Dear Mr. Horse Trader
Dear Mr. Horse Trader,
You’re surprised by this address, I know. You thought you had us fooled, and you did, for a little while. We believed you were just a kind and helpful man with a horse at an auction, but we’re wiser now.
I want to tell you a story. You may have heard a variation of this story before but listen anyway... you owe me.
When I was a young girl, I always dreamed of having a horse.
Everyone should have dreams; right, Mr. Horse Trader?
Any chance I had to make a wish; it was always for a horse. The prospect of visiting a horse-owning aunt kept me excited for days and days. I smashed empty soda cans and bent them around my feet so I could pretend that the sound of the cans against the pavement of our driveway was the hoofbeat sound of the horse I rode in my mind.
When I was a teen we lived out west. At a nearby stable, my older sister and I used to pack a lunch and take a couple of horses out for the day. I remember picking out the biggest horses with the broadest backs because I liked riding bareback. My sister always chose Festus. He was a small fellow and quite the brat sometimes, but I guess she bonded with him and could handle him pretty well.
Those were wonderful days. We were young and fearless, riding around in the desert together. We never had formal riding lessons but we picked up pointers here and there from other riders.
In 1979, we moved to the mountains. I was 17 years old. Not long after, my brother-in-law bought a little brown horse named Charlie. At the time, we had a place to keep her at our house so my sister and I took care of her. Charlie was the best horse. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but she did anything we asked of her and provided us with many months of fun.
I wonder about your dreams, Mr. Horse Trader. Did you grow up like a feral animal, always looking over your shoulder, always scratching for a way to survive, unable to achieve the most basic of connections with other humans? What part of your heart is missing? Do you ever feel its absence?
Time marches on, as it does. I married, gave birth to two beautiful girls, grew older. Childhood dreams faded. In time I found myself married again. My new husband came to realize how much I had always loved horses and how much I’d wanted one of my own. He set out to make my dream come true.
We bought two absolutely beautiful matched Percherons, full sisters, only 2 and 3 years old. We had a fellow come out to work with them, training them to ride. They were wonderful horses. However, my considerate husband thought it would be good for me to have a smaller, safer horse that I could jump on just any old time.
We went to a nearby horse sale and saw a cute 3 year-old Appaloosa gelding. He had a white blanket with black spots. I wasn’t sure about him, but you, Mr. Horse Trader, told us what a good little guy he was. You told us that all the grandkids had been riding him. If a child could ride this horse safely, he’d be fine for me, right? You found a saddle and let me ride him around at the sale. He did pretty well, although I didn’t ride him for long. He was a very docile, mellow boy, so we paid you the $500 you asked and took him home.
I think you need to know, Mr. Horse Trader, about the afternoon my kids, who are grown and married, came to visit. We’d had your horse for two weeks and my daughters were eager to meet this new boy. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I saddled him up and rode on our property down the little dirt path next to the pasture fence. Suddenly, the horse bolted. I remember thinking, “I need to get this under control.” My next thought was, “He’s trying to buck me off.” Before I knew it, I was flying over his neck to the left (I remember this quite well), and landed on my neck and shoulders. I lay there calling for help, and of course everyone came running. My husband found me in a little heap on the ground.
I was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, where I spent the first night. The next day, I was transferred to a bigger hospital, where I stayed an additional nine days. I had crushed three vertebrae in my back, two in my neck, and had three broken ribs.
I was in a brace for several months and couldn’t do anything at all for myself. It was a near miss, and a miracle I wasn’t paralyzed from the neck down.
When our lives intersected, Mr. Horse Trader, you walked away with $500 in your pocket. Did you feel even of twinge of guilt? Of worry? Do you have a wife? Children? Whose precious grandchildren would you have risked on that horse?
Please listen now, while I describe how you changed our lives.
We sold your horse for $300 to a couple who knew all about my terrible accident. They loved Appaloosas and wanted to work with him, although he is not the docile (sedated, Mr. Horse Trader?) horse that carried me so quietly around the bustling auction barn on the night we bought him.
We are slowly paying off the $30,000 in medical bills from my fall. I can walk, although I still sometimes have a terrible ache in my back from the worst of the breaks.
My children were traumatized by my accident and are now very scared of horses. Because of my fear and the financial burden of my hospital bills, we had to sell our beautiful Percheron mares.
I live with fear. It is always there now, sometimes just below the surface, always threatening to emerge.
Even when the doctor gave me permission to ride again, the fear paralyzed me. I still dreamed of riding, of the bond that occurs with a beloved horse, but the dream flailed restlessly under the weight of fear.
A couple of years ago we rescued two older geldings from a family that simply couldn't care for them. They are very well trained. They are wonderful boys and quiet to handle. Finally, very recently, I have found someone willing to ride with me. I ride the fellow that I feel is the most reliable and gentle. He is helping me work through my fear. Sometimes I feel that he understands and is careful with me. We are now slowly making progress and I am very thankful for him. I am beginning to look beyond the horizon, to a time when I can once again…RIDE!
So I ask you, Mr. Horse Trader, one final question. Is there no room in your existence for a conscience...or a dream?
For the next story, click here- Craigslist Near Miss
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