Previously injured Tevis rider to compete again with son
It's been four years since Luanne Thomas was thrown from a horse in San Francisco, but she still gets nervous when she's in the saddle and things get a little shifty.
Even after completing last year's Tevis Cup, Thomas, of Cool, is still unsure when she's on a trail she isn't comfortable with.
"I still have little panic attacks if my horse stumbles. It takes everything I have to get through some of these narrow trails, even though the accident didn't happen on the trail," Thomas said. "I'm just nervous about waking up in the hospital again."
Thomas will ride in this year's Tevis Cup, but she won't do it alone. This will be the first time her son, Dillon, 13, has ridden the 100-mile endurance race, but he said he's ready, especially after placing first in the junior level of the American Endurance Ride Conference's west region.
"It's just the thrill of it, really. It's just the thrill of Tevis," Dillon said.
Thomas finished the race last year, a big accomplishment for her after taking a few years off from riding.
She did not finish her first attempt at the race and was eager to give it another go in 2008. Thomas was a member of the Sacramento Police Mounted Association for 16 years and decided to attend a training session being held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
That's when Thomas's life was uprooted.
"It's been a scary trail for me," she said.
Thomas had loaned the horse she regularly used out the day she was at the training session and was on another, more aggressive horse.
She said she could tell something was wrong when she was in formation, but by the time she tried to move him it was too late.
"He really had an anger management issue. He wanted to dominate the other horses that were around and when I went to take him out of formation he reared up so fast that I slid off and he sat on me," Thomas said.
The entire 1,500 pounds of horse that landed on Thomas shattered her pelvis and squashed her bladder. On the way to the hospital she bled out and had to be resuscitated twice. Then on top of it all she had a stroke.
Thomas was in a medically induced coma for a week and a half and then spent a month in San Francisco General Hospital and another four in a wheel chair.
Doctors would later tell Thomas that she was lucky the weight of the horse didn't fall another inch higher on her body or more of her internal organs would have been damaged and she would probably be paralyzed.
She can't remember anything between falling off the horse and waking up in the hospital, but Thomas does remember the moment she found out she wouldn't be participating in the 2008 Tevis Cup, which was canceled that year anyway because of poor air quality associated with burning wildfires.
"When I woke up I asked the doctors ‘well, am I going to be able to ride a 100-mile race next month?' and they kept saying ‘you won't be walking,'" Thomas said.
Four months later, Thomas was out of the wheelchair and back in the saddle, if only for a moment.
"I sat there for about 10 minutes nervously and then got off," she said.
From there, she relearned how to trust her horses and completed last year's Tevis Cup for the first time. She has been preparing Dillon for it and thinks he is finally ready for the ride.
"I told him he can't do it until I know that if an adult gets in trouble and he's out there by himself he can handle his horse and help another rider if they need help," Thomas said.
Thomas has taught her son to keep track of how much his horse is eating, how many gulps of water it takes, how to load it himself and keep track of all the little things that could go wrong on the trail.
She said he's a quick learner and is ready for the Tevis Cup.
"He's quite excited," she said. "He and his horse make a really good team."