• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Local woman recovering after fall from horse

On April 22, long-time show rider Kathleen Fitzgerald got aboard Thomas, her English Thoroughbred, whose show name is A Proper Gentleman. Thomas had been stall-bound while recovering from an injury suffered in Florida. He reached down for a chunk of grass. Fitzgerald's helmet wasn't fully fastened. "At this point in time, the reins go over his head and I have no control, so I abandon trying to tighten my helmet strap and try to grab the reins because they're flopping around. He gets scared and . I fall off onto the hardest surface on a farm, which is . sand and basically landed on my left side and my back," Fitzgerald said. "He wasn't a proper gentleman that day, but he is a proper gentleman most of the time," Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald suffered a broken right wrist for which she still wears a cast, a left sprained ankle and a bruised rib area she said later led to pneumonia. Those injuries weren't the worst she suffered. Fitzgerald has been diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and, a month later, is still having issues with her memory. While a recent CAT scan showed no damage, she suffers from headaches, "extreme mood switches," anxiety, depression and vision problems. Fitzgerald said symptoms of her condition can last from a month to six months, and the severity of last month's fall may have been worsened by previous concussions. The 30-year-old Texas native, who's the barn manager at her family's Twin Fox Farm at 150 Pinckard Pike, said she wished she could have done what she's done before. "You fall off, get back on the horse, you know? As long as you're capable. Like, if I was capable, I would have gotten back on," she said. She couldn't that day, in part because she had double vision. This time, with a pin in her right wrist and a likely brain injury, she won't be hopping aboard Thomas or any other horse for nearly two more months, per doctor's orders. "It threw my whole summer competition out the window," Fitzgerald said. She told her story to The Sun hoping that other riders can profit from her misfortune. "My advice is wear a helmet first-off. You never know what a horse will do, even though every day they could be as calm, cool and collected and . just walking around," Fitzgerald said. "Make sure and adjust all your equipment before you get on. It's kind of like a roller-coaster. Make sure that ... bar is all the way down and you're all the way strapped in before you get on . because they can throw you." Fitzgerald said she holds no grudge against Thomas, which, at 17.1 hands, is the tallest horse on her farm. When the pin comes off, she'll be back aboard Thomas and other horses and competing as soon as possible. "You go through these problems, you deal with your issues and you just move forward and hope and pray that it works out. And that's what I'm doing," Fitzgerald said.

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