin her ears back and occasionally rear on the trailer. I do not take this behavior lightly as it is dangerous for me. The rope can catch my hand as it tightens, cutting off circulation, or the force of Elizabeth can knock me to the ground, at risk of being stepped on. Elizabeth has broken two halters already. She has seen a vet to rule out any health problems related to the rearing on the trailer. Nothing was found. The vets and I determined it was an attitude problem. To combat these actions, I air her out before rides. I do this by riding Deb’s horse, while Elizabeth follows closely behind in the arena. Once Elizabeth breaks into a sweat, I know that it is time to go back to the trailer to saddle her. I do this to show Elizabeth that breaking a sweat before a ride is more work than standing tied to the trailer. I learned this from Deb, who has known this strategy for years.

It was a cool Sunday morning on June 5th. Around 9:30 am, we pulled up to the arena. It is an outdoor arena on a ranch that is located five minutes outside of Mountain Home, Idaho. Deb’s son owns this ranch. This arena has a bucking shoot, barrels, and poles that are set up. We unload in the front of the arena; weeds covered the ground. On the other side of the trailer lies a sugar beet field. The beets have begun to sprout; harvest will start in the upcoming months. We only had three horses with us that day: mine, Deb’s, and CJ’s. Whereas usually, we had a full trailer that holds about eight horses and a red truck pulled all of this. CJ is a young woman in her mid-twenties who has quite a bit of experience in riding whom I just met that morning. She is a friend of Debs. We had a quiet ride planned for the day.

After I aired out Elizabeth, saddled, and bridled her, we walked into the arena. I stuck my foot in the stirrup and threw myself over. I lightly tugged on the reins to signal Elizabeth to start at a walk. Suddenly, I noticed my weight shift behind me. One of the most dangerous things in the equestrian world is at play. The right side of my body hit the sand first. Seconds later, a half-ton was coming my way. I felt like time slowed down. I fell in slow motion, but there was no escape. I shifted my body to the right to avoid the horn of the saddle. Looking back on it, it was one of my best decisions at the time. Eighty percent of the weight from Elizabeth landed on the left side of my body, mostly on the lower left side. The weight itself compressed my leg, but that is not what affected me the most. When I fell, my foot stayed in the stirrup the entire time. After I hit the ground, I did not have enough time to take my foot out. The weight of Elizabeth crushed my foot.

Once Elizabeth lifted her weight off my body and struggled to pull herself up, I knew that I needed to create as much distance as possible. I disconnected myself from my tack and started to stand up. I put my right foot on the ground first, and my left foot followed. I fell down on all fours. The pain in my left foot was intense; something I had never experienced before. I started to make my way to the side of the fence, the safest place to be at the time. I crawled about thirty feet and laid facedown in the sand.
After the event settled down, CJ got on Elizabeth to discipline her. CJ did this by riding Elizabeth around the arena until she was out of breath. This was to prevent the start of a dangerous habit. Once CJ finished, Deb encouraged me to ride again, expecting no more than the slow pace of a walk. I have always been the one to tell people to ride again after being bucked off. Not following my own words would make me feel like a liar. To be honest, riding again that day scared me. I jammed my hand in multiple places, but I was finally able to put weight on my foot. I felt like Elizabeth knocked down my confidence. I didn’t want to ride again in fear of it happening again, but I knew what I had to do. Even though I felt intimidated, I placed my foot in the stirrup and struggled to pull myself up. My body was sore. After a few tries, I finally gained enough momentum and strength to launch my leg over the top of the saddle. Elizabeth didn’t move. Like all animals, a horse can sense nervousness in a person. I needed to be confident in my actions and to let her know who was in charge, the alpha one might say. The rest of the ride went smoothly. We walked for about twenty minutes with no complications. We headed back to the trailer. I felt a little bit better, but was still shaken from what took place.

“By the way you went down, I thought you broke your leg,” CJ said in the truck.

“Yeah, I don’t know how I didn’t. That could have been a lot worse.”

