Group of Flowers
Willem van Aelst 1675

“Well, Rose is the toughest horsewoman you will ever meet for one.”

“And that’s a problem?” Ann asked.

“Well, she loves to go fast.” Dee answered.

“Wouldn’t that mean I’m uniquely qualified to teach her?”

“If she falls, she will die.”

“Are you speaking in code or something?”  Ann was getting irritated.

“Sorry, here’s the scoop;  Rose lives in a wheelchair, she can’t move her arms or her legs.  She eats through a tube in her stomach and she can answer yes or no questions by raising an eyebrow – that is if she’s not too tired.”

“You are fucking kidding me! Who the hell would put someone like that on a horse?”

“Well, two different special needs riding programs say she’s ‘too disabled to ride.’  But she’s 23 now and she loves to be on a horse.”

“That poor, poor thing.”

“She’s not poor and she’s not a thing.  She is wicked funny, bossy and like you and me she just wants to ride.  So I put her in my lap – she’s only 50 lbs or so and off we go.”

“Isn’t that crazy dangerous?”

“As if you are the only woman in town who gets to do something crazy dangerous?”  

“Yeah, but like you said, a fall would kill her?”

“And your last fall should have killed you.  What if someone told you you could never ride again?”

“I guess I’d just go and ride anyway.”

“So tell me why Rose is any different from you?”

“Jeezus Dee, why do you have to be a hero all the time?”

“I’m just doing for Rose what I hope someone would do for me, that’s all. And that’s the sound of her van coming.  You don’t have to say yes, but my knee really hurts.”

“If you are asking me to do it, there’s just no way.  I don’t know what to say and I don’t know how to hold her, I’m way out of my league here Dee. I’m really sorry.”

“I totally understand, I’ll go and let her know.”

Dee did her best not to limp as she left the kitchen and out the stairs to the parking lot.  The van’s side door opened and a sturdy and cheerful girl backed a wheelchair out of the van.  The woman in the chair was impossibly tiny and her gnarled hands shook spastically.  Dee bent down carefully and started talking to the woman in the chair.  Ann was curious to see how or if this woman could respond. The closer she got, the more both Dee and the aide curled in toward the woman in the chair – their brows lined with concern.

“Ah Rose, I’m really sorry.” The aide crooned.

Dee patted the jerking hand.  “Don’t cry Rose. I’m really sorry.”

Ann gawked.  Shamelessly.  She tried to wrap her thoughts around this tiny crippled human in the chair who was weeping. 

Ride?  This woman couldn’t speak, she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t eat, she wore a diaper.  Clearly, being on a horse was lunacy.  What was Dee thinking?  If she fell off, there would be zero chance of her surviving.  She knew she should help but how could she possibly take on the responsibility of putting this woman on a horse?  She should be inside and safe and under some kind of professional supervision. 

“Ann, can you and Mary grab Joey and put a thick pad and a the giant western saddle on him?”

“Why? I thought you weren’t going to be able to ride?”

Dee glared at Ann and shifted her eyes first to Rose’s direction and then toward the barn.  When Ann responded with even more surprise, Dee sighed and started limping toward the barn alone.

“Rose, we won’t be able to ride for long, but we are going to ride. Ok?”

Ann trotted to Dee’s side “Are you kidding?” she whispered “There’s no way you can ride with your knee all banged up and keep that woman safe.  Are you crazy?

“Of course I’m crazy Ann. We’ve been through this before.”

“But how are you going to do it?”

“It’s going to hurt like a motherfucker but it’s nothing compared to the pain Rose has all the time.  I will get over it.”

“But you can’t be responsible for her.  I mean what if…”

“‘What if’ is almost always a waste of time.  And what if what?”

“What if she falls?”

“Why is it okay for you to ride and risk everything and it’s not okay if she does?”

“It’s totally different and you know it.”

“Look Ann it’s like this.  If you get a chance to hand someone their dream, to set their world on fire, you make it happen.”

“But what about the risk?  You’ve got to understand the stakes and what does it get you?  If you lose, you will never get over it.”

“I’m not stupid, I’ve thought about it.  More than you know.  More than I hope Rose knows.  If it’s really her dream, I’ve got to make it seem easy for me.”

“Dee, this is stupid.  It’s all stupid.  I won’t let you do this.  You can’t keep her safe.  At least tell me what to do and I will do it.”

“All right, but there are some rules you need to know.”

“Thank God you have some guidelines.”

“They aren’t mine, they are Rose’s.”

“Like what?”

“Rose is 23.  She’s not hard of hearing and she’s not low on intelligence. Talk to her like she’s 23.  Nobody likes to be talked down to, especially when they can’t respond. She likes dirty jokes, old movies and ska music.  She loves modern art and shopping.  Whether she likes it or not, she’s the best listener you will ever know.  So be mindful of what you say.  Take your time warming up Joey at the walk but she loves to trot and canter.”

“You are fucking kidding me!  Canter?”

“Joey knows his job, just sit up and ask for the canter after he’s warmed up.  He’s much smoother to the left. I told her we’d do a short ride, so keep it to twenty minutes or so. And sit up really tall, or it’s hard on your back. 

“I can’t believe I’m doing this.  You go talk to Rose and I will get Joey.  He’s the only sane one in this whole scheme.”

“He will take care you you both. Don’t worry.”

Ann tacked Joey in his stall, threw Metta some extra hay to keep her occupied and hopped on Joey’s back heading toward the arena.  Rose, Dee and the aide were all waiting next to the oversized mounting block.  

“Bring him over here and just scoot back a few inches, Maya will hand Rose to you and I’ll hold Joey still.  

The hand-off was nerve-wracking.  Ann could only think of what would happen if she or the aide dropped this woman like a stone in a mishap, or of Joey sidestepped two steps, what would Ann do?  She felt a sheen of sweat break out across her forehead and upper lip, her heart was beating in her ears and she clamped her legs around Joey’s ribs.  Joey shook his head and stomped one foot in response to Ann’s tension.  

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