Milt Mastad was returning home after a day of work when his daughters were about to take their colts out for a ride. He joined them atop Partner, a young horse he’d recently begun training.
“I wanted to… put some miles on the colts,” said Milt. “On our way back to the yard… It was after dark and something spooked one of the girls’ horses behind me, and it just kind of started a chain reaction.”
Partner began bucking, and the rolling landscape, coupled with the lack of daylight, spelled disaster.
“We were catching so much air, because he’d leap from a hill, and it was just such a far way down before he’d hit again that it was generating so much force.
“It was probably four or five jumps, and it felt like he was getting higher and higher and higher, and I couldn’t see where we were going. On one of the jumps I came down in the saddle and I could feel my pelvis just blow apart.”
Several bucks later he managed to slide off Partner and hit the ground—a comforting place to be by comparison, he said.
Once their own horses were brought under control, Tressa, age 11, and Peyton, 13, eventually found their dad lying on the ground and asked if he was all right.
“I said, ‘No, I’m really not,’” Milt recalled. “’I’ve split my pelvis and my SI joint came apart!’”
A former professional hockey player, Milt had seen friends suffer similar injuries before.
Peyton hurried home to tell their mom, Paulette, while Tressa stayed behind with their dad.
“We jumped into the SUV and bounced our way out there,” said Paulette. “We got there and realized how bad it was and then got him loaded up into the SUV.”
Not an easy task.
“Paulette drove up with the bumper almost touching my nose,” said Milt, “and I started crawling into the back. “
She added, “It was a long, bouncy ride out of the pasture because it’s quite rough, and he was in quite a lot of pain. He was in shock too, I think.”
Back at the house, they called 911. First responders made the long drive to the ranch and determined Milt was in critical condition, transporting him to the nearest town, where STARS picked him up and flew him to a trauma centre that would have otherwise been a three-hour drive away.
“One of the things that we were kind of worried about was, How is dad is going to last three hours in a vehicle all the way to the city?” said Peyton. “And then we found out that STARS was coming and we felt so much more relieved that he didn’t have to suffer through the pain of bouncing down a bumpy highway. That kind of calmed our worries a little bit that he was going to get to safety quicker.”
“When I met with my STARS crew… Mack the medic (flight paramedic Ryan MacMillan) said, ‘We knew how bad it was. We knew that it could be critical, and that’s why we came.’
“To have that, to have people that know that and can respond that quickly to somebody whose life might be in danger, it’s crucial.”
The Mastads were STARS supporters long before the accident.
“It’s because where we live we don’t have easy access to medical attention,” said Milt. “I was just kind of looking at it as insurance: if I support it maybe I won’t have to use the service.”
Then he laughed, “The insurance doesn’t work quite like that, but at the same time, with all the dollars we’ve put in, I’ve reaped some of the benefits.”
Milt resumed riding within four months on a different horse, and before the one year anniversary of his accident he was back on Partner, a horse he now rides regularly.
“He’s a nice horse, and I’m glad I didn’t give up on him,” said Milt. “We’ve been through a lot.”
And he continues to support STARS.
“I can guarantee that everybody in the province either already knows someone or they are going to know someone that needs the service,” he said. “I do take comfort in the fact that if something does happen STARS might be there to give me medical attention again.”
Paulette was asked what she would say to donors who help make STARS possible.
“Just keep donating,” she said, fighting back tears. “It’s so worth it. You don’t think you’re going to need it, but when you do you’re sure thankful.”