It was a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon as my friend, Carey*(not her real name) and I guided our horses along our favorite trail in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. We had been riding together for years, even going on week-long riding vacations to exotic locations.
Today’s ride was particularly important to me. My mother had died two weeks earlier and my mentor had died six weeks before. Still overwhelmed by loss, I needed a day to be out in nature, to heal.
Shortly before 6 p.m. we turned back to the stable and noticed a path we had never seen. It went straight down the hill and would probably save us time. In the middle of the path was a small ditch about two feet wide and three feet deep. We both were experienced riders, so we assessed the path and decided there was room on each side of the ditch to ride safely.
Part way down the path, Carey suggested that we cross over and ride on the other side of the ditch. As she urged her horse across, his hind legs slipped. To my horror, he fell backwards into the ditch, landing upside down on his back, with all four feet in the air and with my friend beneath him.
“Carey!” I cried, jumping down from my horse and running to her, wondering how she could have survived. Only her lower legs were visible. I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t understand how she could have survived this accident. Certainly she must be bearing the entire weight of the horse. But she wasn’t – not totally. Most of his weight was supported by the side of the ditch. Miraculously, Carey was still alive.
Desperately, I tried to figure out what to do. First I tried to pull her out. But I couldn’t budge her or the horse. Carey cried out to me, “I don’t want to die.” It was clear that she was starting to panic. Finally I uttered the most difficult words I’ve ever had to say: “Carey, I have to leave you. I have to go for help.” I expected her to plead with me not to go. Instead, she said, “Yes, you have to go.”
Urging her to start praying, I hurried down the trail – and started praying myself.
I was no newcomer to prayer. My grandfather had been a Lutheran minister. I’d become a Quaker and had a master’s degree and doctorate in theology, I knew that the first thing, and the last thing, that one does in all crises is to pray. I was grateful for my years spent in studying and practicing my religion. I knew there was Someone to turn to in all circumstances – whether soothing hearts wounded by the loss of loved ones, or resolving dangerous situations where loss of a loved one seemed certain.
I began praying for help out loud. I knew that help could be twenty minutes or more away and in that time, Carey could panic, or die. I started praying out loud, “God, please! I need help now!”
About three minutes down the trail I saw a hiker who heard me. She asked, “What’s wrong?” I quickly explained, “We’re going to need help – a lot of it!”
“I left my cellphone in the car,” she said. “You go back to your friend; I’ll call 911!” and she ran down the hill.
When I returned to Cary, I sat near the fallen horse and told Carey I was going to start praying out loud so she could hear me.
I knew that ordinarily in a situation such as this, one would pray for God’s will to be done. Instead, I turned to an idea of prayer that came from one of my favorite Quaker theologians, Douglas Steere. He said pray any way you want, and if the prayer isn’t right, God will change it in the process of praying. I found myself praying boldly. I told God, “You have to save Carey. I don’t care how you do it. You can levitate her, levitate the horse, bring a miracle, bring help. But you must save her. And you must make sure that there will be no on-going injuries.” As I told God what to do, I expected the prayer to be changed. Certainly I had no business demanding such a response from God. But the prayer didn’t change. I almost felt as if God stopped, and listened, and allowed me to continue to pray for a miracle.
At one point, I told God that He couldn’t allow her to die because my teacher and my mother had died within the last six weeks and I didn’t know if I could take another loss. The prayer was stopped. I felt as if God said to me, “This isn’t about you, it’s about Carey!”
I returned to praying for a miracle for her – specifically, that the horse would stay calm, since every time he struggled, some of the dirt on the side of the ditch became dislodged. But just as I prayed, the horse started struggling again.
Why, I thought, am I getting the opposite of my prayer?”
A few minutes later, the hiker returned with a park ranger, who reassured us that the paramedics were on their way.
But now Carey gasped, “Linda, I’m running out of breath. I think I might only have twenty seconds left.”
Knowing that the paramedics were several minutes away, I thought, “No way is she going to die now, with help so close!” It occurred to me that I might have been wrong about the horse’s struggling; maybe when he struggled, he moved enough to allow Carey to get some air down in the hole. Perhaps this, too, was a gift from God.
I suggested to the ranger that he take one of the horses’ hind feet and I’d take the other. If we made him kick, maybe he’d lift his hindquarters enough so Carey could get some breaths.
We did manage to get the horse kicking – enough that Carey was able to turn her head and find a new pocket of life-saving air.
Within another few minutes, twelve paramedics arrived. I began to relax, but the crisis wasn’t over yet. Lifting the horse was not an easy task. The paramedics tried to call a vet. No luck. They called for a hoist. Again, no luck.
Finally, one of the men who knew horses suggested that they wrap a rope around the horse’s hind legs, then wrap the rope around the tree and all pull. If they could elevate the hindquarters, two paramedics might be able to yank Carey out of the hole. It worked. A minute later, she was out. By this time, she had been under the horse for almost an hour and a half.
While the paramedics worked with Carey, the hiker told me that she had started hiking on that trail and then realized that it was too isolated. She was starting to turn around when she heard my cries. I calculated that she had probably started on the trail just as the accident had happened.
Was she led to go up the trail? She was right where she needed to be, when
I needed her. In the midst of this potential tragedy, I understood that no matter what the situation and how hopeless it looks to us, there is always a place and a way for God to come through.
Carey was hospitalized for three days. She had some minor heart damage, part of her face was paralyzed, she had a broken finger, and bruises of every color. The day after the accident I organized a prayer circle for Carey’s complete healing. It included people she didn’t even know – friends of friends of friends. After several weeks of physical therapy, she was completely healed.
Just five weeks later, Carey and I went on another one week riding vacation. And both of us did just fine.
By Linda Seger
Published in The Breakthrough Intercessor, Winter, 2006
Note: Dr. Linda Seger is a script consultant and the author of nine books, seven on screenwriting. She has three M.A. degrees (two in theology) and a ThD in Theology.