Once we got back to Deb’s house, I helped with feeding and was on my way home to shower to wash the dirt out of my hair. It was around 11:30 AM by this time. Immediately after I got home, I walked upstairs and turned the shower on. My boots were the first to come off. I expected my foot to swell and feel tender. I felt like my tight boot was good for my foot to prevent some of the immediate swelling. My foot didn’t hurt that much anymore, but I knew that it was going to be sore for the next couple of days. My foot was sensitive to the touch. It was painful to take my sock off. Once I was able to see the top of my foot the realization set in. This is the worst injury I have ever had in my life. My foot looked broken. Fear rushed into my body.

I was home alone at the time. My parents were on their way home from running errands in Boise. I Facetimed my mother hysterically crying saying my foot isn’t right and asking, “Is dad mad?”

“He’s not mad at you, Madilynn, I promise,” my mom said.
Without the reinforcement from my boot, I walked with a limp. The upper top part of my foot suffered the most amount of damage. Green and purple lines going in all directions spread across the base of my toes. This traveled through half my foot. It was numb to the touch. There was a small wound around the bruise. It was more of a burn than anything else.

“Madilynn, you need to calm down.”

“I’m fine, I just want to know if dad is mad at me. I don’t want him to be mad at me. We have that camp tomorrow and I have to go to it. Is my foot broken?”

“Let me see your foot.” I turned the camera. My mother had an unpleasant look on her face. She knew I would have to watch basketball from the sideline.

“We are going to be home in about 30 minutes. Do you want me to call someone, so you aren’t home alone?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Once I get home we’ll head to Urgent Care to get some X-rays.”
After the x-ray, I found out that the green and purple lines were broken veins. I did not have a broken foot. I had bone bruising and deep tissue bruising. I was put into a boot for three weeks. The doctor told me feet bones are quite flexible, which is why my bones didn’t break. If it were any other body part, there would have been a fracture.

After I took a shower and settled down, I was able to relax and let my thoughts wander. The event replayed in my head many times. I was trying to understand why it even happened.

Elizabeth has never done something like this before. She has taken this to the next step. I could have died. The horn could have impaled my abdomen and killed me. I am extremely lucky to only have foot and hand issues. The worst she has ever done with me is crowhopp a couple of times, but that was it. Why did she fall so easily?
From my understanding, I think Elizabeth reared as a sign of disrespect. Rearing on the trailer no longer worked, so this was her next attempt. I looked up how common it was for a horse to rear back on its rider. As I was scrolling through a website, I realized that this is not common at all, and that I am responsible for a part of this accident. “Don’t pull on the reins because you could pull the horse’s head back further, causing it to lose its balance and fall backward” (Blocksdorf). A wave of disappointment came over me. I knew how to do everything when it came to riding. I am an experienced rider. I have performed in rodeos, I know how to rope and I have moved cows off the desert. I consider being able to tuck and roll a skill, something I have performed many times. How are you supposed to perform that skill in my situation? You can’t. It was a freak accident. It was my body’s natural reaction to grab the reins as quickly as possible. I pulled back too much, knocking Elizabeth off balance. I do take responsibility for this, but I cannot blame myself. I was just in the moment. I never realized how fast things can go wrong. I felt like I could have prevented this.
Horses are pure muscle. When defiant, they can do whatever they please. They can make a trailer rattle and push through metal gates. All of which I have seen. When dealing with animals, they all have their risks. Some have more than others. For example, a horse has more risks than a dog, especially when dealing with size. There are times when accidents are going to happen around horses. It is inevitable. My accident could have had a different outcome, but I believe it was going to happen either way. I took precautions beforehand to avoid something like this. In the end, dealing with such a powerful animal, an injury was bound to happen.
Even after this accident, I still trust Elizabeth. I have been with her since she was a foal. I know her personality. Grain is her favorite treat. I always find her next to her best friend in the field, Peanut. She will jump a canal, she does not spook easily, and she struggles to stay on her left lead while in a lope. Elizabeth’s unexpected behavior surprised me. I like to see this experience as a reality check. I became too comfortable with my horse, and I thought I could predict her every move. I now know I need to be alert at all times, even in the calmest of moments.

Work Cited

Blocksdorf, Katherine. “Why Your Horse Rears and What You Can Do About It.” The Spruce Pets, 17 Jan. 2020,