Don’t Tempt Those Horse Gods on Friday the 13th

On Friday, the 13th of August 1993, the horse gods just might have been playing with me. I had been busy, managing the show barn where I worked – teaching lessons, schooling horses. The usual. In the early afternoon, when most of the clients had gone home to air-conditioned comfort, I was riding a green gelding through a grid exercise. A friend, former professional rider turned amateur, was helping me set the exercise. Lucky for me I wasn’t riding alone, which wasn’t uncommon at that time of day.

Because, for reasons neither of the humans present ever discovered, the usually quiet (okay, actually downright lazy) young horse bolted, running full out around the arena. Never a fun ride, but usually an experienced rider can gradually steer the horse in smaller and smaller circles to decrease the speed enough to safely bail or get the horse stopped. Not this time. This horse was full out with no steering or brakes when he veered off his shallow arc and headed straight for the arena fence.

He ran square into the three-rail pipe fence, hitting hard enough that he ejected me over his head while he bounced backward. That meant he landed in the soft arena footing and I hit on concrete-hard, summer-baked ground on the edge of the parking lot.

I lay flat on my back in the dirt with the sun beating down on me, thinking something wasn’t quite right. I had hit the ground many times in my life, but this time I didn’t have any urge to get right up. My helper asked whether I was okay and, on discovering I was lucid, set about gathering up the completely unharmed horse. But one of the pre-teen girls who had ridden in a late-morning lesson was still on-site, waiting for her ride home.

I’ll never forget this child coming to stand over me and saying, “Stacey, you know why this happened, don’t you?”

By now I’m starting to feel shocky, but I play along if only to keep her from getting worried or upset. “No, why?”

“Because it’s Friday the 13th and you were riding a horse named Lucky Number.”

Apparently, to her young reasoning, I had simply tempted fate and lost. That’s a good an explanation as any for why the horse lost his brain and his brakes. For my trouble I got to spend the rest of the afternoon in the emergency room and the next three months recovering from a broken shoulder blade.

A couple years later, I was riding another greenie on another Friday the 13th when I got another message from the horse gods. The mare threw up her head over a fence and whacked me right in the nose, not hard enough to break but plenty hard to start a gusher. I gave my roommate a scare by turning up in the barn covered with blood and was – based on that incident and my past history – from that day forward sharply forbidden to ride on unlucky Fridays. And with her reminders I didn’t, for a few years.

I’m sure I have inadvertently tempted fate and ridden on such Fridays many times since, but I still think of those incidents on the few occasions I realize the date. I thought of them today and didn’t sit on a single horse … but only because I didn’t have plans to ride today anyway.

Hope your Friday the 13th was safe and happy!