On Sunday, Sunday, February, 7, 2015, I went for a ride on my Arabian gelding Mars. He was doing great with everything that our ride had thrown at us, as I expected him to do, since he's such a level headed boy. We had crossed a very high bridge, and as cars sped by nothing phased him.
Everything was going great until we got to a railroad crossing (the second one of our ride; the first one we crossed with no problems whatsoever). I had gotten off to lead him across the tracks as I usually do. As we were starting to cross, his left front hoof slipped down between the rail and the wooden rail-crossing tie, and he immediately started struggling to free his foot.
That’s when his other front foot slipped into the gap. There we were, standing on the tracks with both of his front feet wedged between the rail and wood. He started to panic a bit and pull, trying to rear to free his feet. As I held his headstall and talked to him, every horrible scenario raced through my mind. He could pull his hooves to bits. He could shred those ligaments and tendons in his legs. A train could come. I told him to “stand easy,” and that it was “going to be okay, I promise,” and I apologized over and over.
I just kept talking to him, and he dropped his head and just stood there. I couldn't believe it. I reached down and freed his right foot first, which threw him off balance and he started to fall. His head came down on my back and helped him regain his center of gravity. I just kept talking to him and he calmed back down. His left foot was a little more wedged in than the right, but I managed to free both hooves and get him off the tracks.
Amazingly, he was completely unhurt. No cuts or scratches, no heat in his legs or shoulders, or anywhere on his body. I felt incredibly blessed and lucky. Someone was watching over us. I credit Mars entirely with his safety, because he was so incredibly sensible. I felt so incredibly guilty that I even put him in a situation like that.
Since then, with the support of the local horse community, I’ve realized that it could have happened to anyone. I had heard of horses becoming trapped in railroad bridges, but never at a road-rail crossing. I’m sorry to now know the danger firsthand, but am so grateful that I can share my story here as a cautionary tale for riders everywhere. I love Mars with all of my heart and every day he proves to me that horses are some of the most amazing creatures in the world.
Erin and Mars live in Brady, Washington.