“Come on, girl,” I soothe her while patting her beautiful coat, silver like the moon.
I pull her into the trailer and hang a bag of oats near her, in case she gets hungry. I stare into her warm black eyes.
“My beautiful Lexi,” I mumble, and she turns around at the sound of her name. I chuckle and pat her one more time before stepping out of the trailer and riding in the car with my mom.
I feel butterflies in my stomach as we drive to the championship. My mom was comforting me throughout the whole ride. Once we reach, I jump out of the car and run to Lexi. She nickers at the sight of me.
I hug her.
“You’ll do wonderful, I promise you,” I whisper into her neck.
She’s all tacked up and ready to go, but there’s something telling me that this is wrong. I recognize that part of me that still didn’t move on after the death of my beloved horse, Eagle.
“You’re betraying him!” that part of me screams.
“No, I’m not, I’m just moving on,” I tell myself.
“So you say it’s fine to forget the horse that you loved? The horse that you have won so many championships with, the one that risked his life to save yours,” it hisses to me in the back of my head.
I remember that day. On our last ride together, we were riding by the beach. It was a calm day, the smell of the salty water so soothing. I remember how much Eagle loved the water. I remember him stepping closer and closer until the water almost reached my foot, and that’s when he spooked. I think he saw a sharp object, or maybe he got stung by something, but all of that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I lost him, and that I can never touch his beautiful coat again. I can never ride him by the shore again. Even now, I can’t bear to go near the shore, once a heavenly place, but now haunted with bad memories.
Eagle spooked, and I couldn’t calm him down. He ran uncontrollably, out of the shore, away from the beach, and into the street. There was a truck trying its best to stop. As the tires screeched against the tar; as the smell of burning rubber filled my nose, as Eagle reared up throwing me off his back, I knew that there was no escaping this. I landed on the soft grass by the side of the road. I stood up screaming and ran to Eagle, but I was too late. When the truck and Eagle’s body made contact, the scene was too horrifying for me to look at. I fell to my knees and sobbed.
I jolt back to reality, to today, the day of our competition, Lexi and I. Lexi is looking at me. I feel my eyes water up and I let the hot tears all down my cheek. I take a deep breathe, and push out the agonizing memories.
“We’ll be fine,” I assure myself, as I pull Lexi out of the trailer. I mount her and gently touch the gray mole on her poll. I try not to cry; knowing that my days with Lexi are numbered because she has a bad skin tumor. It’s not fair. After I finally became capable of loving another horse, fate decides that I don’t deserve to be happy. Am I cursed when it comes to horses?
“Let’s go, girl” I say kicking her gently. I ride her to the arena where I wait for my name to be called.
“Sandra Davis on Lexi, please enter the third arena in the show jumping section,” I hear the announcement and jump to life, pulling her to the direction of the arena.
The butterflies won’t go away. My stomach is tied in knots. My hands get sweaty as I trot into the arena. I break into a canter and run towards the first jump. When I reach, though, I take a sudden stop. I hear the audience gasp. I have made my decision, and I’m not changing my mind. I’ve been through this conversation with my mom and with myself many times, but now is the time to choose. Winning a prize isn’t that important anymore. A prize is just an object that you carry arrogantly and put on your bookshelf. A horse, on the other hand, is a living creature that you love.
I look up at the audience, and notice my physically disabled cousin gaping at me. I look away and walk towards the judges. I ask for the microphone, and one of them stares at me.
I repeat more firmly, “May I please have the microphone?”
The staring judge snaps out of it and hands the microphone to me.
I take a deep breath and clear my throat, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry for the interruption and last-minute changes, but I have decided to withdraw from the championship. I realized on my way here that I’m considered selfish by doing this, knowing that I only have numbered days with my horse. She is suffering from a serious skin tumor, and I don’t want to spend the last of my days with her by riding her in championships that are for my own benefit. I’m sorry.”
I look around at the audience and see my mom nodding at me proudly. I can also see the pain in her eyes. I hear clapping. Someone shouts out, “Treat her!”
