I perch here on this uncomfortable hospital stool at your bedside, not daring to touch you. The machines breath for you and you will never again know life without them. The doctors have explained it to your parents and your mother has told me their decision. Pull the plug. I understand why they're doing it. There's nothing of you left anymore except for the body being kept alive by machines. Tommorrow, they will do it. I hate myself because I gave you the means to destroy yourself. Everyone says that I couldn't have known. No one places the blame with me but I can't help but wonder. Did I do this to you my precious one? I am the one that started it all, encouraged your love of the very creatures that did this to you. Was that wrong?

I know you don't remember your first trip to the barn. You were too young. I carried you because you were still too unsteady when you walked to cross the whole yard. You were afraid of the horses and when the grey mare snorted at the unfamiliar smell of a baby, you began to cry. I was not ready to give up. I kept bringing you back and gradually, you learned not to be.

A few years later, you would willingly come out to the barn with me but you still wanted nothing to do with the horses. I think they were too big. If I picked you up, you would pet their neck but as soon as they showed an interest, you wanted down and away. I let you go, watching from my perch on top of a hay rack as you chased the cats or curiously examined the saddles.

Another year went by before you were bored with the cats and became more interested in the horses. You would stand, back pressed against me with your arm out and your hand flat, holding a carrot piece in your palm. One of my hands was underneath, supporting yours and the other firmly held Sand's halter, reminding him to be polite. The first time, you were so afraid to let that mouth come near your hand. You kept pulling back and Sand kept streaching his neck forward, lips moving, straining. When eventually, you held still long enough for him to take his treat, you laughed at the tickling of his soft skin.

As that year passed, you became more confident in handing out treats to the big horses but you liked Raz the best. He was a Welsh Pony gelding, old enough to be sensible but young enough to be in good health for long enough to train one more rider. You still liked to play in the barn, experimenting with the grooming brushes on whatever cat was the most cooperative.

You also found the little saddle that year. It was a synthetic english saddle, easy to care for and only a little too big for you. I knew it fit Raz perfectly but you couldn't have known that. The first time you climbed up onto it, I adjusted the stirrups to the right length for you and then I backed off to watch from my favorite perch on top of the hay rack. You played with it for a very short time that day but you came back to it a few days later. Soon you were sitting on the saddle well while it was on the rack. Another year passed quickly. You rode out with me everytime I went for a trail ride. You learned to enjoy the feel of wind in your face and not be frightened of shifts in pace. You liked sitting in from of me in my saddle and for awhile, that was enough for you. I waited patiently for the day when you would want to ride by yourself. It was inevitable.

When you were six, you finally said, "I want to do it myself," and I was pleased. I gave Raz a quick grooming, vowing silently that I could teach you that later. I showed you how to tighten the saddle but that I wouldn't let you do. You were still too small but you weren't too small to sit on Raz's back. You sat there, smiling and pleased with yourself while I took pictures and Raz shifted from foot to foot. I attatched reins with clips to his halter that day, not wanting you to hurt his sensitive mouth and then, with Raz on a lead line, I led you around the ring and the fields.

We proceeded from there, taking baby steps in your lessons or sometimes giant leaps. Soon, you were riding alone, with reins attatched to a bit instead of the halter and me standing in the center of the ring as you circled. Then, one day I explained how to fall from the horse to take the least amount of hurt. You didn't believe that you would ever need to know how. You insisted that you would never fall but I was just as insistant that you needed to learn how just in case.

Every time I inturrupted your riding to yell, "Fall off!" you hated me for a little while. You complained about bruises from hitting the ground with your shoulder and hip. You could fall and roll correctly anythime I told you to but the real test would come when you actually were actually thrown. I could only wait to see if you would panic then but I had did my best.

The lessons proceeded as the years passed. You outgrew your pony and moved on to a steady chestnut mare in her prime years. Jumping, dressage, trail rides, and compititions made up the whole of your free time. You needed my help less and less except when there was a new skill you wanted to learn. Learning to use a western saddle was the hardest for you but that too was mastered in time along with barrel racing, pole bending, herding, and roping.

I saw you less and less as you rode more often with friends than with me. I understood. Friends were important to you then. So was showing off. You were glad of my lessons in falling time and time again when you came away from a stunt with only some bruises or a few cracked ribs. Then it happened.

