The death last week of accomplished Kentucky event rider Christine Brown, 43, caused me to stop and think. Why' Because she was jumping in her ring at home, alone, with no one around at all.
No one knows what happened?the horse she was schooling over fences is a poor witness?but she clearly fell and fractured her C-5 vertebra, severing her spinal column. Her husband, Stuart Brown, found her dead when he returned home from the Hagyard Equine Medical Center, where He's a partner.
Following Chris Brown?s death, we did a little bit of Internet searching, to see if there was any kind of device you could wear to alert people you?d fallen and been injured, kind of like the bracelets and necklaces available for senior citizens or homebound people. We did come up with once device, called ICEdot, ICE standing for ?In Case of Emergency.?
Christine Brown was a former USEA Area VIII chairman and was loved and respected as a volunteer and a competitor?and she?d competed through the intermediate level. ?More than 1,000 people paid their respects at the memorial service.
Brown?s death stopped me short because for close to half of my adult life, I've ridden alone. Actually, for about three years I lived alone, about 40 miles from my office, and would ride the two young Thoroughbreds I was training to be steeplechasers in the early morning, before driving to work. I would trot and gallop them around the countryside, or jump them in my ring, and I remember many times thinking, ?You know, if I fell off and got hurt, I don't know how long it would be before anyone would find me.?
The fact was that no one in the world knew where I rode those two mares. Sure, when I didn't show up for work, probably someone would have made an effort to try to find me, but I don't think anyone at the office even really knew where I lived, because they?d never been there. (I was then the editor of The Chronicle of the Horse, and my assistant editor then was Cindy Foley, now my editor at the Horse Journal.) I had some friends who knew where I lived, but they didn't know the routes I might take while riding.
This was also in the days before cell phones. (I believe you could buy large, ungainly things that were cellular, but it would be another four or five years before I'd have a cell phone.) So I could have lain somewhere?even in my own ring?for hours and hours before anyone might have found me. I remember having this sobering thought several times while riding, but I was young enough, brave enough and stubborn enough to continue. I was also probably lucky.
Ever since Heather and I have had Phoenix Farm, We've made it a policy that no client can ride unless another person is on the farm. There have been times I've had to ride when neither Heather nor a staff member was here, but I always call Heather just before I get on a horse and as soon as I get off, and my cell phone is in my pocket. Actually, I never ride without my cell phone these days, except at a competition, and I never thought I'd do that.
ICEdot is a brand-new product?you can't actually get it until August?primarily made for bicycle riders, but it looks as if it could be mounted on riding helmets too. We found it at icedot.org.
The website says, ?ICEdot is taking personal safety for action sports to a new level with the ICEdot Crash Sensor. The Crash Sensor will mount onto any helmet. When paired with the ICEdot app on a smart phone, the system is able to detect motion, changes in forces and impacts.
?In the event of critical forces, the device triggers the app over low-energy Bluetooth to sound an alarm and initiate an emergency countdown. Unless the countdown clock is stopped, the app will then notify your emergency contacts and send GPS coordinates of the incident so that appropriate follow-up actions can be taken.
?Cycling, skiing, back country travel, team sports, and motor sports all involve significant risks, and we know those risks aren?t going to stop you. Heck, they don't stop us. We're just here to help you Adventure Responsibly.?
The smart phone app has a number that first responders can text to get a list of your allergies, medications and contacts. The price is $139. I wouldn?t be surprised if there are, or will soon be, other similar devices. Our search wasn?t exhaustive.
Now, it doesn't sound as if a device such as this would have saved Chris Brown, since her spinal cord was reportedly severed. But the list of other immobilizing injuries from which you could recover with assistance is as long as your arm. I sure would have looked into ICEdot, or something similar, if it had been available when I had to ride alone.