“I wish I could, but it’s untreatable,” I whisper into the microphone, pushing back my tears.
I give the microphone to the judge, unable to look at the audience, and I trot away.
Once I reach the trailer, I get off, and lead Lexi into the trailer. I flip my long brown hair away from my face to take a better look at her glossy dapple grey coat. I take out a brush from the supply basket and start brushing her stunning mane down towards where her black mane fades to white. She’s so beautiful, just like any other Andalusian horse.
I hear a creak and look behind me to find a woman standing at the door of the trailer, around her twenties with a very pretty face. Her hair is brown like mine, but it fades to dirty blonde at the ends.
She gives me a small smile and says, “Hey,”
I hesitate for a split second, “Uh, hi,” I fake a smile.
“I was in the audience. What you did was very brave. I work with Williamson Co. it’s for abused hor-”
I cut her off, “Thanks, but my horse wasn’t abused,” I tell her
“I’m aware of that, but I can still hel-”
“I don’t need your help! Her sickness is untreatable, there’s nothing I haven’t tried, okay? I appreciate that you want to help me, but no,” I say.
“If you listened, you would have known that I’m not here to help you, I’m here to help your horse, and before you interrupt me I want to let you know that, even though her sickness is incurable, you can still enjoy her and give her an important mission before you lose her,” she says.
My head shoots around to her direction. What kind of despicable human would use a horse, when that horse is suffering a tumor?!
“I’m not taking advantage of my horse in the few days before her death! That’s cruel,” I blurt.
She starts laughing, “Why are you laughing?” I ask.
“You didn’t hear my suggestion. I thought it would be good for you, your horse, and any child with disabilities, if we use your horse for equine therapy,” Amy continues.
I start to respond when my little cousin limps in, crying “Why?! Why did you do that, Sandra? I came here to watch you and Lexi!”
“Oh, Jake, I couldn’t. Lexi is sick,” I say to him.
I get down on my knee, and give him a hug.
“It’s not fair,” he says, trying to kick me with his good foot; he has a bad temper.
“Do you like horses, Jake?” Amy asks.
He nods, “I love horses,” he answers.
Amy gives me a glance and smirks, then says, “Sandra and I have decided that it’ll be a good idea to let special children, like you, ride around on Lexi.”
His face lights up “I love you Sandra!” he hugs me, and I look at Amy.
Hmm, maybe this isn’t such a bad idea. Actually, maybe Amy isn’t so bad after all.
After discussing this with my family, I was up all night researching about equine therapy for children with special needs. For children with special needs, riding a horse can help strengthen their weak muscles and improve their balance. It helps the child develop hand-eye coordination, and is like physical therapy, but more fun than the physical therapy in a hospital. It also helps the child to pay attention better and to be more confident. This Amy person can really be on to a great idea!
The next day, I’m in the stables tacking Lexi up for her ride with Jake. I tighten the reins and walk her out. I look around and find Jake and his three friends. They were bubbling with excitement. When I look at them and see the light of joy and happiness in their eyes, I feel better and know that what I’m doing is right.
“So, who’s first?” I ask
Philip struggles to say, “Me, me!” I nod and look at his mom. She helps me place him on Lexi. Once Philip is safely in the right position, I pat Lexi on the neck and start walking her slowly around the arena. Philip raises his short hands in the air. Lexi nickers, and Philip tries to tell his mom “She likes me!”
“Yes she does,” I assure him.
Once Philip is done, I let Rosie, then Jake have a ride. Rosie’s dad was on the edge of tears when he was talking to me.
“I’ve never seen her so happy in my life, you have no idea what this means. Thank you Sandra,” he takes his wallet out and attempts to give me twenty dollars.
“No thank you, the smile on Rosie’s face was enough payment for me,” I say shaking my head.
He disagrees, “No, you have to take this money. This is the least I can give you; you deserve all the money in the world for making her so happy.”
