“Don’t race those horses!” my dad hollered through the screen door.
His warning faded with every hoof beat. His voice drifted away with the breeze as Babe and I rode side by side with my best friend, Mary, and her horse, Bolt.
We intended to heed his warning. We really did.
But as we nudged our horses into a trot, that competitive spirit between my friend and me, lured us into “can’t help ourselves” temptation.
Soon our horses sprang into a lope, feeling the energy from Mary and me.
The wind kicked up, and Bolt tossed his head. Babe shook her mane, and Mary squealed. I cut loose with a war whoop, and we were off!
Horse hooves pounded down the dirt road as we raced neck and neck. Bareback, we rode like Indians, sailing across the prairie.
We laid low over our horses’ necks. Their manes intertwined with our long hair and streamed behind us like wild waves.
We glanced over at each other and grinned…and squeezed our horses on.
Mary and Bolt surged ahead. The next minute, they were eating our dust. Then we were all neck and neck again.
We galloped over the dusty trail, knees bent and gripping our horses’ sides, our hands tightly clutching the reins.
I glanced over at Mary again, expecting to see her laughing eyes and spunky smile. But fear radiated from those eyes, her mouth drawn in a tight line…her skin the color of a white sheet.
She hauled back on Bolt’s reins. But Bolt paid no attention to her cues or the bit in his mouth. He galloped even harder.
Mary crouched low over his back, glued to his sides with a death grip. And I knew she had no choice but to ride out her runaway.
I forced my eyes back to the trail ahead. What do I do? Will Bolt slow down if I rein in Babe?
What if I…
I looked over at Mary and Bolt again.
Wait! Where was Mary and Bolt?
It seemed they’d disappeared into thin air. I reined Babe in and swung around.
Horrified, I watched as Mary, standing on a concrete bridge, frantically pulled on Bolt’s reins. Bolt’s neck stretched out as far as it could go.
He struggled to keep the front half of his body on the bridge, with one back leg tucked underneath him, the other back leg swinging limply off the bridge.
As Babe and I trotted closer, I heard Mary’s screams: “I can’t hold him! I can’t hold him. He’s slipping!”
Panicked, I flew off my horse and threw the reins over some sagebrush.
I snatched one rein, and we both pulled with everything we had.
Bolt tried desperately to push his body up with his tucked leg, while the other leg still dangled helplessly into space.
“I think his leg is broken!” She sobbed.
My hands and arms shook as I began losing my grip on the rein.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, like someone was yelling in my ear, I heard: “PRAY.”
I didn’t know what to say. I just blurted: “God, help us!”
We pulled, Bolt strained, and then seemed to give up.
“He’s falling!” Mary shrieked.
Then, somehow Bolt hooked his dangling foot on the edge of the concrete and lunged.
I sprawled on my backside. Mary twisted and fell to her knees. But we both managed to hang on to the shaking Bolt.
I crawled to my feet and handed my rein to Mary, moving to Bolt’s side to check for injuries.
“Walk him around,” I said, almost in a whisper.
As Mary gently led him, he gingerly stepped out on his back legs. He limped across the bridge, but slowly added more weight on his shaking limbs, and soon walked out soundly.
Except for a few cuts and scrapes, Bolt was OK.
Mary collapsed against Bolt’s neck, relieved that her horse survived.
I trudged across the trail to where my horse stood, still patiently waiting by the sagebrush. I slumped down in the sand, still trembling with my heart pounding.
A long silence passed before Mary spoke. “Maybe we should lay off racing,” she said, her voice still shaky.
I blew out a breath. “Yeah, maybe we should have listened to my dad.”
“Ya think?” Mary rolled her eyes to the sky.
I got up and dusted off, gathering Babe’s reins from the bush.
Mary stood next to Bolt, caressing his neck, as Babe and I plodded up beside her.
Without saying another word, we walked our horses toward home, only pausing long enough to hop on a rock to mount them again.
In deep thought, I barely noticed the long trail home. I shuddered when I thought about what might have happened.
And how foolish we’d been.
But I also wondered about the unseen Hands from Heaven Who no doubt lifted Bolt high enough to hook his hoof on that bridge, so he could lunge to safety.
Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She also loves riding/ministering with her husband and their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry and writing about God’s grace in the various adventures on the trail less-traveled. Join the fun and be encouraged on their website: www.ponyexpressministry.com and her blog: www.trail-tails.blogspot.com, or come for a visit on Facebook.