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My Secret Feelings
There was something warning me that I shouldn’t do this, something telling me that it wouldn’t turn out well, but my excitement overruled my conscience. I’d worked way too hard for this to just back out.
I sat on my horse five feet up, smiling as I watched one of my friends go around the jumping course. She came out of the last combination, and her face broke into a grin as she rode out of the course. I clapped, and so did my other friends who were waiting to take their turn on the course.
One of my closest friends stood on the ground beside me. He wasn’t jumping- he “didn’t do tights” that jumpers had to wear, he had told me before. He was a cowboy…my cowboy as I liked to think of him in my mind. He clapped with me, also smiling a huge white smile.
He asked me when it would be my turn. I told him I’d be up next, saying so as another rider entered the ring. He asked if I was nervous, looking at me with intense light blue eyes, meanwhile stroking my horse’s neck. I admitted to being a little nervous, but that I was more excited than anything. He chuckled a bit.
I looked up at her sitting relaxed in her saddle. My mouth twitched in a small smile as I noticed her hands trembling slightly. None the less, she was smiling, watching intently as one of our close friends finished the last few jumps. We both clapped after the last obstacle. I asked her when it would be her turn to ride the course, noticing another one of our friends heading into the arena. She told me that she was up next. She took a deep breath, her hands still shaking. I asked her if she was nervous at all. I moved closer to her horse’s neck and gave him a few strokes. She said that she was somewhat nervous, but more excited than anything. Something in the statement amused me, and though I wasn’t sure what, I chuckled a bit. I told her she’d do great.
The others had started clapping, so we both rushed in a few claps as well. She then handed me her camera, requesting that I take a video of her ride. Then, she picked up her reins and rode her grey gelding into the arena, high fiving the exiting rider. I turned on the camera.
I took one last deep breath before picking up my reins. I talked soothingly to my horse, but it was more for me.
I stated to trot in a circle, carefully collecting my horse. I moved him into a canter and rode down the fence towards the far end of the ring. I turned at the corner and headed for the first jump, which was almost smack dab in the center of the arena. I could feel him starting to extend. I checked him again and four strides later, we flew over the jump. He sped up again, and it was more of a struggle to slow him again, especially while trying to stay rounded and balanced around the turn. Finally, he collected again and we jumped the middle combination.
Something felt off as we came out of the third jump. He was moving strange-not like he was in pain, just off. I slowed to a trot, and he moved balanced again. As we entered the bend, we picked up the canter and we were balanced. He leapt and we were over the fence. The next jump was only a few strides away.
My horse took one last stride and suddenly dodged the jump. I flew off his back, and I heard two cracks as my entire body was thrown into the arena fence. My head snapped back into its usual position. It throbbed a little, but I knew that one of the deafening cracks was just my helmet against the fence post.
I was just stunned, but everyone else didn’t know that. It must’ve been only seconds before my cowboy was next to me. I could see a few adults rushing our way.
He seemed panicked, looking at me intensely, asking if I was ok, and if I could get up. I nodded that I was fine. He tried to help me up, but the moment that he touched my arm, pain shot through it. I minced and gasped. My friend recoiled at my show of pain. Still, his hands hovered over me, ready to help. Holding my arm to my side, I slowly stood up. The adults had long since arrived, but seemed to have calmed down now that I was standing. One of them had thought to go catch my horse.
I watched her circle her horse twice before moving off along the rail. I watched her ride through the camera. She headed towards the first jump and when her horse took off, she went right with him. She was smiling one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen on her face. She turned her horse around the curve and headed for the next two jumps. I was still following her with the camera, but when I looked up, I noticed her horse was moving weird. I heard a few of the others mention cross-cantering. She let him trot a few strides before picking up the right-hand lead.
She looked almost angelic as she rode in sync with her horse. I thought he’d make a nice western pleasure horse personally.
They jumped the fourth jump. They were approaching the second jump of that combination when her horse suddenly dodged to the right of the jump. She was thrown into the fence. Her head rikoshade off the fence post as her horse trotted away.
