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In An Instant
We seemed to hang over the fence for a few seconds. I sat, poised above my stallion’s neck while time stood still. Finally we hit the ground and the arena erupted into a deafening cacophony of screaming and stomping feet. Suddenly, my horse, In An Instant, tripped, throwing me over his shoulder into a colorful jump with cows next to it. I heard Instant slam into the ground next to me and the arena dropped into gasps and screams.
“Instant…” I muttered, and blacked out.
I woke up in a hospital bed. At first I thought I was in a flowery meadow with tons of colored balls rolling around, but soon my eyes focused and I realized it was a bunch of bouquets and balloons.
“Mom?” I whimpered.
“Oh Tabby! Thank God! Are you alright? Do you need anything?” mother looked so relieved she had tears in her eyes.
“Whoa slow down! I just woke up… what happened?”
“Well… Instant tripped. We haven’t been able to figure out why. He was fine, except he hasn’t let anyone near him for a month.”
“Wait, a month?!? What the hell why don’t I remember this?!?” I shrieked.
“Well, you’ve been in a coma since the accident. It’s October 12th.”
“Holy s***! Mom the show was September 10th! What the hell is wrong with me?!?”
“Honey, calm down and I’ll explain everything. You were in really bad shape. Super bad concussion, 5 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken wrist. The concussion caused a coma. You had surgery and the lung was fixed and your ribs are healing correctly.”
“What the hell! When can I go home?”
“Well, we have to ask your doctor, but now that you’re awake they have to run a few more tests before you can be released. Hopefully within the next week.”
I stepped out of my mom's small blue subaru, wincing as my ribs creaked. I looked around the stable yard, filled with its usual activities. I hesitated, almost getting back in the car.
“Instant is in the back stall of the stallion barn. You know, the one with the attached paddock.” My mom gave me a little shove toward the barn. I made it across the yard without anyone noticing it was me. Entering the stallion barn, my footsteps echoed and it felt as if each step carried me deeper into a void. When I reached the last stall and looked over the door, all I could see was a huge familiar looming shape. I flipped the light switch, and there he was. For a moment I remembered the day I first glimpsed him at a horse auction in Lexington, Kentucky. He pranced like he owned the world, head held high and chocolate brown bay coat glistening underneath the phosphorescent glow of the lights. I had to have him.
I looked again, and could tell something was wrong. He was backed up against the wall, eyes showing white, head high and a sweat sheen along his flanks and chest. I unlatched the door and stepped onto the soiled wood shavings.
“Hey boy. How’re you holding up?” I whispered. He answered by waving and making loud snorting noises. I know it sounds kind of funny, but I promise you, seeing a horse act like that is scary as hell.
“It’s okay, it’s only me.” He flung his head higher and rolled his eyes into his head. I took a step forward, and he shot out the door into the attached paddock like he was flung from a cannon. I felt a flood of tears coming on and sat heavily onto the floor, putting my head into my hands. I heard the latch on the stall door click, and soft footsteps.
“Hey Tabs.” I looked up and shrieked, flinging myself into my best friend Badger’s arms. Immediately I gasped.
“S*** the ribs! The ribs!” I fought for my breath, the pain coursing through every inch of my body.
“Oh my god I’m soo sorry!” Badger apologized frantically.
“Its fine I totally forgot about them. Damn things are almost healed.” I huffed.
“Argh they should get better now!” He narrowed his eyes.
“Right? It’s bugging the crap outta me.” I shrugged. We laughed and sat down, our backs against the door.
The next day I arrived at Instant’s stall with a bran mash, made of beet pulp, apples, carrots, molasses, and oats. I placed it in the doorway to his pen outside. I then sat right inside the stall door to the hallway. Instant would dash in and take a few nibbles, see me move a millimeter, and take off. Eventually he stopped this and finished the mash.
Over the next few weeks, I tried as hard as I could to get him to come near me. By the time my ribs were healed, I had another blockage from riding at all, even when people wanted me to ride their horses. Every night I had nightmares from the accident, seeing Instant that first day back. Every time anyone would try to convince me to get back on, I would have a flashback to the moment I was flung into the fence; that feeling of being hopeless, my life flashing before my eyes. I would break into a cold sweat just thinking about it. Still I tried to help Instant, until I finally lost it.
“Okay mom, I’m sick of this! I cant do this anymore, just get rid of him!” I shouted.
“Tabby! I can’t do that! He’d probably end up at a slaughter house, no one can get near him, and you can get the closest! I am not wasting all that money!” my mother just blew up. Naturally I did what any 16 yr. old teenager would do in my situation, and ran. I made it 5 blocks before Badger came and picked me up. My mom probably called him.
“Hey Tabs. Get in.” I climbed into the front seat, which was littered with various crumpled up drawings. We drove for a couple of miles in silence before he spoke.
“Okay, I know everyone’s been telling you this, but you can’t give up on Instant. You guys have a connection I’ve never seen in anyone or anything else. I know it’s hard, but you will regret getting rid of him. I promise. You wouldn’t be… you without Instant, or riding. Come on Tabs, you gotta keep trying.”
“Badger! I just can’t stand it anymore! I have nightmares about the accident every night, and just the thought of riding again makes me so scared I shake! I just can’t do it.” I sobbed.
“Okay, I understand. Just know whatever happens next, it’s for your own good.”
“What are you talking about?” he refused to speak. “Badger! What the hell is going on?!?” I shrieked. “Damn it what are you talking about?” we pulled into the drive to Greenwood Stables, where I boarded Instant. “What are you doing?”
“Okay, you love me right?” he asked.
“Well, yeah. Why?”
“Promise me you will try. For me.”
“Just promise me. Please.”
“Okay fine.” He parked and we got out of the car. He took my hand and pulled me towards the lockers. He grabbed my helmet, still holding onto me super tight. We walked into the indoor arena, where our friend Rachel had her horse, Zeus, tacked up.
“Wait wait wait! I can’t do this you guys cant do this! please!” I frantically scrabbled at their hands, my ragged breath's scrathcing down my dry throat. Finally I sat down in the sand. Badger just picked me up and put my helmet on my head. He set me down in the saddle and I started sobbing. “Take me down please god damn it!”
“Tabby, please! You promised! Its for your own good I swear!” Badger had tears in his eyes and I could tell how much it hurt him to do this to me. I quieted down and sat up. I was shaking so bad I almost fell out of the saddle, but he steadied me. Rachel clicked Zeus on and we started walking.
“Ah s*** s*** s***. Breathe… breathe...” I gasped for breath.
“Okay Instant, lets do this.” I took a deep shuddering breath. It had been a month since Badger and Rachel mad me ride. I had finally gotten Instant to trust me again and I was about to try riding him bareback. I placed my hands on his broad back, letting his warmth seep into my cold fingers. Closing my eyes, I relaxed every muscle in my body. ‘just do it’ I told myself. I pushed up and launched myself onto his back. We both tensed, expecting something bad to happen, but nothing did. We both let out a breath simultaneously, and I laughed. I urged him forward. I had forgotten how wonderful it was to ride him. A grin to reach the stars spread across my face, and soon we were trotting again. I urged him into a canter and spread my arms out. I felt the same flying sensation I had over that last fence before the accident. I closed my eyes and rode, just for the pure joy of riding. ‘Badger was right, there’s nothing in the world like this.’