07/03/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
Even among radio shock jocks, Don Imus prides himself on being a tough customer. But the sandpaper-tongued morningmeister got a taste of his own medicine, and then some, when he climbed aboard his horse Destiny on June 18. "Have you ever seen those rodeos on TV?" a groggy-sounding Imus, who turns 60 in July, told his 10 million listeners the next morning. "The bastard bucked me."
He escaped injury when the same horse threw him three weeks earlier. But this date with Destiny eventually earned Imus a trip to an Albuquerque hospital, where doctors treated him for five broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a dislocated shoulder and a punctured left lung. "I put the cinch on too tight," he explained the next day.
Imus—whose Imus in the Morning program of gripes, interviews and parody sketches is heard five days a week on 90 radio stations-has weathered travails ranging from drug and alcohol addictions in the '80s to a collapsed lung in 1993, when he broadcast from his hospital bed. This time around, his main worry is hosting the groups of kids with cancer, aged 11 to 14, he had invited for week-long stays at his ranch. "The biggest heartbreak for him is that he won't be 100 percent when the kids come," says pal Pat O'Brien, coanchor of TV's Access Hollywood and an Imus regular.
Still, Imus—who lives in Manhattan with second wife Deirdre, 35, and their 2-year-old son Wyatt—is determined to get back in the saddle and back on the air pronto. "You gotta get back on the horse," O'Brien says. "If you don't, you'd be the subject of a Don Imus show, for an hour." Talk about a rough ride.