16 hands

Hast thou given the horse strength?

Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?

Job 39:19


How dare I write to you about accident before love . . .

The auto correct for oxycodone is oxymoron.  I will have to tell friends that my trouble is not a literary one.  The ground comes up quickly below me and I am not stunned, but indignant. Fuckityfuckfuck am I really going down?  Where is he?  How far to my right?  Will my outstretched leg catch his panicked hindquarter? This could end very badly, I think, but before I hit the ground I take a calculated risk, triangulate the vectors and decide to twist my body toward the horse.  Avoiding the face plant and head injury, I choose my shoulder – am lucky to choose.



I spring up and in the corner of my eye I see the foamy backend of Petey, all sixteen hands moving away from me at a long-stride canter with a few bucks thrown in for good measure or for scorn – I cannot say because he is not mine and at this point never will be. Nonetheless, I notice the sheen of his coat and mourn for our fleeting partnership.

What happened?

An oxymoron




I get up so fast that my trainer cheers – I turn to her after seeing Petey galloping down the far fence-line and I raise my right arm for the thumbs-up.  When I go to lift my left arm, something between brain and shoulder breaks down completely. I point to the general region of my collarbone and shake my head, her voice begins to come from far away; I am broken and starting to get high on my personal stash of endogenous morphine.

Help. To Morristown regional hospital for the verdict: I am indeed broken – a wing that cannot be fixed without incident . . . my x-ray is a vision of small bones shattered like glass. I need to see a specialist. I hear the soundtrack to the bionic woman playing in my head and smile. Nice, very nice, I think, as the Demerol begins to make me drool; I tell my trainer that I love her, really and the nurse too and the little boy by the front desk who stares at me in wide-eyed panic, clutching his mother for dear life against the woman with the shredded shirt and paper bag of hydrocodone and the mud stains down the left side of her riding pants.

I will have surgery in five days, in the interim, I teach my class in a sling, cook dinner for a friend reminding myself to not move my wing that little ½ inch to the right and forego all attempts to read books as I have the attention span of a 12-year-old boy. My left eye now possesses a horse’s vision. I see my enemies from two separate flanks and rapid movement makes me rear.

Recipe for repair of a shattered wing: Do I want pins or screws and a plate? The latter. Do I have people who can be with me? Absolutely. Am I allergic to any meds? What? Do I intend to ride again? Yes. Am I insane? Probably. My surgeon comes in and with military precision, he marks the spot where the plate will go, noting the fall of my undershirt. His hands are delicate and seriously clean. He wants to make his mark, but not leave it.

My sister flies down from Boston with my nieces in tow. The facebook post from the oldest reads: “My crazy auntie got bucked from a horse and we have to go take care of her.” None of us are actually related by blood – we are bloodstrangers.  Twenty-four hours after surgery, they walk into my room with the quiet hum of the ice machine circulating, pumping what is now lukewarm water to the wrap under my arm and around my wound.

“Use of this device cuts down by 50% both pain and swelling after surgery”

I am a mess of sheets and blankets in the apathy of anesthesia ringed by a halo of oxycodone. They are worried. How many did you take . . . no really?  Shite, I am a purist and unused to narcotics. The youngest climbs in bed with me, dragging along her father’s ipad. She knows what to do and the rest follow until we become a collection of mac products fanned out among the bed linens along with the limbs of the dogs, enjoying our togetherness in a haze of cyberlove and the constant bling of notifications.

During my rehab, I read the online results from my rib ex rays and find that they do not describe anyone I know.


1. The cardiac silhouette is unremarkable for the patient’s age.

2. No acute abnormalities in the lungs.

3. Mild scoliosis.”


My oxycodone dreams are vivid and reek of horseflesh. At the barn we often talk about how we think we love to jump and ride . . . until we line up to take the jumps and when our turn comes there is that serious moment of “what the hell is wrong with me, I’m crazy, I can’t jump this 1000 lb. adolescent over that thing.” But then you circle, urge your horse on, kicking just before the jump cycle to get him up and over and when you both leave the ground you are aware of the vulnerability of being alive, the two of you making it work, communicating in a language you have made together. You hit the ground exhilarated beyond ecstasy and pat his neck. He shivers and shakes; his frothing sweat burns your nose as you walk him a bit and dismount. In the barn, saddle off and ready for a rub down, he curls his neck around to nuzzle you just a bit, or to grab that piece of hay dangling from another horse’s feed bag, letting you know that yes, he is hungry and that only together, off the ground can you be close to the gods.

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