Would You Help This ?Rider?'

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Riding bareback, without a riding helmet, in shorts and barefoot?with only a halter and lead rope to control the horse.

If you saw a teenage girl galloping toward you, dressed this way and apparently struggling to gain control of the horse, on the shoulder of a major road, you?d probably stop your car to try to help, wouldn?t you' Or would you just drive on, afraid of the equine liability you were about to fall into'

I came across a story that started this way on an Internet chat room last week, and my first thought was, ?No good deed goes unpunished.? Seriously, this tale made me wonder why you should help anyone with a horse, unless they're related to you, is a close friend or is paying you.

I view this story as a reminder of the hidden dangers of keeping a horse anywhere near where other people live. We used to worry about this kind of thing where when we lived ion the edge of a tiny hamlet n Virginia, and for a while we kept our pasture gates locked. But then we decided locking and unlocking the gates was too much trouble for what we considered to be a minor worry.

First I'll tell you a condensed version of the story, and then I'll tell you all the things that really made me shudder.

This good Samaritan?s ?profile doesn't say where sHe's from, but she was driving along a paved road (speed limit 50 mph) with wide shoulders, on which she regularly sees people riding their horses. This time, though, she saw a horse galloping toward her, a horse that the rider seemed to be attempting to gain control of.

And Here's the rest of the story:

?In no way am I thinking that this can end well, so I pull off to the side of the road, hit 911 on the speed dial, and get out my car. Just as I'm shutting the door, horse LAUNCHES girl into the air and she smacks face first onto the pavement. She hollered once and all is silent.

?I keep dialog with 911 dispatcher and was told that there was an officer in the area. I noticed that there was a house about a quarter- mile down the road, and I started yelling in hopes that they would hear me as I'm booking' it towards this girl. Horse is grazing off the side of the road, and as I reach the girl (who looks to be about 13-14) an old man comes out on the porch, sees girl in the road and starts running towards us.

?Old man blocks traffic and after about 5-10 minutes EMTs and a squad car arrive. Girl has wicked bloody face and isn't responding. I did my best to check and make sure she was still breathing, without moving her. While EMTs are assessing her, I go catch (easily) horse. Old man says he's never seen them before, and the cop said he doesn't recognize either.?

As the EMTs are treating the girl, our good Samaritan calls a nearby veterinarian and arranges for them to pick up and house the horse until they can figure out where He's come from. After they've picked up the horse, our good Samaritan heads to the hospital, to see if the girl has regained consciousness, to let her know that the horse is OK and where is.

And now the story takes an unexpected twist:

?Get to the hospital and girl is awake, pretty banged up, but no broken bones or anything, which shocked me. I introduced myself and explained about horse.

?Mom and Dad ask me to step into the hallway, and Dad proceeds to SCREAM at me. Apparently girl told him that I got out of the car and spooked the horse, which caused him to buck her off. I re-told my side of things, and Mom seems to calm down a bit. Dad is still in a rage.

?I explained that the horse was at the vet, that they needed to get in contact with them, and that I was glad that their daughter was OK.

?Then Mom tells me that the girl had STOLEN the horse from their neighbor?s pasture during a temper tantrum and was 'running away.' Apparently she'd had some informal lessons, but nothing that would give her common sense, apparently.

?And the horse is a YEARLING.

?Mom calls owners who are livid and refusing to pay for horse's overnight fees at the vet, and frankly I wouldn't either. I think that they were nice enough not to sue.

?Dad wants to sue ME for apparently getting his daughter bucked off the horse . . .

?I left before things could get more heated. Got name of owner from Mom, called vet with information, vet agreed to take my credit card off file if the owners came and picked horse up tonight, which they were planning to do.

?As soon as I got into my car, I contacted my lawyer, who said in no way do they have a case.?

I should hope not! I think that the only way this story could have been topped would have been if the woman who told the story had seen this girl riding her own horse down the road. She was, kindly, trying to help a seriously misguided teenager and take care of a horse, and she got blamed for the girl?s fall.

This story is a reminder of the huge chasm of understanding and respect between people who are experienced riders or handlers of horses and people, especially kids or teenagers, who?ve sat on a horse a few times but haven't learned to respect their size, strength and sometimes unpredictability. People who?ve never handled or ridden horses are generally afraid of them, and you don't have to worry about them doing something stupid with your horse. it's the people who think they know something?but don't know anything?who can do the really stupid things, like this.

I hope the next chapter isn?t the girl?s parents suing the horse's owner, for not doing more to keep their daughter from stealing the horse or for not training the horse. I wouldn?t bet against it.

Situations like this make you wonder, why bother extending a helping hand to anyone' And that's a sad situation.