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And The Horses Just Laughed At Him

December 10, 2013

Jacob worked with me on the messaging team at a large non profit corporation. While he is a computer guru now, he grew up with horses. Not just a pony in the back pasture, but working horses. And it wasn’t until we had been friends for years that I was at his mother’s house and noticed an entire wall full of trophies.

Jacob, what are those?

Ah. . .just some trophies for horsemanship.

Wow. Who won those?

I did.

It was that experience and background around horses that made his accident so unexpected.

Jacob fell out of a hayloft.

That doesn’t sound too bad. Hay is soft, and it was only about eight feet off the ground. You could jump that distance. Jacob didn’t jump and like Mark’s experience putting up Christmas lights, it turned out to be very serious.

Jacob was getting hay for the horses. A task he had performed daily for decades. In fact, the horses were housed at his mother’s house. The same house he grew up in and the same barn he’d been working in since he was a kid. But, today was different. In telling me the story, he said he never did figure out exactly what caused the difference. He was throwing hay bales from the loft down to the floor of the barn.

If you’re not familiar with livestock, you might have a misconception about hay and straw. What we, non-rancher types call hay is often really straw. The yellow somewhat prickly strands that we sit on during hay rides or spread around the nativity scene at Christmas is what’s left over after you harvest wheat.

A straw bale – not edible (Photo Credit No Dig Vegetable Garden)

Animals don’t eat it. In fact, it’s most often used to soak up animal waste.

Hay, on the other hand is typically green and has a strong aroma. It’s actually alfalfa. Animals love it.

A Hay bale – Animals eat this (Photo credit:

You generally have to feed it to them when it’s been dried. Fresh alfalfa will kill a cow or a horse.

Alfalfa needs to be dried before it’s baled (Photo Credit:

Jacob was throwing hay bales out of the loft. A hay bale can weigh anywhere from 80 to 120 lbs. It’s held together with wire or more often plastic twine. You grab the two strings of twine, pick it up, throw it or what have you. You have to remember to get your fingers out of the twine or risk following the hay bale wherever you are tossing it. Jacob’s fingers got caught for just a half second longer than they should have.

I knew I was going over, so I tried to turn and grab the edge of the floor on my way down. I managed to get hold of it, but that then whipped my body back under the floor and broke my grip. I might have been okay, if I’d just fallen at that point. I would have landed flat on my back. But, I put my foot down to try to brace myself.

His ankle was shattered in multiple places. Worse, he was a long way from the house and he was starting to go into shock.

I kind of moaned with the pain and the horses turned to look at me. I swear they were laughing.

Jacob ended up with an order of bed rest, a couple of surgeries to insert pins and screws, and missing a lot of work. The worst part was that he still had a stable of horses to take care of. I think that’s what bothered him the most. His young teenage daughters were enlisted as stable hands.

As the team manager, I did everything I could think of. I made sure that Jacob didn’t worry about his tasks at work. I made sure that he had whatever help he needed at home. Fortunately, Jacob and Mark didn’t both get injured at the same time. We had a team of six, and now in the span of a just a few months, a third of our team had been put out of commission by what we assumed was simply a couple of freakish accidents.

It wasn’t until the kids started getting hurt that we started to question our “We’re not superstitious” beliefs.

This is the second in a five part series about the most snake bit team I’ve ever worked with. Yesterday we heard about a team member who nearly died putting up Christmas lights. Tomorrow we’ll talk about what happens when it’s the kids who are hurt. Thursday and Friday we’ll discuss team members who lost family members. All of these injuries and accidents took place within a single calendar year.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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