This is the story I was working on for my creative writing class - enjoy!
I never imagined that I would end up lying in this hospital bed with my dreams and future crashing down around me. I don’t remember the impact or anything leading up to it, all I do know is that I should not be here.
“3…2…1...have a nice ride.”
With those words echoing in my ears, we thunder out of the start box. Within seconds, Watkins is powering toward our first fence. This is what I live for, the sudden rush of adrenaline and the power of a 1200 pound animal beneath me. Each stride gets longer and freer as we head down a galloping lane, his hooves beating in perfect time with my heart.
As I come back to consciousness the rhythmic galloping fades into a slow, steady, high pitched beep coming from the heart monitor. At least I am awake enough to know the consistent sound means that I am somewhat living although I feel as if I have been run over by a high speed train. With blurry eyes I try and gain my focus to look around the room but my eyelids grow heavy as I sink back into unconsciousness.
We are nearing a difficult part of the course, where combinations and meandering lines take the place of nice, galloping fences. Watkins has found his rhythm, each stride powerful and purposeful as we head toward the next fence. I see it growing larger between his ears as we approach, and before I know it we are safely on the other side. People cheer as we head through the water complex, droplets scattering and reflecting the light like a million tears. I check my watch – it’s time to speed things up.
I burst into reality and try to reach up to wipe the sweat streaming off of my forehead only to realize I cannot move my arms. A white alien walks into the room and introduces himself as Dr. Finkley. As far as I can tell his straining hospital gown is at least two sizes too small, but his short round stature seems warm and comforting.
“Glad to see you awake Ms. Carlson, we have been waiting for you to come around. Your mother is waiting outside, shall I bring her in?”
I blink trying to comprehend what the doctor is talking about and stutter,
In a second my curly haired, rambunctious mother runs through the door. She hurries to my side and reaches for my hand but quickly retreats unsure as to where to put her hands. I don’t even want to see myself from her reaction. Before I know it she has tears dripping down her face even though she is smiling ear to ear. Still no one has said anything as I give her a confused and scared look.
She begins to open her mouth to speak as I blurt out the words,
“Where is Watkins? What happened? Is he okay?”
The smell of the sterile environment and latex gloves wafts into my nostrils as I blink cautiously and try to steady the spinning room. The white walls, white lab coats and white equipment blur together as I fade back in time.
We near the end of our course and I can tell Watkins is laboring. Each breath comes with a little more effort than the last, and his neck is frothy with sweat. Even still, I push on, knowing that too many time faults will drop us out of the lead.
“This is what we’ve prepared for,” I whisper into his ears as we gallop along, “I know you can do this.”
Quickly I come around as my mother’s words become a reality.
“You had a bad fall at the last fence, honey; it was awful; he tried so hard…”
Before she finished I cut her off,
“Well where is he? Is he going to be alright? It was my fault; I shouldn’t have asked him for more than he could have given.”
As I speak I begin to taste the salt from my own tears streaming down my face.
“Yes honey, he is alright, he is at home resting, and has missed you for the last week.”
“A WEEK?!” I shriek in disgust. “What happened, when can I see him?”
It’s the approach to the final fence, and my watch, large and luminous, is ticking down the remaining seconds far too fast. I push Watkins for everything he has, asking him for the long spot to the big table jump. He hesitates, and then takes an awkward half-step before launching off the ground with every ounce of effort he possesses. Even from take-off, I know it will not be enough. The fence looms too large in my view, and within a few seconds the world is turned upside down. I feel a sharp pain sting throughout my body as I see Watkins coming down on top of me, a second before everything goes black.
“It was just a bad distance, neither of you saw your spot and he gave it all he had and you stuck with him until you couldn’t hold on any longer,” explained my mother.
I now remember bursts of consciousness that come with my shortness of breath and the numb sensation tingling through my body.
“It seems Leigh Carlson has had a bad fall at fence 25. Please hold the horses out on the course as we make way for the ambulance to come through,” the announcer booms over the loud speaker.
I see the flashing lights and scattering of people. As I blink in slow motion paramedics are asking questions but I can’t make my mouth form any answers. I try to look around for Watkins but cannot find him anywhere. I can tell people are touching me and moving me around, strapping restraints on me, sticking needles into my arms, a breathing device is secured around my face but still everything is moving so slowly.
“I saw the whole thing and watched in horror as there was nothing I could do about it. I was scared to death and rushed over to you. You were hardly conscious and struggling to breathe. Your limbs were mangled in ways that they shouldn’t have been able to bend. The paramedics secured you to a back board with breathing support and rushed you into the hospital,” my mother sighs and mumbles off into silence as Dr. Finkley takes over explaining what had happened.
“You had emergency surgery to repair a punctured lung, but thankfully that was the only internal damage you had. I’m sure you are pretty sore, you broke four ribs, one which caused the lung damage, multiple breaks in your pelvis, a bad concussion and broke the right side of your clavicle as well as your left humerus.”
My jaw dropped as the injuries were listed off and all I could think about was how this would ruin my plans to make it on the North American Young Rider Team in my last year I was eligible to ride as a Young Rider. Instantly my mind switched to how thankful I was that I would be able to walk into the barn and see my Watkins once again.
“Thankfully nothing more serious happened and Watkins is safe and sound at home,” my instantly cheerful mother piped in.
I smiled at her in agreement as I thought about the next time I would be able to see and ride Watkins again.
As I climb up the podium to accept my medal, tears come to my eyes as I think that only six months ago I was lying in a hospital bed watching my dreams and future crash down around me. Not only am I thankful to be alive but I am able to ride again and realize that my dreams have come true. I made it to the North American Young Rider Championships and though I did not win the individual gold, I know that I will be back on top again.
I looked into the bleachers and see my mother with tears in her eyes. As we make eye contact we both know how lucky I am to be standing here. Our team accepts our award and we mount our horses for a victory gallop. I am thankful for the opportunity to be back atop Watkins again.
I close my eyes and wrap my arms around his muscular neck.
In an instant my eyes snap open to the bright lights of the hospital room and I realize my perfect reality is just a dream. It will be a long, tough road to recovery, but I know that thundering hooves, flaring nostrils and the smell of leather will be my whole world again someday. This is what I love and this is what I will do.