The others gasped and a few shouted her name. My heart raced in fear. I dropped the camera and scrambled through the fence. I normally wouldn’t have made a big deal out of this; it was just a fall after all. I’d taken my fair share, and so had everybody else in the project. This wasn’t the first time she had fallen either, but this time was different. This time she wasn’t getting up. When I got to her side, she looked ok. Stunned and rattled, most definitely, but otherwise ok. I asked her if she was ok, and if she could stand. She nodded and started to shift so she could get up. I reached for her arm to help her, but as soon as I touched it, she gasped in pain. I jumped back, frantically apologizing. She continued to stand.
I noticed for the first time that the adults were surrounding us. One of the leaders put a hand on her shoulder and I saw her grimace again. They asked if anything was hurting her. She shook her head, even though I could clearly see that her arm hurt despite the mask she put on. I chimed in and told the adult leaders that her arm seemed to hurt her. We all looked at her left arm which had already begun to swell. Somebody said it appeared to be broken. She moved it out of sight, mumbling that she was fine. She reached for the reins. One of the leaders started to object but I beat her to it. She looked at me very seriously, as if challenging gme. I knew she was tough and had a stubborn side, but I’d never seen this part of her. She said she was finishing this course, whether they okayed it or not.
Knowing that there was no chance of winning this fight, I smiled an affectionate smirk and offered a leg up. She smiled, thanked me, then I helped her into her saddle.
One of the adult leaders walked up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder. That action hurt as well, just like when my friend tried to help me up, but not quite to the same magnitude. I grimaced a little, but I didn’t think anybody noticed. The leader asked if anything hurt. I thought about it for just a moment, then told her I was fine, ignoring the pulsing in my arm.
I guess my friend didn’t buy it though, because he ratted me out, pointing out that my arm appeared to be hurting me. Everyone’s gaze shifted to my arm which was already swelled up and puffy. I moved it from their sight, mumbling again that I was fine. I reached for my horse’s reins. My friend objected of course. I turned to face him, looking at him with daggers. I appreciated his concern of course, but I had to finish the course. He seemed a little surprised by my reaction which made me even more determined to ride again.
Finally, he smiled a little bit and offered me a leg up. I let out a breath and thanked him. He lifted me into the saddle. I gathered my reins once more, flashed another grateful smile, and rode off.
My arm was throbbing and ached like no other, but I wanted to do this. I had to now. My cowboy was getting too many disapproving looks for me to change my mind.
Controlling my horse with limited use of my left arm was a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated, but I pushed it from my mind. I only had to complete four jumps. I trotted my horse to the far end of the ring, then pointed him to the combination that broke my arm.
We picked up the canter and approached the first half of the combination. He jumped and I moved with him, leaning over his neck, focusing now on the next jump. I made a wall with my outside leg, and before he had a chance to dodge it again, I nudged him with my heels and we were over! I heard an uproar of cheering and I smiled, but we weren’t done yet.
I attempted to collect him again, and succeeded on a small scale. We rounded the last bend and headed for the final two jumps.
She smiled once more before riding off. I heard the adults conversing, saying that she was one tough, dedicated rider. I couldn’t have agreed more. The adults and I crawled through the fence and stood by the rail to watch. Her jaw was set in a determined line. She moved her gelding into a canter and rode towards the jumps.
I couldn’t help but think of disaster. What if her horse dodged out again? She wouldn’t be able to but him back over. I was terrified that she’d get hurt worse than she already was, and I was kicking myself for allowing her to ride again. I wasn’t that I underestimated her riding ability, but worst case scenarios still crept into my mind. I didn’t want to see the girl I loved in pain.
Wait. Hold the phone! What did I just say to myself? Did I really just say that I loved her? Was I in love with my best friend?
The crowd started cheering, snapping me back from my thoughts. She’d cleared the jump that her horse ran out on the first time. I let out a breath that I didn’t realize I’d been holding. But she still had two more jumps to clear.
She must’ve been in at least a little pain, but she must’ve been focused on the course because she had a smile on her face that spread from ear to ear; the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. They neared the second-to-last jump, and then flew over it. She looked like and angel…
I surprised myself again. Did I really feel this way about her!? I could feel my conscience kick me in the head, yelling at me that of course I loved her, I’d been denying the fact to myself for months!