I hesitate, but take the money and thank him. Philip’s mom was also very appreciative; she gave me another ten dollars. My aunt was so proud of me, and so was my mom.
Amy came over after lunch with her husband, Chris. He’s a handsome man, with emerald green eyes and wavy, auburn hair. He also works with her in the Williamson Co.; he’s a really nice guy, with a crooked, but pleasant smile.
“You know Sandra, you and Lexi should go to the neighborhood school, and offer a field trip to the stables for the class of kids with special needs. Some of my coworkers and I will help you with the set up and getting trained therapists,” Chris suggested
“That sounds like a good idea,” I tell him nodding my head.
“Yea, we’ll work it out, it’ll be fun,” Amy agrees.
We have been offering the rides for dozens of children over the next two weeks. I can’t describe how good I fell, watching those kids have so much fun. Some of them even gave Lexi carrots, pet her, and brushed her mane. The number of kids coming to the stable keeps increasing every day, but as the number of kids got bigger, so did Lexi’s tumor.
On Thursday, something terrible happened. I was at the stables and when I went into Lexi’s stall to muck it out, I saw that her tumor was ruptured and she was bleeding all over. There was blood all over, in the hay, on her head, some of it was covering her eyes and she was grunting in pain. She was on the floor, whinnying helplessly. I was paralyzed with fear. I screamed at the top of my lungs, and my mom came running. She took one glance and gasped. She hugged me and turned my head around, but I pushed her off me.
“No! No! She can’t leave me; she’s all I’ve got!” I bawl.
“Sandra, come here honey,” my mom tries to soothe me.
“She’s going to die, there’s nothing you can do to stop me from hating my life and myself!” I cry.
My mom grabs a cloth and pushes it down on Lexi’s tumor to stop the bleeding. I keep crying, I can’t look at her. I don’t want her to die.
“I’ll call the emergency vet hotline,” my mom says.
When she leaves to get her phone, I crawl closer to Lexi and hug her, not caring about the sticky blood staining my clothes.
“I promised you I’d take care of you. I was stupid for making promises I can’t keep. I’m sorry, Lexi, so, so sorry,” I sob.
She tries to move to nudge me with her muzzle.
“I love you,” I whisper.
My mom comes in and says, “They’ll be here in three minutes.”
I trace my finger up and down her neck. She keeps on groaning. I can’t stop crying. The vet reaches with Chris. They try taking me off her, but I thrash around.
“You can’t take me away from her!” I scream at them.
Chris grips my shoulders so I don’t move, and he says, “Look at me.”
I struggle to push him away, but he doesn’t move.
“Look at me, Sandra!” he shouts at me.
“What?!” I yell back.
“There’s nothing we can do. Sandra, she’s in agony, you can see that right? The only way to make things better is to put her down. I know it’s hard on you, but unless you want her to keep on suffering, they must put her down,” he tells me softly.
“I get to say good bye, right?” I mumble tears falling down like waterfalls.
“Of course,” he says, letting go of me.
I run to Lexi and hug her one last time, “I tried, Lexi, I swear I did. You were a good horse, I’m sorry it had to end this way. I love you.”
At that moment, everything came back to me as flashes, all the days we spent together. All the rides we had together, all the competitions we won together, and more importantly, all the kids we made happier together.
I have to say my good-byes. The last thing Lexi hears from me, and that last sentence is, “I’m proud of you for making a difference in the lives of so many.”
Fifteen years from that moment, I’m sitting on my porch’s stairs with two kids, a girl and boy, running around with messy hair and dirt on their jeans. The little girl runs to me and tugs on my sleeve, “Tell me the story again Mommy. Tell me the story about why you opened this riding center for the special children.”
I laugh, “Again? I have told you the story a hundred times already, Lexi.”
“Please, one more time. I want to hear it again, so does Eagle,” she begs, with her big eyes looking at me, that I just can’t say no.
“Oh all right,” I say as I carry her up on my lap, looking up at the clouds, smiling.