Published in the April 21, 2021 Stow and Bolton Independent
See related article “Horse safety tips for motorists”
By Maura Rousseau
Mara Levin of Bolton, who has ridden horses since the age of 6 and is a licensed horseback-riding instructor, shared her experience in what can happen when bridges are not built in a way that is safe for horses.
In 2016, when Levin was riding with a group in the Upton State Forest, she broke off from her group to take a shorter trail. “My horse and I were alone on the trail and he was behaving perfectly,” she said. “There had been many wooden bridges on our route, and my horse was doing a good job crossing them, so I mostly let him choose which bridges to cross and when to ford the water or mud. On one low bridge, he lost his footing and I knew we were going to fall, because the bridge had no curb to stop him from slipping off the side. I tried to do an emergency dismount because I was afraid he might land on me, but I fell and landed too close to his feet and he accidentally stepped on my chest.”
Levin said that another rider found her shortly after the accident, struggling to breathe and stay conscious. He yelled for help, and a nurse practitioner from Levin’s group ran to help her. From there, EMTs carried her out of the woods and transported her to an air ambulance, which brought her to a level-one trauma center. “I learned later that the EMTs did not think I would survive, and that a kind stranger had taken my horse home to care for him until my husband could pick him up,” Levin recounted. “I had a broken sternum, seven broken ribs, one collapsed lung, and the other lung was partially collapsed.”
Despite the traumatic experience, Levin is hopeful that sharing her story will be helpful for people to understand why it is so important for these bridges to be safely built and maintained. “One of the problems that happens all the time is, when wood is in the shade, it can get slippery,” she explained. “It gets a slimy surface on it. These bridges in the woods can be slippery. It was kind of a freak accident, and now it’s four and a half years later and I’m starting to have a little more energy again.”
While sharing her experience is not easy, Levin hopes that other people will learn from it and will consider the importance of the work of the Horse Safety Initiative.