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Phoenix Wings This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Rockwall, TX
Sweat beads on my forehead, escaped pieces of hair from my ponytail adhering to the moisture. As I clench my fingers, salt-water dripping into a burst blister burns my palm. I smile-grimace at the pain.

My hips swing side to side with the movement of the horse beneath me. He pants through wide nostrils, white foam beginning to form where the reins rub against his neck. Yet he holds his head high in anticipation, his ears flickering back and forth as if listening for my signal. I, in turn, watch my trainer for his instruction with eager eyes. Let’s do this.

“Step up and slow gait.”

I grin briefly before setting my hands apart and urging my horse forward. He shakes his head once as he steps into gear, sending droplets of sweat flying.
Each stroke of the gait rocks the saddle, rising in strength with each forward motion. Forcing my hands back to my chest, I hold the gear together. But only just. I can feel it building. Vibrating against my legs, it struggles to ignite. To be set free.

I turn the corner of the arena. The long side extends directly in front of me like a runway. Zig-zagging my hands once more, I set my arms further apart and pull my shoulders back as if attempting to bring a pair of wings together in preparation to fly away.

My trainer says the words. “Rack on.” I sit back. Let the fire go.

The sudden burst of power from my horse’s hind legs propels me forward, sending me up with my spiking adrenaline. Had I the courage to risk losing control of the four-legged, muscled inferno beneath me, I would close my eyes in order to better relish the feelings: air buffeting my face through the large open windows, the crack of a whip reverberating off the metal walls, the unique smell of sweat and horse and dirt that’s only found here. Pure power pulses, pounds, across the dirt in tandem with my heartbeat. One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four.
**

It’s a heady feeling, the power spiraling into the air, the beat of hooves drumming out a victory march. The sensations swirl around me, in me, through me. They lift my chin higher, hold my back straighter, brighten my eyes and lighten my heart. They allow me to borrow their wings. And though after each ride I must face the inevitability of dismounting and touching down on the dirt once more, if only so I can remount and repeat the experience another day, the lifted chin, the straightened back, and the phoenix wings never fully fade away.





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