Bonnie had a special friend from Northern BC who boarded in Coquitlam to go to school. Her name was Rae. She was in several of Bonnie’s classes and was literally a person who could have been called an Indian Princess. She was a pretty, soft-spoken First Nations girl whose father was a Chief.
Rae had told Bonnie she was used to riding horses back home, and had even helped bring in cattle. Bonnie, through her reading and from what Leah had told her, knew enough about so-called ‘cutting horses’ and cattle herding to realize something important. Out on the rangelands of Northern BC, Rae had probably been riding well-trained, no-nonsense cow ponies.
Not crazy-running, impetuous steeds like Hogan.
Bonnie was fond of Rae, though, and wasn’t sure if she’d be seeing much of her when school ended. So, despite her mother’s ban on outside riders, it was agreed that Rae should have a ride on Hogan.
Despite the fact it hadn’t been much of an advantage for the luckless Wanda, they agreed this ride would also take place within the relative safety of the pasture behind the house. In the afternoon, while Bonnie’s parents were both at work.
It was a lovely day, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. Several close friends showed up for the occasion, including Leah, who’d driven from Vancouver.
Hogan by this time was not being saddled, as unsafe deficiencies had been spotted in the underpinnings of the saddle that had been included with the purchase of the horse. Rae had said earlier that she was fine with riding bareback.
Bonnie gave the same warning as always to the new rider: no loose reins.
Hogan was brought to the fence, bridled, and given some treats. Bonnie gave Rae a boost, and she slid easily onto the little horse’s pale back.
With her relaxed legs and shiny dark hair, Rae looked good on Hogan, and the horse seemed to feel comfortable with her. There was a soft dirt path leading away from the fence, and horse and rider began walking down the gentle slope toward the middle of the field.
Rae didn’t seem nervous, but she completely forgot Bonnie’s cautions. The reins were long and slack.
Hogan, feeling no resistance on his bit and always happy to step up the pace, started into a brisk walk. Everyone was beaming.
Bonnie had just spotted the long reins when a series of small, very fast events unfolded with the speed of a sudden gust of wind.
Hogan stumbled. The horse lurched on his right front foot, and Rae slipped from position. In response to the rider sliding across his shoulder, the horse kicked up his heels- a small, playful buck. In a flash, Rae tumbled off his back, landing with a seemingly soft thump in the golden grass.
To the shock of all, Rae was half unconscious, thrashing in the grass like a creature that had been shot. They gathered around her and Bonnie fell to her knees to clasp her thrashing friend. Someone yelled ‘Call the doctor!’ and the athletic Leah raced to the house.
Rae came to, trembling violently. Bonnie was stunned that Rae had tumbled off the horse when the horse’s moves were so small. Rae sat up and asked for a cigarette, her hands shaking.
They were just teenagers, all of them fortunate enough until now to be inexperienced with disasters. Leah was taking forever in the house because she’d had to look up the clinic, was interrogated by a clerk, and nobody had the sense yet to realize what was needed was an ambulance.
The kids all understood that need when they suddenly noticed a new horror – the crotch of Rae’s jeans had a giant, dark stain spreading across the entire width of her pelvis.
Incredibly, though no one had seen it, Rae had somehow been clipped by one of the horse’s hooves.
Time stopped. Rae was clearly in great pain. Blood seeped rapidly through the denim of her jeans. The horse was trotting distractedly around the pasture, his bridle on and the reins dangerously trailing through the grass, but no one left Rae’s side.
The thin and distant wail of a siren became louder, and was finally cut short as the Emergency Responders marched briskly into the field. The second she was laid on the stretcher, Rae started screaming . She continued to emit, long, nightmare screams all the way to the hospital, fifteen miles away.
Bonnie, crouched at the back of the ambulance, felt Rae’s every scream as though a knife was being drawn through her, searing her own body with hot, terrible fear. This was her fault!
She followed the stretcher to the Emergency Room and was stopped at the doors as Rae was carried inside.
Sitting in a miserable heap in the waiting room, with Rae’s screams burning through her again and again, Bonnie caught glimpses: Rae laying on a bed, several people around her, a pair of scissors, the jeans peeled away, the team looking down at the damage.
Someone must have called Bonnie’s parents to let them know where she was. Someone must have come to meet Bonnie and take her home. Someone must have told her parents what had happened. The events of that awful afternoon quickly slipped into an obscuring fog of shock, fear and shame.
Rae did not leave the hospital that night. She would remain in the hospital for days, and there was talk of permanent injuries.
The horse ran in the field dragging his reins for hours after the accident, but didn’t break a leg. Nevertheless, the animal-loving brothers who owned the land were furious with Bonnie for that seemingly inexplicable negligence.
Their reprimand, well deserved and the least of the day’s shocks, was one thing clearly remembered.