Thursday, May 09, 2013


It wasn't my horse.

We would all try to ride in the early mornings. Sacramento summers mean afternoons of 105 degrees, and the barn was out amid rice paddies and the air port -- no shade to be found any where.  Before the shows in Pebble Beach we would take our horses out to the watery fields to help them get used to splashing around in the water, in the hopes they'd take to the beach easier.

The watering truck had just finished its first circuit of the day, dampening the already arid sand of the arena and the tractor was headed in to drag it with metal spikes to groom the sand neat for surer footing.

We were at a standstill as I was adjusting the girth, the leather belly tack which secures the saddle. When the tractor raised its front bucket with a loud clank, he reared up, screaming. Turning, he threw me into the dirt. I landed on my left side, my arms up over my head, trying to roll away from his descending hooves. He clipped my kneecap instead of crushing it completely.

I pulled myself up and went after him. His eyes rolled and he was worked up in a foamy white lather.

After a long lesson, when he'd finally calmed and been hosed down and put away, I sat down by the tack room. I unzipped my leather chaps, untucked my breeches from my well-worn boots and rolled them up.  The black started mid-way up my shin. Not purple. Not dark blue. Black. Licorice black.

It extended up over my knee, swollen up like a softball, halfway up my thigh. When I touched it, I couldn't feel it. I was completely numb.

The rice paddies are gone now, and so is the barn. They built tract homes over everything, and they sit on the flat land of the valley, nearly all empty. At night they turn the lights on for no one.