Just To Finish
She slowly placed one foot in front of the other. Concentrating. One step. Two steps. How much longer could she keep this up? It was hot. Sweat dripped from her, soaking her clothes. She was dog tired and miles from anywhere. How much farther? Concentrate. Another step, then another. Her water was empty, and she had not seen another living soul for hours. What had she been thinking? She had been a fool to think that she could do this. She was tired, discouraged, and so thirsty that at the last cactus she had passed she had seriously considered attacking it to see if she really could get water from it. They did in the movies, right? How hard could it be? However, with no knife or anything sharp and with her luck she would end up looking like a pin cushion.
She turned and looked at her partner. He too, was struggling. She reached out to wipe the sweat off his face. Unlike her he could not put words to his wants, but she could tell what he felt just the same. Was he blaming her for being stuck out here in the desert with very little water? If anything happened to him she would never forgive herself. He pricked his ears and nuzzled her as if he was saying everything was going to be just fine. He was her best friend, her constant companion in this endeavor. Together they could get through this. She believed they were on the right trail to find civilization again and she was leading her beloved horse to give him a break, and herself a break. Her body felt like it was going to break and fall into pieces. She had saddle rubs in places she did not even want to think about. She had already spent more than 10 hours on his back, and her body was complaining loudly about those hours.
The sun was starting to lower in the west. Shadows were beginning to lengthen, and thankfully the temperature was also starting to cool down as well. If only a breeze would come up. She looked around her hopefully, but nothing was stirring. The cooler temperature was helping her frame of mind. Maybe they could do this. Surely it could not be much farther. Her feet were starting to blister from the time spent in the stirrups and the time spent walking. She shaded her eyes and strained to see ahead of her, but the horizon just shimmered with the heat waves coming off the ground. Her mount took the opportunity to shake himself all over like a wet dog. Thankfully he had done that while she was on the ground. There was nothing worse than being on top of him during those moments. Her feet were calling her bad names, so she tightened up his girth, and proceeded to remount him. He actually pranced around when she got back as if to say, "Let’s finish this.” He willingly went into a slow ground eating trot when she asked. Now to make sure they were still on the right trail.
She wondered if anyone else was out here in this vast expanse of land. As far as she could see were miles and miles of nothing but cactus, rocks, and small shrubs. How could anything survive in a place like this? If she had anything to say about it she would be back home with a nice cool drink in her hand before long, and get her friend and companion a bath and a tasty supper. He had done everything she asked of him today. Her heart swelled with pride at the thought of what he had given her. What she had asked of him he had done, without complaining or questioning. Who could ask for such a loyal friend? He had crossed streams, and navigated gullies. She knew he had to be tired, but he was still giving her his all. Before they started this journey this morning while he was still fresh he had behaved sensibly while all the other horses had been wired, dancing around like popcorn in a popper. Now they were the last ones out here. Everyone else had already passed them, and they were probably already relaxing in their air conditioned quarters.
She again shaded her eyes again against the lowering sun to see ahead of her. Surely it could not be much farther. Her mount was still steadily eating up ground with his slow trot. Forty six plus miles were behind them. There should be only a few miles to go. Fifty miles in one day?! Her friends had told her she was crazy, and that she was going to "kill her horse”. Surely no sane person should WANT to spend so much time on the back of a horse, and that it was not healthy. They did not understand the hours they had spent working for this day. Days and weeks and hours spent in the saddle so they could accomplish this feat that very few people on the planet would try. Call them crazy, but the bond with her horse that those hours in the saddle had created was so strong. That bond was something that she could not explain with words. A feeling that they were one and that they could do anything as long as they were together. He was her four legged heart and in him rested her hopes and her dreams. Things she did not share with any human. He understood her and accepted her in ways no human being would ever understand.
The minutes ticked away as they worked together as one. Suddenly his ears pricked forward, and he let loose a loud nicker. She perked up and looked forward to the horizon. There it was! In the distance she could see the grove of trees that signaled that they were almost home. They had done it! Her mount started picking up speed as he realized that his horsey friends and his supper were waiting ahead. Her breath caught in a jerk as she realized they WERE going to finish! Tears started to prick her eyes at the thought of everything they had accomplished today. Were they going to win? Not in the eyes of the world. She was probably coming in last, but to her that did not matter. She had set a goal, and both of them together had risen to the challenge. To her, when she crossed that finish line that was approaching rapidly, they were both winners. She could see her friends and her crew waiting for her. Her mount asked to canter, and she let him go. They were going to finish this thing in style. Her heart felt like it was going to explode with the pride she had for her mount. The tears started to flow unchecked. Cheers from her friends who had been waiting for her to finish met her ears. A few more strides and they flew across the finish line. They had finished. They had overcome all the struggles and obstacles of the day. As she slowed her mount down her friends rushed to her with water for her and her horse. As they were approaching she leaned down and gave her best friend a hug. Her tears mixed with the sweat on his neck as he turned and nuzzled her foot. He was her heart and soul and together, they could do anything.
Read all ten finalists' entries from HorseChannel's 2013 Fiction Contest >>