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For our anniversary my husband surprised me with an overnight trip to a charming inn and restaurant about an hour north of Houston. We left Friday afternoon in the middle of rush hour—I was running late because I had to get my bad hair shaped and molded for the occasion. When we arrived we were buzzed through the main gate and followed an ambling, narrow road past vegetable gardens, horse pastures, and fish ponds—one heart-shaped. There were two adorable goats gallivanting (and trespassing, apparently) in a meadow near the creek just as we drove up the hill toward the main house. We checked in, were handed a couple of cocktails, and took a mini-tour of the new haciendas. Then it was time to go to our casita and dress for dinner. There we found a bottle of champagne waiting for us—a perfect start to a lovely evening. The dinner was five courses but I can really only describe the first—a fried radish sitting in a dish of “dirt” made from crushed almonds and spices, as if freshly harvested. All I can say about the next four courses is that one had meat, and one was sweet and, of course, there was wine and then more wine.

The next morning breakfast appeared on the porch of our casita—that was pretty damn nice—just as we got our cowboy boots on. The plan was to ride horses in the morning then have lunch followed by a cooking lesson for me in the restaurant kitchen with all of the chefs while my husband shot skeet.

We’d left the lights on on the golf cart all night—that last glass of scotch, I guess—and so our pace was pretty leisurely to the horse barn. Next to the barn, in the show arena, we found three horses already saddled. A dog, looking at us with shy, sad eyes, was curled up under a large sign that screamed out in bold, black letters: the Inn is not responsible for injury or death resulting from equine activities. Lawyers, gosh. What overkill.

Shortly, a young man walked up. His Aggie cap gave off a brief whiff of confidence. He introduced us to the horses—Tough, Tank, and Shady. Based on their names and the abundance of their guts it was pretty clear to me that their last gig had been in the Chicago Mafia. After a little deliberation, the young man, Daniel, told me to take Tank, he’d ride Tough (good choice there) and my husband, the banker, would be on Shady. He then said something about not having saddled the horses himself. I figured there was some sort of horse minion for that.

I was proud that I could actually swing myself up and over Tank’s ample flank. The others saddled up and Tank, without my permission went over to Tough for a little horse sugar. While they nuzzled I asked Daniel if they were friends or something. He couldn’t be sure.

Tank, again without my permission or even encouragement, struck out first from the barn. I suggested he slow down, way down and do it right damn now. Daniel came up beside me and, to make small talk, I told the only horse story I know—or at least the most recent one—about how Mollie’s mother, an accomplished equestrian, was thrown from her horse and then dragged by her foot caught in the stirrup until her leg broke. (Sometimes my timing with stories is a little off.)

We headed on a rocky path toward one of the fish ponds. Tough was finally in the lead, then came Tank with me trying different strategies to keep my butt stuck to the saddle, followed by my husband on Shady. Clearly Shady was the only laid-back horse in the group. Tank kept veering off the path to eat the clover and thistle, then realizing he’d gotten too far behind Tough, he’d bolt to catch up. I must say I was none too fond of Tank and his selfish system of doing whatever he wanted when he wanted.

After about ten minutes, we were just rounding the far side of the pond, and insatiable Tank again went into the clover to nibble. I was having a pretty pointed discussion with him and tugging his reins when I heard a panicked yell. I turned and saw Daniel falling right into the rocks as his saddle slipped around the horse’s belly. Who knows what Tough was thinking, but he took off dragging poor Daniel whose foot was, you guessed it, caught in the stirrup.

That’s when things get a little fuzzy. In the middle of all of that commotion, Tank suddenly reared up, spooked, and then did something I had no idea a horse that big could do—he started spinning. Now I have an elementary grasp of playground physics and know that you can whirl the merry-go-round fast enough to generate sufficient centrifugal force and send a kid into orbit. Seemed like Tank was pretty good at physics too, because he kept spinning.  I knew I was about to fly, so I think I braced for the impact. As soon as I hit the ground though, I realized I had made a teensy weensy miscalculation. With the horse spinning like that I didn’t fly far enough and ended up right under his frisky, dangerous hooves. I vaguely recall curling up and thinking shit, horse, don’t fall on me. He didn’t, but one of those hooves smashed into my thigh. It was a relatively gentle smash as horse stompings go. Tank then took off in a mad rush to join the other three horsemen of the Apocalypse.

But I had no time to recover because I heard terrible moaning and crying and saw Daniel—free at last—struggling to walk back towards us. By then—and this all happened in a split second—my husband had dismounted his good horse and we both ran to Daniel just as he fell to his knees with his right arm dangling as if held on only by the sleeve of his jacket. Now, naturally,  as a mother I have seen a few bad injuries. Once Analise flipped off the back of a riding lawn mower and took off most of the skin on her leg. And then once Alex threw a plastic pipe at his cousin’s head.  Turned out that the smooth, shiny white place on his forehead was his smooth, shiny skull. There were others, but I have to say that nothing was as bad as seeing this young man’s arm hanging loose like that.

My husband and I tried to calm him—Yes, son, it looks like it’s your arm, don’t try to move, we’ll get help, probably just dislocated it or something, you will be fine… Together they tried to call 911 and the Inn. It was all taking too long for me so I  started running toward the main house about a quarter mile away. (The happy news was that my leg wasn’t broken.) I burst through the door of the reception right into where well-heeled guests were enjoying their morning cocktails. I could have used a shot of whisky right about then, but instead I whispered the bad news to the attendant and then ran to get our golf cart at the barn and drove back to my husband and Daniel. When Daniel began to shake, I worried about him going into shock, so I wrapped my plum-colored pashmina (hey, they come in handy) around him and my husband added his jacket.

After the ambulance left, we went back to our casita to sort out what just happened. I assessed my damage—bruised thigh, sprained fingers, a few splats of blood on the sleeve of my shirt, and a little version of whiplash. Nothing that wouldn’t heal.

An hour later we sat on the veranda outside the restaurant sipping yet another glass of champagne and talked about the worst that could have happened and how close we had been to that possibility. I looked out across the pastures at the sunlight shining through the gray clouds. The chill in the air was almost gone, the champagne was working its magic. And I felt the very powerful emotion of being deeply thankful.