A/N: Hello everyone! This marks my first attempt at a story in the Heartland universe. Some of this story is based on personal experience, such as the horses. I wanted to explore how Amy would handle a potentially debilitating injury. I feel like the show does not got into the dangers of riding and how a professional has to deal with the potential of a career ending injury. This is unbeta'd and quickly proof read so if there is any major errors please let me know. Thank you in advance for reading and coming with me on this long journey.
The evening is drowsy with summer heat when she finally let's herself lean, tired and spent, against the fence line of the bottom paddock. Shadows elongate from under trees stretching and twisting across the ground as the light falls gentle, golden on the mare grazing contently in front of her. Amy has learned how to appreciate these moments of solitude. These moments when she can enjoy the fingertips of light that linger on her back and the evening summer sounds. These moments when she can study the sturdiness of muscle and how it slides under a slick coat dappled in health as the mare inches forward while jerking mouthfuls grass into her mouth. She is a sturdy mare, well built, with the dense bones of a warmblood, powerful hocks, and a neck that ties in high to a broad chest. A twig snaps behind her and she is off with a squeal. Back rounded, head between knees, she plunges around the enclosure bucking and crow hopping furiously before settling into a tense, elevated trot. Two strong arms wrap snug around her waist and she sighs, leans back against the solid presence.
"I see the princess is her amiable self," Ty chuckles, the gravel of his voice rumbling through her.
The mare comes to a full stop blowing and twitching in anticipation.
"Just a regular pocketful of sunshine," Amy grumbles as she twists in his arms, palms skimming down his torso before wrapping around his waist. "I think I am going to try her over some low jumps tomorrow, maybe a gymnastic."
He peers down at her, hands gripping shoulders, green eyes serious and a bit worried. "You think she's ready for that?"
"I just don't understand why she is refusing to jump out of combinations. She is athletic and strong. She should be preparing for the Prixs." Amy sighs, arms wrapping around his neck, fingers stilling in the fine hair at the nape of his neck. "I am hoping is that all of the lateral work that I have been doing with her has strengthened her top line so that she is more flexible and more comfortable under the stress of combinations."
He bows his head, lips brushing her hairline as he murmurs, "how about I play hookie from class tomorrow afternoon and be your own personal fence crew?"
"Hmm," she hums as her lips drag across the curve of his jaw before slipping over his, lazy and sweet, "finally found a use for you."
Fingers pinch into her sides, wiggling insistently up her rib cage, before she can spin out of his grasp gasping around lungfuls of laughter. He lunges again, arms snagging around her waist, and spins them to the ground.
"You," he says as the echo of laughter dissolves around them, "are trouble."
She drapes herself over his side, chin propped on her arm, and smiles. "But you love me."
"I do," he says quietly, "I love you."
The evening is still again darkening minutely as it wraps itself in night. The mare snorts, bangs against the gate, and Amy sighs.
She stretches long, brushes a soft kiss to the corner of Ty's mouth before pushing herself to her feet. "Come on. Let's get Carmen settled for the night and head up. Grandpa is probably waiting for us."
The barn is hot with dead air and humidity as she pulls the girth through the running martingale loop and buckles it snug enough so the saddle doesn't slip. Carmen dances lightly, pulls against the crossties, already moist with sweat and to much energy. Ty approaches slowly as the mare rolls her eyes and nips at Amy's arm.
"Jumps are set," he says running a hand down Carmen's arched neck. "She looks excited today."
The crossties drop with a dull thud and the mare stands quietly long enough for Amy to pull the crown piece over her ears and settle the bridle in place. "Princess Sunshine, here, is never not hot."
The mare skitters to the side as they made their way to the arena snorting as a light breeze ruffles the leafs.
"You are silly," she murmurs to the fidgeting horse as she runs the reins through the rings of the martingale, rebuckling them around the horse's neck, before tightening the girth.
The mare skitters forward, mouthing at the simple snaffle, as Amy swings on and settles into a half seat. It takes a few minutes for Carmen to quiet into a flat walk and Amy waits until the mare is relaxing into the gait before lowering herself into a full seat.
"So,"Amy says as she cuts across the arena and heads back towards Ty, "we have the house to ourselves tonight. Grandpa is going somewhere with Lisa and Lou and Peter are visiting his parents."
"Oh yeah?" Ty grins climbing onto the top rail of the fence. "Are you propositioning me, Amy Fleming?"
"You, be quiet," she glares as she passes him. "I was going to offer to cook you dinner but I don't think you are invited any more. Lobo and I will have a lovely night to ourselves, thank you very much."
She hears him laugh, loud and bright, as she pushes the mare into a working trot maintaining no more than light contact as the mare reaches downwards stretching over her top line. Slowly, she collects the reins, asks the mare for more. Just as slowly, the mare responds, softens her jaw, becomes more elastic in her stride. The mare is sensitive, there is no questioning that fact as Amy wiggles her fingers on the outside rein in a small half hathese that Carmen bends around her inside leg and compresses her frame. She can feel the connection in her fingertips as the mare stays straight and true down the rail - your line and your speed, her mother would always say.
