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Glass Half Full: APHA Community Rallies Around Injured Competitor

Sometimes life throws curveballs at us, creating challenges to accomplishing our goals, providing frustrations, and occasionally even shaking us to the core. For APHA amateur competitor Caiti Gordon of Manchester, Michigan, a riding accident on March 4th did all three. 

The daughter of Jon and Melissa Gordon of G3 Show Horses, Caiti, 28, has been a long-time competitor at the APHA shows. Last year, she achieved multiple top-five and top-ten placings at the APHA World Show with her mare, The Broads A Mechanic, a.k.a Stoney. For 2021, Caiti once again had her sights set on the APHA World Show, this time with her gelding, Howie Dance.

On March 4th, though, Caiti’s plans came to a screeching halt. “It was a typical lesson night at the barn,” Caiti’s mom, Melissa, recalls. Caiti was riding in the arena when another horse ran her head-first into the wall. The horrific fall left Caiti with multiple breaks in her neck – both C1 and C2 were broken in half, among the additional breaks of T2, T3, T4, and T7 – but thankfully, the ligament hadn’t ruptured.

The artery was still intact, which was the most pressing concern of doctors immediately following the accident. Incredibly, Caiti was discharged from the hospital days later without undergoing any surgical procedure. Instead, Caiti left with a “non-invasive Halo and a cage brace,” Melissa told us. 

After leaving the hospital, Melissa explained, “the hard part started.” 

“Caiti is a very goal-driven person,” Melissa said. “She had plans for this year, and she’s not the most patient person in the world, which makes the long healing process frustrating at times.”

Caiti told us that the accident has undoubtedly required some self-reevaluation on her part. She admitted that she didn’t realize the extent of her injuries – which are of the exact nature that left actor and equestrian Christopher Reeve paralyzed from the neck down. Since the accident, Caiti now understands that she needs to slow down and let herself fully recover.

To be extra cautious, Caiti’s neurosurgeon moved her next appointment to a later date, May 19th, to evaluate her healing and stepping down from the halo to a neck brace. “It’s a tough hit mentally,” Melissa told us. “Go-getters and goal setters don’t take schedule changes such as this very well.”

With the help of her friends and family, Caiti has a great support system behind her. “It’s cool,” Caiti told us, “I don’t even think I was in the ER for two hours when there was a GoFundMe page started, which has been a tremendous help since I have regular bills to pay.”

Along with the financial assistance from the GoFundMe page, Caiti received unprompted donations from the Michigan Paint Horse Association members. “These donations have been a huge benefit because I can’t wear regular clothes with the whole halo situation.” Caiti has put the money towards ordering special post-operating shirts, allowing her to have “some sense of normalcy” in her life. 

Her mother adds, “It’s just so much the little things. When you think, ‘well, how are we going to do this?’, someone steps up and says, ‘well, let me do this for you,’ or, ‘hey, I’m going to the barn and cleaning stalls.’ There aren’t enough thank you’s in the world for the people who have helped out.”

“Even when the odds are against me, even on my bad days, I remind myself, things could have been a lot worse, I could have lost my ability to walk,” Caiti reflects. 

Despite this massive curveball, Caiti has continued to look on the positive side. It serves as a great reminder to be thankful for every moment, never stop setting goals, and be grateful for very supportive friends and family.

GoHorseShow sends get-well wishes for a full recovery to this bright and passionate young lady.

About the Author – Kassidy Lammers is a freshman studying history at the University of Dayton from Delaware, Ohio. She has been showing Quarter Horses for nine years and currently maintains and shows her gelding, KM Best Man, in the all-around events.