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Mare's Nest

Knees tucked close to his chest, head arched, body rounded, the horse made it over the jump in perfect form, but when he landed, he crashed to his knees and somersaulted head over heels. My daughter buried beneath him.

When the gelding scrambled up and took off panicked, Teddy was so still in the dirt, her hard hat lying on the ground next to her spinning. I dropped the camera, ran to her side, slid to my knees, and placed my palm against her cheek, not sure if she was conscious. "Baby? Teddy!"

Nothing at first, but then her pale lids fluttered open. "Mom?"

"You...you took a little tumble." I pressed the bottom of my jacket to her jaw to staunch the too red flow, to blot it, to hide it. She was squeamish about blood. "You're gonna be fine, honey, but...but..." I stopped to regroup. To breathe. "You've gotta stay still."

"Where's Bailey?" Head down, heaving in a corner on the opposite side of the ring. A friend who'd been watching the lesson was cooing as she creeped up on him so she could get a hold of his reins. "Is he okay?"

The love of my sixteen-year-old daughter's life looked spooked, but not hurt, not like her. "He's good," I reassured her, but he never had been. Ever.

Abbie, the trainer, who'd been giving the lesson, must've called 911. When she shouted out, "In here," two men, one older, one who looked like he might be in his thirties, were jogging toward us with a stretcher in their hands. I recognized the older one. The EMT named Bud was no stranger to the barn. He crouched down next to his partner, who was already listening to her heart. Bud asked me her name and age. "Hey, there, Teddy," he said as he shoved up the sleeve of her champagne-colored Christmas parka so he could wind a blood pressure cuff around her impossibly white arm. "Doing a little trick ridin' today?"

"I...I'm dizzy," she said. "My head hurts."

The other guy with Owen stitched on his coat, removed my jacket, pressed a clean white towel against her gushing chin, and said hushed to me, "She's in shock. The cut looks worse than it is, but I'm worried about her neck, ya know?"

I did.

©Lesley Kagen