I hate my parents. Both of them. They both are completely obsessed with horses: riding, racing, mucking out, combing, currying, breaking in. You name it; they have done it more times than they can remember. If it’s to do with horses that is.
We live next door to a stable, which my parents use to house racehorses: Silver Hoof, Blazing Star and Xenophon. They love those horses more than they have ever loved me. I think it started when I was 3. My parents bought me a picture book, about horses of course. In it, the main character had to ride to a city, and save the world from death and destruction, so that all horses could live in peace. After having been forced to read it, with its pictures of big horses, which for some reason had red eyes, I felt that I would have preferred the destruction. From then until age 4 I couldn’t look at a horse without seeing a huge, red eyed beast, cantering towards me tossing its mane. My parents could not understand it. They didn’t know what to think! Surely no son of theirs could not like horses!
Then at age 4 my parents decided to cure me of my juvenile beliefs. They took me out to the paddocks, to ride for the first time. The horse was called Big Mac, after being rescued from the knackers. For people who love horses, my parents have a cruel sense of humour. So onto Big Mac they placed me, this grand carthorse who towered over me like a skyscraper. I looked at Big Mac, his eyes flared, condensation snorted from his nostrils as he realised that the person sitting on his back was utterly terrified of him. He took off like a firework, galloping through the open gate and into the yard, his hooves sparking off the cobblestones. Down the long drive he went, my parents shouting useless things like “Rein him in! Don’t let the reins go slack! Grip with the knees, that’s the way! Come on now, stop showing off and come back to us.”
This slowly faded as they realised that I had no control of this evil beast, and was staying on solely because the reins had got stuck in my trousers. Big Mac sped up, sensing victory, and reached the road. Again, the gate was open. He was half way across the lane when it hit him. A camouflaged Land Rover Defender. Big Mac was flung into the sky with me on his back. In mid-air I caught sight of his eyes, still blazing red saying “if I go down, I’m taking you with me”. The landing was jarring, in a patch of waste ground, all thistles and rocks. I passed out just as he lashed out with his hoof.
The thing is, even though this had happened, I didn’t hate my parents for it. It was what happened next that made the difference. My parents arrived puffing, with the Land Rover driver and two passengers soon after. My parents asked them if they had a phone, and proceeded to dial a vet. I was unconscious on the ground, with my legs at unnatural angles, blood all over my body, and three broken ribs and a gigantic hoof print on my chest, and my parents were worrying over a horse, trying to hold him steady as he thrashed. The Land Rover people could not believe their eyes. They wrenched the phone from my father’s hands, as he was describing to the vet the nature of the injuries. He phoned the ambulance, fending away my father’s attempts to regain the mobile. He saved my life. Three minutes more and the loss of blood would have caused my brain to stop. And I would have died.
I live in a wheelchair now. Bound into it with straps at the bottom and a belt at the waist. My legs cannot move. I cannot live without help. I have to rely on other people for everything, from as simple a task as going to the toilet. And where I live, the only people around are my parents, who prefer to muck out the horses.
By the way, my parents still think I’m weird, deranged even, for not liking horses. They think it’s my fault I’m in this contraption, and will stay that way until I die. For not taking control. For not curbing the horse’s speed. For being terrified. But I know different. They have confined me in a wheelchair, confined me to being reliant on the goodness of others, and they don’t even care. Do you know what they said after the accident? They looked me in the eye and said “Don’t worry dear, they saved Big Mac too.”