From In The Company of Animals: Stories of Extraordinary Encounters

Edited by Pam Chamberlain

I refuse to give it a place to light, but the thought is hovering in the back of my mind that Maggie could die. It’s not just the injuries themselves. Shifting her thousand pounds to the other three legs, and standing around in a stall for months while she heals will be hard on her–inside and out. Horses are made to keep moving.

I know next to nothing about what I’m doing, but it is my job to nurse Maggie. Twice a day, I hose her leg with cold water, apply a poultice for the swelling, then wrap it all up. I’ve watched others wrap injured legs–even tried to learn how–but it takes a special knack to make the bandage just the right tension so it doesn’t do more harm than good.

One evening after I’ve finished bandaging, I enter the riding arena to watch some of my friends laughing and hooting and having fun with their horses. They are doing gymnastics with jumps placed so close together that the horses and riders must focus to get over them cleanly. The horses have to know exactly where their feet are, when and where to pick them up and put them down, and they must do it very quickly. Maggie loves these exercises. She always aces them.

She used to.

I turn to re-enter the barn, knowing Maggie will never jump again. As I close the arena door, Josh Groban is singing softly on the radio:

I am strong when I am on your shoulders

You raise me up to more than I can be…

At that moment I realize what’s so special about Maggie and me. Together, we can run faster, travel farther, jump higher than either of us could ever do alone.

I go to where she lies in her stall. She is so beautiful–so graceful–with her legs neatly tucked underneath, black velvet ears pointing forward, quiet eyes watching me enter. I kneel down and press my forehead to hers. “Oh, Maggie,” I say, and for the first time since she got hurt, I cry.

That song is still playing: You raise me up…

Maggie is serene and silent, watching me with those bottomless amber-black eyes. They are saying, I will be alright.

If Maggie can endure it, so can I. And I keep coming every day.