"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."
~ Winston Churchill
“Come on boy, come on.” I whispered into Magic’s ear, which was twitching with eagerness. I laid a hand on the Thoroughbred’s glossy neck. I had to force myself not to get distracted by all the things around me, and my job was very hard. The calm breeze toying with the branches, the light pounding of Magic’s hooves on the sandy ground, the heavy breathing that was pushing in and out of my mouth. Magic’s silky and sweaty fur felt smooth under my body, I felt like I was almost about to slip off, but I found enough to grip to that I was just staying on, the feeling was amazing. I was riding Magic bareback round and round the arena, and everything was perfect, I felt like I was flying, just me and Magic, one with each other and one with air.
“Sit the trot!” my trainer shouted. Oh great, I thought crossly, sitting the trot was my sore spot, and it was just the thing to ruin this perfect feeling. Oh well, I thought, just keep your heels down, sit up straight, and stay calm, it’ll be fine. As soon as I stopped posting, I bounced around like a bag of jelly beans. I must have done something wrong, which is what I usually did, because I wasn’t that good of a rider yet. Magic suddenly started cantering! As I struggled to slow him down and make him stop, I also struggled to hold on. I felt my confident moment of just flying around the arena slip away, and when I fell, I hoped, really hoped, that I could just get back up as if nothing happened at all.
Blackness, dark, inky blackness. Everything was blurry, like the water color painting I made in preschool, the one that I added WAY too much water to. My trainer ran faster than a horse in the Kentucky Derby; when she reached my crumple body, she bent over me in concern. I stood up slowly and as I did, I felt a fiery pain in my right arm, I struggle not to cry, everything about this was pain, extreme
“We had a spill.” My trainer called out in a choked up voice; I could tell she felt bad about me falling off her horse. And I don’t blame her, I’d feel pretty bad if it was my horse that some kid fell off and had to be taken to the hospital.
My trainer ran to get our car so that we could rush to the hospital. When she returned, car in possession, she said in a shaky voice, “You were doing so good, you really were.” But that was all, all she could say as she watched us hurry off to the hospital at a speed that would only be legal on the Autobahn.
When we arrived in the clean smelling waiting room, my mom urgently told the receptionist what happened, while I sat quietly, while the pain grew worse and worse when the minutes stretched by. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours on the pain clock, tears welled in my eyes. When the x-ray room was ready, they sent us in, where my arm was examined. It was horrible. Dark purple bruises had developed all over my arm, and moving it into certain positions was the one thing that I was least willing to do. All I wanted was to sit down and sleep, forget that every breath I took was like nails piercing my lungs, that my arm looked like a plum, that I would probably never feel the wonderful sensation of riding bareback again. After waiting for a while, watching doctors and nurses walk past, and sitting in a comfortable bed, trying to fight off more tears, the doctor came in, holding pictures of x-rays. He told us the worset news of all, I’d broken my humorous, a bone in my upper arm, and from the looks of the pictures, I’d busted it up pretty good. The bone was out of place and it was really lopsided.
After talking us through all of our options; get a half -body cast, wear a sling for six weeks, or have surgery to set the bone back in place, and have a sling for six weeks after that. Since there was no way I was having surgery or a half-body cast, I asked exactly how SAFE the sling was, all it looked like was a thin piece of fabric holding my broken arm. After assuring me it was all very safe, that doctor set the bone back in place, in a series of heart-stopping squeezes and pushes that hurt more than anything I’d ever felt before. He told us that I could take it out of the sling every week or so to wash, or else it was to be on day and night, for six whole weeks. And he also said I would have to have physical therapy for about four weeks after the bone healed a bit.
The ride home wasn’t as painful, stressful, or exciting. But instead of feeling like all I wanted to do was cry, now all I wanted to do was think of all the reasons why I would never get back on again. I was angry at Magic for getting too excited and making me fall, but most of all I was angry at myself, for believing that I could ride bareback. All of this was the most painful and stressful part of my life.
FIVE WEEKS LATER
This was my second week of physical therapy, and my arm was feeling better and better with each growing day. My feelings were less hurt now, but I was still angry, or at least I thought I was. It was impossible to tell, I didn’t know if I should be mad at Magic, but after all, he was the one who caused me all this pain and despair. I should have known I wasn’t ready to ride bareback like that, I should have told my trainer that I needed more time to get better at riding ... My arm was almost better; I knew that I would soon be at the point where I could get back on a horse again, so I felt that I would have to stall for more time before I went back out to the stable again. The truth was, I didn’t really want to ride another horse, and I felt that the tragedy that was inflicted upon me was too much. After all, I was only nine, and most nine-year-olds haven’t even broken bones. The thought of not being around those great, lovable horses again sounded more dreadful then I could ever imagine. But I felt that it might be the best, for me and for them. So that was that, no matter what anyone else told me, I was not going to get on another horse, ever.
A year later, I knew that the empty hole in my chest had to be healed sometime; it was causing me too much pain. I knew that the hole could be filled in by my lovable equine friends, but I didn’t know if I could stand it. Horses had always been a part of me, but I wished I could find another way to relieve the burning pain without involving horses; they seemed too dangerous. Not having such an enjoyable way to spend time with my favorite animal was too hard.
Finally I made up my mind; I would try riding a horse again, for the peace of mind of my family, and for my own enjoyment. I had figured out that I needed horses, and I assumed they needed me also.
The day of my first ride was a fair day, calm enough to soothe my nerves. I hoped that it wouldn’t be a day full of disaster, and certainly not bad enough for ANOTHER trip to the emergency room. Magic seemed glad enough to have me back on him, a person he knew and remembered. As my trainer had said, I had been one of her best riders, and I could have worked up to become better and better, until I fell, and decided never to ride again. That first ride taught me I needed horses, I needed to ride them, be around them, and have them a part of my life.
After that day, on the way home in the car, I said the words I had been saying since I could talk. I looked my mom straight in the eye and said, “Mom, I want my own horse.”
(Kaija did buy a horse, and happily rides Thunder, shown in the photo at top. Click to enlarge.)
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