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An Unfortunate Lesson
The smell of his muddy fur, the fly spray that stuck to him. Flaring nostrils and twitching ears still live in my dreams, even five years later. The pictures, trophies, ribbons, and numbers from the shows still hang on the wall next to my bed. Physically he wasn’t the same, but he still lived on, filling up my mind with wonderful memories.
The hospital is still here. I can still remember the doctors, the yelling of my mom, the lights flashing by me as I was wheeled down the halls. I think about it often.
Jazzy was my first horse. He was four when I got him, just off the track. I spent nearly every day with him, training him for three-day-eventing. I was seventeen when we reached Level 4 in the dressage circuit. The thoroughbred was the center of my life for many years. We grew up together.
But I guess success doesn’t always last, though the love between a person and a horse does live on.
My truck turned into the gravel driveway leading to the brown barn, dust flying up behind me, and the dogs trailing after the red truck. My phone was placed between my ear and shoulder as I listened to my mom rant about everything she could think of.
“Your father is in the kitchen. He really wants you to go to college, Sammy. It’s really important to him. It’s not too late.” My mom’s persuasive tone wasn’t getting to me this time. It was purely noise in the background.
“This is freaking unnecessary, mom. You try to get me to go to college every day. It’s not going to work. It’s not important to me, so please just stop. I’m at the barn so I can’t talk. I’ll be over for dinner later. Love you.” I hung up the phone and threw it into the passenger seat, getting out of the truck as I sighed loudly.
Turning back to see the barn made me smile, and I walked in, dropping my stuff into the small wooden cubby by the door, and headed over to Jazzy’s stall.
The stalls were like a big box with a window covered in small metal poles so the horse couldn’t stick his head out. The beige shavings covered the ground, hay strewn around the stall and a green bucket of water hung on the wall. A horse stood by the stall door, ears perked and eyes bright. A whinny escaped the graceful mouth, and Jazzy pawed the door, trying to get to me. He was covered in dust and hay after a long night in the barn, most likely rolling around out of boredom.
“Hey bubba. How are you today?” I murmured, opening the stall door and stroking his soft face. The thoroughbred nuzzled my shoulder as I slowly put the halter on him. I walked him into the aisle and brushed him off, removing the dust from his hindquarters and the hay from his mane.
The tack room smelled like leather and saddle soap, and I happily got the saddle, bridle, girth, and saddle pad from the small room. Jazzy pawed the ground as I tacked him up, helping me by holding my gloves in his lips while I put my helmet on.
“Thanks.” I smiled as the horse put the gloves in my hands. It was a trail day, I decided. It was a little slippery, but we needed to get a trail ride in before the first snow.
Jazzy sniffed the air, flaring his nostrils as he took in his chilly surroundings while I swung up into the saddle gracefully, patting his muscular neck lovingly, and urged him onto the trail. But he stopped quickly. “Come on buddy, let’s go,” I whispered. He started backing up. After a few moments of frustration, we were off onto the trail, trotting along slowly.
We went along the steep trail on a large hill, littered with sharp rocks and trees. Jazzy trotted slowly, his neck stiff with worry. I clenched the reins tightly, trying to keep my balance as Jazzy slipped every once and a while, but our luck with just an inch or two of slipping didn’t last. Halfway down the trail Jazzy hit a long ice patch, and everything happened quickly. His legs slipped from under him, making both of us fall, sliding down the steep hill. My leg snapped, along with everything else, but my mind went to my leg and blocked all otherr injuries. As I rolled down the hill, I felt Jazzy next to me, rolling right along. He whinnied, waking me up from a terrified trance. I spread out my arms and legs, ignoring the pain, and grabbed onto a rock, conveniently jutting out. My body screeched in pain with the sudden stop, and Jazzy slid to a stop a little farther down.
Thoughts spun through my head, along with pain and worry for Jazzy. Digging into my pocket, I found my phone and dialed 911 and the barn owner, Kaitlyn, and soon I was being lifted into a helicopter.
Lights ran over me. My motherr cried and screamed about how I looked. But I didn’t care about myself. Jazzy had to be okay. Thoughts ran through my head for hours until I lay in a bed, covered in a white blanket and bandaged from head to toe. They said I had gone through surgery. At the time I didn’t remember; I was too preoccupied with the worry for Jazzy’s health.
“Is Jazzy okay…?” I asked Kaitlyn desperately.
“He’s injured. Badly…but he’ll be okay. Just like you. It’ll be a long process though,” she said as an afterthought. Tears rolled down my cheeks with relief.
“He tried to warn me not to go on the trail. I made him,” I whispered.
“It’s a hard lesson that you learned in the wrong way. You have to listen to the horse.” Kaitlyn rubbed my shoulder and walked out of the room. I closed my eyes and smiled slightly.
“Jazzy!” I called. I walked into the pasture, swinging a lead rope over my shoulder. The horse lifted his grand head and whinnied while he pranced over to me. “Hey buddy. How are you today?”
Jazzy snuffled my pocket. I laughed and took out a carrot, grinning while he munched happily. His legs were healed, the scratches merely white lines of fur. As for me, I was fine. We no longer went on trail rides, but stuck to the field right next to the barn, just in case of an accident.
But that was okay. I enjoyed the leisurely hours, no pressure to compete anymore, since Jazzy couldn’t work that hard anymore. All I needed was a happy horse, and a lesson learned the hard way.