Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise. -- Alice Walker
Everything is so vivid when something goes wrong. I remember every smell, every noise, and every little detail. The cold night air smelled like boiled peanuts and the warm smell of hot chocolate. It was so cold that I couldn’t feel my legs. I remember that the last lap I took around the ring seemed extremely slow. I remember the steam coming off my horse’s back because he was so hot from running. Here’s what really happened on that night.
It was October 31st and the people at our barn, The Georgetown Saddle Club, were having a Halloween party. There was going to be a barrel racing contest that night so I was warming my horse, Skippy, up. I was riding him without a saddle or a pad because it’s really comfortable (to me) and it gives the horse less weight to carry. I was simply running laps around the ring. The bitterly cold air had been blowing past me, freezing my limbs, for what seemed like an eternity, but every second I enjoyed it. You could hear the faint laughter of the people that were up at the clubhouse eating the rest of their dinner. My parents were also up at the clubhouse, not knowing that my little sister had slowly meandered her way down to the ring. It was dark because there was no moon that night; there were no stars in the sky, or so it seemed, because the clouds had hidden them from sight. The orange-tented ring lights were on which made it where you couldn’t see anything outside of their luminous reach. Nobody else was in the ring at the time. I was really enjoying the quiet and I was able to focus on what Skippy was doing; making sure that every step he took was just right and even. With horses, if you take one wrong step, it could ruin their lives forever. As I took my last lap it happened. Everything rapidly slowed down as I saw my little sister step under the white, paint chipped railing, and into the ring. I saw true fear on her face because she knew she wouldn’t be able to move out of the way fast enough. She knew that she was going to get hit.
She tried to scream but nothing came out of her fear-dried throat. When my horse got to her, he was still in a full out run. Somehow, miraculously, he slid so hard on his back feet that he reared up. There was a horse in the lunge ring and as my horse reared up, the horse in the lunge ring neighed this scream-like neigh. It really made the moment seem absolutely unreal. I thought that maybe I was dreaming. I had it in my mind that I wasn’t seeing what was happening. I knew I had hit my sister. There was no way I could have missed her. My horse was rearing straight up and, even though I didn’t believe that he stopped, I knew that he had the power to. While he was in the air I couldn’t breathe. It’s like I forgot how. My sister put her hand out in front of her and touched his hot, steaming chest while his hooves were dancing in the air above her head in slow-motion, slinging the wet, orange dirt all over her. As all of this happened I watched my sister’s face transform through many different emotions: terror, confusion, curiosity, and then a sort of crazed relief. She slowly stumbled backwards and fell onto the ground. She was laughing.
When my horse came back down I jumped off as fast as I could. How could she be laughing when I had almost killed her? Maybe it was shock but honestly I think she was just really confused. I scooped her up into my arms. Skippy stood right behind me. He was resting his warm wet nose on my shoulder. He didn’t try to run off even though was loose; he didn’t try to eat the grass that was growing at the edge of the ring even though it was clearly within his reach. He stood there knowing that I literally owed him my life because he saved my sister’s. He knew that he was the hero in this scene.
* * *
From then on out everyone was congratulating me on how well I rode that night and how great I controlled my horse. I didn’t care about any of that. I was just glad that I didn’t hit my sister. Another reason I didn’t care was simply because, that night, I wasn’t the one that was controlling my horse. My horse was controlling himself and because of that he saved my sisters life. I am grateful â€˜till this day that he was able to control himself, despite what was drilled in his head to do.