Kelly got dragged at our first barrel race. It was my biggest fear—falling and getting caught up in the stirrup and being dragged. I was on the bleachers inside the indoor arena when it happened. I can’t stay with her by the gate. I’m a nervous mommy. I’m going to make the kid a nervous wreck:
“Okay, let’s review. What do you do if a horse bucks?”
She recites what I told her to do in a bored tone.
“What do you do if a horse rears?” (I think by saying “a horse” and not using Bullet’s actual name, I won’t put it into her head that this could potentially happen but I want her to know what to do if it does.)
More monotone repeating.
“What do you do if a horse bolts?”
She rolls her eyes.
“Stop rolling your eyes! These are emergency procedures that every rider should know!”
I continue. “Now shut up. What if you fall and your foot gets caught in the stirrup and he drags you?”
Once she gives me the proper answers, I slap said horse (Bullet) on the rump and say, “Okay then! You’re good to go!”
Doesn’t mean I stop worrying. One time we were at a race and I confided in the mother sitting next to me that I was nervous. She leaned over conspiratorially and asked, “Would you like a tranquilizer?” I was flabbergasted. Truth be told, nowadays I have gotten worse and I’d probably take one. Either that or some good old fashioned pot if I smoked it.
That’s why Kurt was out in the warm-up area with her. Let him do the dirty work. He thinks I’m overboard anyway. I felt my blood get hot like I was getting ready to run. When they called her name, I stood up and turned on the camera. The thing I was worrying about was Bullet acting up at the gate. He has a history of that with me. Trying to whirl around. Getting a little light on the front end. But he hasn’t done it with Kelly. They’re a good team. He knows she’s his herd leader and he has confidence in her. Me, he knows I’m scared. As in I’m 50-years-old now and I haven’t ridden regularly for a long time so I’m very weak and all I keep thinking is, if my horse throws out a little buck or jumps sideways, I’m a goner. Therefore Bullet has no confidence in me and when I try to calm him down, he says no way.
He entered the gate with no problem. Whew. They raced to the first barrel and I thought, “This is good.” He went a little past it but she stopped him and turned. All of a sudden, he disappeared from the camera lens. It looked like he’d dropped right into a hole. Boom! Gone! I looked up. He’d fallen down! Right on Kelly’s leg! When he scrambled back up, her foot was caught in the stirrup and he dragged her! I ran down the bleachers and hopped over the vinyl fence or through it, I don’t know. Kurt said I broke the fence. All you see on the video are big halogen lights on the ceiling jerking around and dirt flying by. And me crying, “Oh! Oh!” That’s when he was dragging her. She bounced like a rag doll being pulled in the dirt by a little girl with a thumb in her mouth.
Luckily, after a few strides, she somehow fell free. I think I was kneeling in the dirt helping her up and saying, “Are you okay? You’re okay! Are you okay?” before Bullet, the racehorse, even reached Kurt at the gate. That’s how fast I ran. Kelly jumped up and the audience applauded. She wasn’t hurt; just shook up. She was bawling out of shock but she was okay. Bullet was also okay. We walked back to the trailer, giggling now, giddy with relief, reviewing what happened.
“Did he trip? Was he on the right lead?” And “Did you turn over on your belly like I told you to?”
“Kelly! What about the emergency maneuvers?!”
I brushed the dirt off her back and she readjusted her helmet. Then she wanted to get on. I didn’t know if she was going to be scared to get back on him or not but she didn’t blink an eye. In fact, she was mad she couldn’t make another run. And she was a little high. I think she felt proud that she escaped unscathed and was enjoying the attention from everyone asking if she was okay, kind of like a war hero back from battle.
My father, when I told him the story that night, threatened me with my life. Said if anything ever happened to Kelly he was going to kill me and berated me for getting her involved in such a dangerous sport. I said, “Where were you when I was a kid?” He said, “Horses were slower back then…” I suspect he had tranquilizers.