Day two of the Pony Party started out a little rough.
Grace found herself heading for the ground rather suddenly, saddle and all, as she practiced pole bending with Jesse in the cool morning air. She landed hard on her left arm. The cinch had let loose.
Jesse hadn't had a rider mishap yet, and wasn't quite sure what to do, so he kept running.
Grace got up. Everything moved. Fingers and toes all wiggled. She never hit her head, taking most of the fall with her left arm. The keeper on the cinch had failed...something you didn't much worry about with old school cinch rigs.
She got back on Jesse for all the various reasons you get back on if you can after a fall, but mostly for the horse's sake. Jesse hadn't been under saddle all that long. In truth, she preferred not to ride him bareback...his movements were quick and sometimes not easy to sit...but just for a little while, she did it.
Skye came riding up about that time. She saw the saddle on the ground. She saw Grace was wearing a little bit of the arena.
"You want to do me a favor?" Grace asked. "Can you ride back to the ranch and get me the new black cinch from Rachel Mitchell?"
"Sure thing" Skye replied. Most any reason to ride Charmer was a good reason.
Skye returned with the cinch, and it looked great with the saddle. But by then Grace had begun to feel some discomfort in her left shoulder. Nothing serious. Nothing broken. But nothing particularly good about it either. The Pony Party drew to a close in the early afternoon. Then came the work of bringing all the horses home.
Gunner was starting to focus. He had a good head on his shoulders. Windy Boy had never even been ridden over the weekend, but at least he got to stretch his legs.
The girls decided to take their time bringing back the last few horses. It was a lovely morning for a walk. And Grace wasn't sure she could sling another saddle if she tried.
A week passed. Grace's shoulder was stiff and painful, but she could still sit a horse. And it was time to deal with Petrichor. He'd bee on a week long course of antibiotics, and his limp was gone. It was a wonder he had't escaped, now that he was able.
Grace made up her mind, and saddled the mare named Pretender. As they rode, she was struck by the harshness of the landscape. Beautiful, and unforgiving.
They brought Petrichor back to where they found him. At first he stood close to the other horses, but gradually the gap between them began to widen. And then away he bolted.
At first, she was hidden in shadow. But when the mare moved her hind leg with the white stocking, Grace and Skye saw her. The first mare they had ever seen out here, and looking eager not to be alone.
"That was like a fairy tale!" Skye bubbled. "That was the perfect happy ending!"
But Grace was not rejoicing. She kept looking back. Her shoulder was healing...but now there was an emptiness in her chest.
Baron hovered close to Grace. It was cold and drizzling but still, not like her to be under the covers, burning daylight.