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'I assembled a counter full of sharp objects, and went at it like Rambo in First Blood'

Don't tell health and safety about my struggle with the splinter

5 April 2014

9:00 AM

5 April 2014

9:00 AM

All the way around a cross country course I went, then I got back, tied the horse up at a wooden post and a splinter from the post landed me in A&E. This is what is known as Sod’s Law. I’m never quite sure who this Sod fellow is. But I do know the main thing Sod seems to want to demonstrate is that health and safety rules are a joke. There is, as we all know deep down, nothing you can do to make yourself safe in this world. We kid ourselves if we think we can stop bad things happening. They say God laughs at our plans. I reckon he splits his sides when he sees the guff that comes out of the Health and Safety Executive.

I turned up at the cross country course in a body protector that made me feel like my torso was in a vice. If riding a horse while barely able to breathe, never mind move, is not going to make you jump a fence incorrectly, then I don’t know what is. But cross country courses won’t let you in without a flak jacket. And a hat with a cover with a flexible peak just in case you fall off and land on your forehead.

So, trussed up in more hi-tech armour than I had to wear the last time I was in Iraq, I climbed aboard Grace. She, by the way, was sporting super-shock-absorbing wraparound cross country boots on all four legs, just in case she banged her tendons if we came a cropper. We had a terrific time.

Gracie flew over the fences she liked the look of, which included a huge wooden crocodile leading down to a pool of water and a strange construction made of giant red mushrooms. But she refused the fences she didn’t like the look of and nearly vaulted me over the top of her head a number of times.

She skidded to a halt in front of a ditch she didn’t much fancy. She stopped dead in front of a step she considered too much trouble, then lurched up it suddenly with no warning after apparently deciding she might as well do it after all.


She splashed through the water at full pelt. She jumped a set of tyres by speeding up violently towards them and then, at the very point she should have taken off, she stopped, looked, and finally jumped them from a standstill as I flapped my legs at her sides like a rider from a Thelwell sketch. Pretty much everything that could go wrong with our technique did go wrong. Truly, if ever someone was coming off a horse, it was me. And yet I did not.

After three hours we called it a day. And then, as I tied the horse up at the tying up post, my finger jabbed against the wood and a sharp pain shot down my hand and arm. I looked at the finger and a long splinter was lodged so far down my nail I nearly passed out on the spot.

I don’t have any such thing as a first aid kit for me, only one for the horses. So I disinfected my throbbing finger with Hibiscrub veterinary antiseptic and wrapped it in vet-wrap bandage. At home, I assembled a counter full of sharp objects including tweezers, scissors, darning needles, and so on, and went at it like Rambo in First Blood.

Several hours and a lot of screaming later I decided it was no go. But it was Saturday night. No way was I going to go to casualty to sit with the drunks for a splinter. Even one that looked like they were going to have to dismantle my finger to get it out. I took the strongest painkiller I could find, went to bed and the next morning, my whole arm now throbbing, I took myself to hospital. Something called ‘See and treat’ was only a 20 minute wait for the see —which was good — but the treat bit was horrendous.

The doctor didn’t help by saying: ‘This is really going to hurt. This is going to be very, very painful. It’s going to really, really hurt…’ ‘Alright, alright!’ I felt like saying. ‘It’s me who’s got the splinter.’

After a series of injections to numb the finger which were just as painful as promised, the rueful medic got stuck in with a surgical scissor. Then he held the splinter aloft.

‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘You’re as white as a sheet. I think you had better lie there for a while. How did you do it, by the way?’

I didn’t tell him, just in case it leads to riders being forced to wear EU approved anti-splinter gloves.


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