You weren't even showing off, just trying to help a friend. She was having trouble with her new mare and you offered to switch horses for the ride home. A good choice because you were the better rider. The return trip went well untill you were with in sight of the barn. You just had to cross the driveway and dismount. A car, going too fast on the driveway, music blasting. Both mares spooked. The one you were on swerved accross the driveway behind the car. The weather was hot enough that you were ignoring my warning to always wera long pants while riding. Except for a few scratches, from briar bushes, your legs were fine up untill then. First bad choice that day. You decided as you flew that you could get your feet beneath you so you didn't get scratched up on the pavement. That was your second bad choice.

You almost got your feet around. Your friend said she heard it when you landed, a low pop and a sharp crack. That was your left leg and ankel. I apoligize for sounding angry when you called me, crying. It wasn't at you but at your friend's idiot boyfriend who was driving that car. We went to the ER. The doctors were reassuring. You had a simple fracture of your left fibula and your ankle was dislocated. Just a short surgery and a little hardware. You would be allowed to put weight on it in six weeks. He assured you in response to your worried question that you would be able to ride again when the healing was done but warned you not to untill he gave his okay.

Fast forward, six weeks. You were finally allowed to walk without crutches and the first place you went was my barn. I watched you carefully that day and for a week after, always expecting you to saddle a horse and try to ride. You didn't while I was watching but I couldn't watch you every minute of every day.

By the time I found out that you had been sneaking back to ride while I was gone, it seemed silly to argue about it. Your seat seemed secure from where I was standing and your talent as a rider was undiminished. I made sure someone was around when you were riding, but I didn't really worry and I never told your parents.

Nearly six months later, the doctor gave his okay for you to ride again. In celebration, I picked up the yearling colt you had wanted so badly. He was only halter trained but his barn manners were good for a colt so young. He was the mistake that cost you your life but I didn't know that then. Please believe me. If I had known, I wouldn't have gotten him. You loved him. You spent many hours, grooming him and teaching him everything you could from the ground. You wanted to be the first to be on his back and I agreed. That was another mistake.

It could have been me. It should have been me but I gave in to your pleas. You wouldn't even conceed that a helmet might be a good idea. We argued about it in low voices. We didn't want to make the colt nervous with raised voices but he must have sensed the tension in us both when you settled into his saddle from the fence rail, hair tied back in it's usual braid with no helmet in sight. He shifted his weight from side to side but didn't try to move against the lead rope I had attatched to his halter.

I led him forward and he danced a bit but didn't balk. You thought the high steps were cute but I was wary. I wanted to end the lesson there and I should have insisted. We argued again in happy voices for the benefit of the colt. You wanted me to unclip the lead rope. I yielded. I figured that it was your bones that would be breaking. I didn't want to see you hurt but I was begining to see that you were not mature enough to train a horse. I thought, maybe a few broken ribs would remind you to have a bit more caution. I was wrong.

He tried to behave for a few minutes but it was too much, too fast. He was not being a bad colt; he was only confused. I remember being suprised that such a young creature could buck like an adult bronc. For a minute, then two, I thought you would sit out his little tantrum and come riding back to me triumphant. You were laughing at his antics and confident in yourself.

Your laughing stopped abruptly as your butt flew out of the saddle. Your far leg came over his back and it looked like you would get away from the saddle cleanly, taking your weight on your hip and shoulder. He twisted unexpectedly. Your head hit the ground first with a sickening carck and a sound like a bursting melon. I had my cell phone out, dialing 911 even as I ran to you. The colt stood, shaking at the end of the ring, terrified by the smell of blood.

I was afraid to touch you. You were so still except for an occasional shallow breath, in and out. Then there was a long pause and just as I thought you had breathed your last, you would take another. I don't know how long I stood there, frozen, before the ambulance came blaring down the drive. It couldn't have been long. My barn is only a five minute drive from the Hershey Med Center. I called your mother to let her know that you were on your way to the hospital and suggest that she meet you there. I didn't have the courage to tell her how bad things looked, only that the ambulance was on it's way.

She dropped everything to rush to your side but I couldn't. I couldn't ride with you on your final journey. I had to take care of the colt. I don't blame him. We were at fault. I was at fault. As soon as I could, I raced to the hospital.

That was yesterday and still, here I am. They tell me I must say my goodbyes. I don't want to say goodbye. You are like a daughter to me. This is not how it is supposed to be. Please just open your eyes. One blip on the brain wave line would be enough. You would live and heal and ride again. Tears slip down my face unchecked. Things were supposed to be different. You are too young to die and that you do now is my fault. I'm sorry, sweetheart.

Note: This is not happening to me now nor is it really a work of fiction because the events are true.
I wish they could have been changed but then, the past never can.