They cleared the last jump with flying colors. She beamed as they landed. They cantered along the rail, her face jubilant. She patted her horse’s neck. Her face immediately twisted into a grimace and she tucked her arm into her stomach. She regained her composure; at least she tried. She slowed her horse and started for the gate. She was still smiling broadly, but I could see beyond that mast and knew her arm was killing her. I left my spot near the announcer’s booth and sprinted towards the gate.
My horse took one last stride and flew over the jump. I bent over his neck, embracing the feeling of flight. I heard the thud of his front hooves as we landed, and felt his muscles ripple beneath me as he took the two strides to the last jump. He propelled us up and over as he pushed off with his front legs, and even more so with his hind legs. We landed and cantered off. I didn’t even realize that I’d been smiling until I patted him on the neck and felt another jolt of pain surge through my arm. I held my arm to my stomach and tried to put my smile back on as I headed towards the gate.
As I exited the ring, I was bombarded by praises followed by multiple forms of “Are you ok?”
I nodded and started to dismount. As I swung my leg over my horse’s rump, I felt two hands grab me around my waist and help me down. I didn’t have to look to know it was my cowboy. He asked me about my arm, and if my mom knew what had happened. I shrugged one shoulder and said that she had to work today. I added that she’d be out here later today and it could wait until then. He told me that he didn’t think it was a good idea to wait that long to have my arm looked at. He took my horse’s reins and said he’d help me take care of him, then drive me to the hospital himself. I objected, but he wouldn’t have any of it; he just kept walking with my horse. I let out a sigh and followed him.
When I got to the gate she was nodding to our friends. I walked the remainder of the way to her horse’s side. As she began to dismount, I reached up to help her down.
As I set her on the ground, I asked her how she felt, where her mom was and if her mom knew what just happened. She shrugged nonchalantly, saying that her mom was still at work. She explained that her mom would be there later that day. I wasn’t happy about this. I snatched her horse’s reins from her hand and started walking back to the barn. Over my shoulder, I explained that I’d take her to the hospital myself after I helped her with her horse. She started to argue, but I ignored her. I heard her let out an exasperated sigh before following me, defeated. I smirked.
I argued him the entire way to the hospital, insisting that he didn’t have to be doing this and that it could wait until my mom got there. He looked at me, raising his eyebrows. Everything about his look screamed “Yeah, right.” I shook my head and leaned against the door, gazing out the window.
She complained the whole way there. She said it could’ve waited, and I just gave her a skeptical glance. It may have annoyed her a bit, but it shut her up.
He asked what color cast I would get when I went back in a few days. I shrugged and said blue or green. He agreed that both were good choices.
When we got back to the fairgrounds, there was a crowd around my stall that included some friends, a few of the leaders, and my anxious mother. My cowboy and I exchanged looks. Great…
I walked up to my mom and she started asking questions: What happened, why didn’t you call, where were you, and are you ok. I explained everything to her, telling her I didn’t call because she was working and that my friend had taken me to the hospital. And, yes, I was fine. She thanked my friend and asked when the doctor wanted me back.
We walked side by side back to the barn. As we started down the isle, she stopped, rolling her eyes as she saw the small crowd by her stall. She looked at me and se silently exchanged an understanding. She strolled forward, calling to her mom. I trailed behind her as her mother started asking questions. She explained what happened at the show and told her that I’d taken her to the hospital. Her mom looked over at me and thanked me with a warm smile before asking her daughter a few other questions. I smiled and walked away.
He was leaning on the arena rail when I walked up to him and stood next to him.
“So I suppose I should thank you for taking me to the hospital…even though it was against my will,” I joked. He laughed a bit.
“Yeah. Still not sure what all the fuss was about.” I looked at him.
“You tell me. You were the one freaking out over a broken arm,” I bantered. He opened his mouth to say something, then changed his mind, smiling. “What, you don’t want to explain?”
“Let’s just say I wanted to make sure you got taken care of,” he said, smiling up at the stars.
“So you’re my babysitter now?”
“Nah. More like…caretaker.”
“Same thing,” I laughed.
Park City, Utah
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There is nothing better for the inside of a person than the outside of a horse.
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