After head trauma, rider regains confidence on OTTBs

Stat Box
Tattoo: 532283
Race name: JJ Silverheels
Sire: Career Best
Dam: Gusso JJ
Height: 16.2
Color: Gray

Trampled by a Thoroughbred trying to flee his stall, Jasmine Klunder was knocked unconscious when her head hit the barn’s brick floor.

The last thing she remembered before everything went black was the first thing she thought of when she woke up in a hospital bed an hour later: where’s the horse. Jasmine was 14 years old.

“My last memory was of him running toward the road, and I was worried about him. I just wanted to know he was okay,” says Jasmine, 19, of Michigan.

He was. And eventually, she was too.

In the five years since her accident, Jasmine has recovered from head trauma and undergone dental work to erase the signs of three broken teeth and damage to her jaw.

Sky, pictured here, helped Jasmine re-build her confidence

And at the same time she has worked to restore her confidence as a rider. For this she relied on her new trainer Grace DiBenedetto of Michigan, and two off-track Thoroughbreds.

While she struggled against visual disruptions, fainting spells, and other symptoms of post-concussive syndrome for the next year-and-a-half, Jasmine rebuilt her confidence working with off-track Thoroughbred, Sky.

“He was the horse I got on right after the accident,” she says. “He helped me figure out my style of riding, he really carried me along.”

JJ and Jasmine clear their first oxer

For two years she took lessons and went to shows on this gentle horse, never letting fear, hers or her family’s, dissuade her from her passion.

“There was a point right after my accident when my grandfather called, and he said, ‘You’re not going to do this anymore are you?’ And I paused to think about it. That’s when I told him I would never give it up.”

Her mother Kerri understood. Although she was very concerned when Jasmine resumed riding, she grew so confident in her daughter and in the disposition of off-track Thoroughbreds that three years ago, she bought her daughter her first horse.

In 2007, the pair joined DiBenedetto at the former Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon, Mich. to look at horses. JJ Silverheels, just two-years-old at the time, won them over with his mild-mannered personality and steely gray beauty.

JJ and Jasmine clear a jump

“I went in his stall and touched him all over. Then I felt him nose my shoulder, then he put his head over my shoulder, and he fell asleep,” Jasmine says, describing how she decided on JJ.

Learning to ride her young horse hasn’t always been easy. There are times Jasmine swears the horse mirrors her own personality, flaws and all. “There’ll be times when I’m pushing him to do something and we have this moment when everything goes wrong. I’ll get mad. He’ll get mad,” she says. “I’ve learned that it helps a lot to stop and take a few minutes to calm down and then start all over from the beginning.”

The concept of starting over has served Jasmine well.

A gentle beauty

“After my accident there were so many things I had to learn, things I didn’t know how to do, like taking care of my horse, and riding better,” she says. “After I left that barn, my instructor really had to break me down and re-teach me everything. But now, I’ve got all of my confidence back, and I can get on a horse and ride whenever I want to.”

And even though she still carries the the memory of her first horse running away, Jasmine is not a rider who will ever consider running away herself.

4 responses to “After head trauma, rider regains confidence on OTTBs”

  1. Debbie

    You were a very lucky girl after having a accident like that, and I applaud you for getting right back to the passion of horses and riding. I broke my collarbone in 2004 and had surgery to rebuild it. I was like you, riding a young horse. I was on a racehorse riding a trail with my daughter when my horse slid in the grass. Over his head I went. I landed on my shoulder and my head, breaking my helmet. After surgery and 2 days later, I was back up on a horse. I say you are a inspiration to people like me, and others. Horses are therapy for the mind, and soul and muscles of the body.

    1. Susan Salk

      Hi Debbie,
      Thank you for your comment. It’s clear that you’re a very dedicated and passionate rider, and I’m glad you wrote in. I hope you don’t mind, but I edited your comment a little bit. 🙂

  2. Laurie

    thank you – this made my day. I suffered a serious head injury and several broken bones last november while helping a friend with her horse. My OTTB has helped me regain my confidence. I have learned to trust him and myself.

    1. Susan Salk

      Laurie, Thank you for this comment. I’ve also had post-concussive syndrome after getting catapulted. But mine only lasted three weeks. I cringe to think of having it worse, like you and Jasmine. And I’m inspired by people who pick themselves up, shake off the dizzies, and keep going.

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