By Connor Lynch
TWEED — He knocked one man aside and scooped up a little girl in one arm with the thunder of hooves only a heartbeat away. He thinks he shouted “Sorry,” as he threw her to safety before getting run down, flipped over and stomped on by half a ton of ponies. Three-year-old Riley got away with only a few bruises, scrapes, and a scratch on her neck. The Madoc farmer, 51-year-old Calvin Stein, had his eye socket and nose broken as the whippletree, the piece of wood on the harness, smashed open his face.
As Stein sees it, the ponies’ handler was preparing for the Tweed Fair horse pull on July 9 at high noon and was cinching the harness to the weights. The hook made the usual noise but didn’t catch.
The ponies, trained to jump when they hear that sound, just did what they were supposed to and leapt forward, said Stein, who brought his own team of horses to the fair. “It was a freak accident.”
The ponies, finding themselves with unexpected freedom, took off down the track, heading some 200 yards directly towards a father and his three children.
Stein took off running, screaming for people to get out of the way. The father had two of his children by each hand, but the three-year old was still in the line of fire, “oblivious,” said Stein.
“The goal was to pick her up and run with her,” but there was no time. The ponies were on him. “I knew kids bounce.”
Knowing that getting trampled would’ve been much worse, Stein made the decision. He tossed her in the air. She dropped between a parked car and a horse trailer.
Then they hit him. “I did a complete somersault, then I went face first and shoulder first into the dirt. Then the back hoof caught me, and slid up my back between my shoulder blades.” Then he figures the whippletree, the plate of wood on the harnesses, caught his leg, flipped him, and then cracked him in the face.
“It was a hell of a ride,” he said. “I’m just happy to be on the right side of the ground.”
He was taken to hospital in Belleville, and got 15 stitches across his forehead and a few internal ones.
He convinced the emergency team not to fly him to Kingston for his swollen face, one eye completely shut. “Other than that I’m good,” he told Belleville staff.
He said he received some “beautiful texts” from the family the day after, and they wanted to visit, but his brother asked them to give him a few days.
“I didn’t want to scare the kids either. I’m an ugly mess right now.”