A drop of sweat rolls between her shoulder blades as Amy slides the reins through her fingers to the buckle and allows Carmen to stretch down at the walk. The mare is breathing heavy, neck slick with sweat, but her stride is relaxed, swinging forward smoothly. She can feel her own breath in sharp pricks between her ribs as she rolls the tension out of her shoulders and heads across the centerline towards Ty.
He hands her a water bottle and waits as she takes a couple of large gulps. "I think that is the quietest I have ever seen her on the flat."
"The valerian root is starting to kick in. She hasn't been squirlly on the flat for the last couple of rides," she agrees nudging the mare back into a walk so her muscles don't stiffen from standing. "The far line is a five stride, right?
He nods. "The vertical is 2'3" and the square oxer is 2'9" and the gymnastics is a one stride from cross rail to vertical and a bounce from vertical to square oxer."
"Perfect," Amy smiles, "thanks for your help today, Ty."
"You know I love watching you ride," Ty shrugs, "now go before we make the princess angry because she is late for dinner."
Amy throws her head back and laughs as she reorganizes the mare and pushes her into a trot. Circling the end of the arena, Carmen pricks her ears as Amy points her towards the vertical in the five stride going away from the barn. The mare charges forward, unbalanced and choppy, before launching herself over the little vertical. Carmen lands with a snort, pulls Amy forward as she fights for her head, and gives two impressive bucks before Amy can sit back and recollect the reins. She pulls out of the line prior to the oxer and changes direction across the short diagonal before approaching the vertical again from the other direction. The mare fights for her head the whole way back towards the upright, jerking up against the martingale, and then thrusting down against Amy's hands as she tries to lengthen her stride. The jump, it's self, is much cleaner, more organized. It takes a few more for the mare to settle and Amy breaks her down to a walk after she consistently takes the jump without rushing or bolting afterwards.
"She looks strong," calls Caleb as he joins Ty on the fence.
"I think she gets frustrated over these low jumps," Amy says between breathes. "It's like she has to much time to think."
Ty furrows his brow, studies her and the horse as they circle in front of him. "Want me to raise the jumps?"
Amy quickly shakes her head rotating her shoulder that were already sore from trying to hold the mare together. "No, she needs to learn to respect the jumps before we go higher. She would be way to strong over big jumps right now." Ty nods, let's out a relieved sigh before she continues. "Anyways, I think the gymnastic is going to force her to think and use her body."
"If you can get her settled, she's going to be hard to beat," Caleb adds as Amy collects the reins once more.
"Let's just see if I can get her over more then one fence," she says smiling over her shoulder.
The mare steps easily into a canter and Amy lets Carmen establish a rhythm before she heads towards the line once more. Carmen pops over the upright with little fuss before locking onto the oxer. She leaves out a stride, jumps long and high, nearly jumping Amy out of the tack upon landing. After a few passes, the mare huffs out a consistent five strides shaking her head in frustration.
"Hey, Ty," Amy calls breaking down to a trot, "can you break down the cross rail and leave the bounce. I think I want to add that in later."
He hops down, jogs over to the line that is closest to him, and quickly dismantles the first jump of the grid. With a thumbs up from Ty, she takes the five stride again. This time she breaks to a trot on the diagonal and heads towards the bounce at a trot. The mare breaks into a canter a stride before, launches herself over the small vertical, lands to close to the oxer, and slams on the breaks. Frantically, Amy grasps for mane as her momentum forces her forward. Carmen dodges right and rushes forward finding slack in the reins. Amy pushes herself back into the saddle, shoves her heals down, and forces the mare back in hand. She breaks back into a disjointed trot as the mare shakes her head and tests the reins.
"Sorry, girl, that was my fault," Amy murmurs asking the mare to slowly regain collection and relax back into the trot. "How about we try this again and I promise that I will get the striding right this time."
She takes the five stride again, balances the mare on the diagonal, and pulls her upper body back forcing the mare into a slower rhythm as they approach the bounce again. The mare rocks back on her hocks, takes the first jump easily, hesitates before slinging her body over the oxer, and landing tense and jarring. Again, she takes the mare into the open space of the arena and asks her to soften her body. The next few rounds are smoother and it takes Amy less time for Carmen to relax after the bounce.
She transitions back to the walk and lets the mare catch her breath. "Could you put the cross rail up again and raise the vertical to 2'9" and the oxer to 3'?"
Ty and Caleb slide off the fence.
"You sure, Amy?" He calls across the arena to her. "She still seems pretty tense."
"They will be fine, Ty," Caleb says in agreement, "the mare is practically stepping over the fences."
Amy smiles down at him as she rides past, "I will be fine, Ty."
Once more, she trots the diagonal after the five stride, pushing the mare into her outside rein as she rounds each corner and stays quiet as she approaches the cross rail. Amy doesn't have time to think as the mare takes off long for the vertical, twists in the air and lands awkwardly. There is a split second when the mare hesitates but Amy does not react quick enough to gather the mare together before Carmen takes off. The crash of legs into woods is deafening and Amy can feel the mare thrashing as she tangles in the poles. Momentum throws her forward and she falls into the rumble. She is vaguely aware of shouts, of snatches of color and sun, and of a heaviness that envelopes her, lulls her into numbness.