It was the middle of a cold winter.
My big bay horse, Atlas, blew out a breath
when he saw me, fogging the air around his nose.
My gloved hands were freezing, but I tore the gloves
off anyway. At eleven years old I had learned
how to take care of injuries, to bandage
a wound. I took the surgical sponge and doused
it carefully in the dark brown antiseptic.
The closed breezeway doors did nothing
to keep the icy wind out, and my small hands felt the chemical chill
as I debrided the open wound of his lower right leg.
My mother threw hay, distantly, to the other horses
as I rinsed the sponge and washed away the antiseptic,
put ointment, gauze, and a standing wrap on the injured leg.
I couldn’t close my stark white hands and wondered
if any blood flowed at all as my nerve endings prickled.
I took a deep breath that clouded the air in front of me.
The horse was so gentle as I kissed his soft, warm muzzle,
put him away in his stall and said goodnight.
It’s winter now, more than a decade later. And as I bandage
my horse’s legs, I do it all again. Every step of the process
is entirely identical: sponge, debridement, treatment, bandage.
It’s colder than usual but not as cold as that one winter night
that feels so long ago. My mother is at home resting.
I’m alone as I treat Greyson’s minor injuries.
And as I bandage this sweet horse, I remember
Atlas, the cold, and mother leaving me to my own devices.
Christin Karr is a proud dog mom of two large dogs and comes from a large family of animal lovers. As a result, animals often show up in her writing. Christin has received many scholarships and awards during her undergraduate studies at Utah Valley University and Pepperdine University, graduating from Pepperdine in May of 2021 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing as Valedictorian of my class. Christin received a fellowship to attend the University of San Francisco as a Master of Fine Arts student with an emphasis in fiction where she presently studies. Her education has provided her with many opportunities to work with established writers including Pulitzer Prize winners.