For a year and a half I struggled with this extremely hot and motorized horse that just wanted to go. We placed well in the speed race at shows and we could always win the flag race if I managed to pick and stick. We always had a connection. When you're making it around the arena in less than 8 seconds there has to be a good partnership there. In all the races he never, ever let me fall even though he turned so hard more often than not I was dumping dirt out of my left boot.
During the 2010 season we had managed to rack up enough points to go to the state horse show in Little Rock, Ar. We flubbed the speed race when he stumbled just before the clock and ran a slow 8.8 seconds. We had to wait until a few days later to run the flag race. On that day our association was the first to get to go. I just completely missed the flag and was disappointed I hadn't placed at state. As I was down at the trailer getting ready to go home a friend running down to tell me that we get a re-ride. Apparently the barrel crew set up the barrels wrong. I trotted my horse quickly back to the arena and got ready for my final go. I knew as soon as he pushed off we were golden. I reached over and snagged the flag as he shot towards the turn. It was a tight, fast turn and I grabbed my right rein to pull him close to the fence so I could stick. I pointed the end of the flag down and felt it sink deeply into nice gritty sand. I had leaned out extremely far in order to stick and I turned in my saddle to see if the flag was in the bucket. What I had not accounted for was the very sharp turn at the end of the arena. I couldn't get straightened up in time and hit the pipe panel and woven wire gates at 30mph.
What I remember next was coming back to consciousness lying on my side under the announcers stand. I didn't yet feel pain and I looked wildly around for my horse. I could see him being walked through the legs of the crowd of people standing around me. He was screaming and pulling against the man leading him trying to see me. As we waited for the ambulance I asked three questions, 1) Did I stick the flag? 2) What was my time? (3 Is my horse OK? The answers were yes, 8.236, and yes. When the ambulance arrived I rolled over onto my back and tried to stand only to be held in place my an EMT. They didn't want me moving in case my back or neck was injured. As they loaded me into the ambulance my horse screamed and reared his full height and looked right into my eyes. I looked back at him and cried for him, all I wanted was to touch and reassure him.
At the hospital I discovered I had snapped my right arm clean in half and moved it a good four inches, I needed 300 stitches to close the gaping wound in my forehead, and seven staples to put my scalp back together. When they cut my jeans off they found two dull scrapes in my upper right thigh. No one knew what caused it. After I'd been stitched, stapled, cleaned, and settled in a room my best friend's dad called to talk to me. After making sure I was all right he told me "I want you to know how much that horse loves you. When you fell he stopped dead in an instant. When you two came to a stop one of his front feet was resting on your head and he carefully moved it and stood over you. I could see how scared he was but he let me take him and lead him while you were tended to." By this time I was already crying, all I wanted was to see him. My friend's dad continued, "When Shelbe and Kristen led him in to get your trophy he was manic. He fussed and fought and dragged Shelbe to the spot where you fell, knelt down, and rubbed his nose in the dirt. He didn't stop screaming until we got him home and turned him out." I then realized those marks in my leg were from the nails in his shoe as he tried to stop.
Right after surgery
After that conversation I was so distraught the staff upped my medication so I would sleep. The next morning I had surgery that put my arm back together with a plate and 10 screws. The day after I demanded my doctor send me home. When I arrived home I begged my dad to take me out and see my horse. In all our years together he's always been the first to greet me. Now he refused to look at me. My dad had to force him to hold still so I could touch him. It broke my heart to see him so scared of me. It was almost like he was ashamed, like he blamed himself. I took a few days to heal and I asked my dad if I could ride. He agreed, saddled Troubadour, and ever so carefully he lifted me onto his back. Troubadour had always been a hot horse, speed had always been the sole measure of his life. But as he walked around like an old lead pony I felt him coming back to me.
A couple of weeks later my best friend wanted to take him to the Show of Champions in Melbourne, Ar. My dad agreed in order to keep me off the horse. When my friend arrived to take him he loaded like a lamb. As she drove away he realized I wasn't going with him. He then proceeded to try to kick her trailer apart. She ended up having to sedate him. He never ran as well for her as he did for me. He had decided he was a one woman horse.
When I went back to college he went with me. We're apart of the Collegiate Stock Horse Team and he now has a handle on him. We still compete in speed and flag races, currently we're tied for first in my age division. No one else has been on his back since Melbourne almost a year ago. I have some scars and pains to remind me that without a good horse, you have nothing. Troubadour will never be sold. When the time comes he will be peacefully euthanized at home and buried. I will always carry a part of this horse with me. He's my heart, my whole heart.