One day in my early youth, I wanted to ride our family horse. Bay Scoot was a huge bay gilding with a mind of his own. My dad, a very experienced “cowboy” and father of seven, agreed that I could ride but he was also in a bit of a hurry. He hoisted me up into the saddle and led me around the corral for a few minutes and then left the reigning to me.
Shortly after, he headed to the house to freshen up for an evening of work selling life insurance. He said that I would be fine riding alone but emphasized the need to keep Bay Scoot in the corral and to not let him head into the barn. I did my best to obey my father but my “ride” had a different goal in mind – FOOD! Very quickly Bay Scoot turned for the barn where hay and oats stood ready for his evening meal. Try as I might, I could not keep him out of the barn that had a very low, corrugated metal roof. It was plenty high enough for Scoot to enter but not with a rider (me) on his back! In he trotted, ready to engulf a hearty meal. All the while, I tugged on the reins as hard as I could and bent as far forward over the saddle horn as possible only to be rewarded with a deep layer of flesh peeled from my back by the edges of the sharp metal roof!
Now, as a professional in the injury prevention world, I look back on that day and liken it to thousands of other people’s experiences where children have been injured. The questions always flood forth after a tragedy or even a minor incident as to how and why it occurred and what could have been done to prevent it? It is generally easy to understand how things happened, but the “why” is the operative word.
Most people assume that injury is a routine part of growing. But I would like to suggest an entirely different approach on the whole matter. Creating a “culture of safety” is a conscious effort to make safety a priority in my family and society. Taking complete ownership of my environment and making it safe for those in it is now an uncompromising priority. That environment may be my home, yard, vehicle, open space, or where ever I am. Supervising my children, grandchildren and those around me is the number one priority. My caregiver strategies now include:
- Knowing that unexpected and bad things happen and could happen to me.
- Active supervision. This means being physically and mentally present, and may include holding a child or holding their hand.
- If a child is missing, check around water sources first, and in the vehicle second.
- Not assuming that others feel the same way about safety that I do. Provide all of the safety devices (car and booster seats, life jackets, helmets, etc.), instructions and expectations, and other resources that will keep your family safe whether you are present or not.
- Remembering that SUPERVISION goes hand in hand with SAFETY and should trump all else when it comes to fun and simply living life to the fullest!
I don’t want to be too critical of the wonderful dad and the spunky horse I had. Now, as an adult, I can look back on my impressionable experience and understand several things that could have been done differently to prevent my scary (and painful!) mishap. Hindsight is always present after close calls and our thoughts are often filled with “what ifs.” I will simply conclude that perhaps my father thought I was far more capable of something than I was. His constant supervision, my better riding skills and good body armor could have prevented my injuries. Do I love dad or Bay Scoot any less for what happened? Goodness no! I just need to remember that horses love food more than kids!