My boots were by the door and I pulled them on as I ran to the barn. There was more whinnying and the sound of a horse kicking the side of the stall. My dad was on the phone and Nathan was chasing after us.
"Nathan!" I shouted and he ran faster to get beside me. "Lightning is giving birth," I explained. "This is going to be rough but you have to do exactly as I say!"
"I will," he promised.
All the horses were in their stalls and we opened the gate to the fence. Nathan locked it tight and we went down to the fifth stall.
"Stay there," I said, pointing to the side. "Do not move until I tell you. We're going to try and get her into the corral," I added, gesturing at where we had practiced our routine. "Dad's calling the vet now and they'll be here soon."
He just nodded and I grabbed the bar to Lightning's stall, waiting for my dad to get behind me with a whip in his hand. He nodded at me and I pulled it open.
Lightning immediately went shooting straight ahead and my dad yelled, waving his arms and making sure she saw the whip. We never used the whip on our horses; it was to make sure they knew we were serious. She shot for the left.
"Do what my dad is!" I yelled to a pale Nathan and he obeyed.
We continued to shout, eventually getting her into the corral. We slammed the gate shut and I watched as thrashed around, bucking and whinnying. I was shaking. The last time this happened....
A truck sped down our slope leading to the ranch and three men jumped out.
"Which is it?" the usual man, Josh, asked.
"Lightning," I panted.
"Oh great," he groaned. "You just had to breed your fastest horse!" He turned. "Let's do this guys!" He then looked at me and put his hand on my shoulder. "We won't need you this time so don't look so scared. Lightning'll be fine."
"That's what we thought for Freedom," I whispered.
I stepped back so they could get in then clung to the gate. Beside me, my father was explaining everything to a terrified Nathan. I wanted to help but I was worried about Lightning. The men were trying to get her to calm down. Finally, after ten minutes of running and bucking, Lightning stopped and flopped down on the grown. I shut my eyes, trying to shut out the whinnies of pain and discomfort.
Please God. Don't take Lightning.
Josh was instructing the other two men who I didn't recognize.
"Holy shit," Nathan gasped and I opened my eyes, watching as the foal left Lightning's body. "That's disgusting."
I laughed weakly. "Yeah, it kind of is, isn't it?"
My father put his hands on my shoulders and we watched nervously. It was taking them a long time to get the foal out. Too long.
"Daddy," I whispered.
"It's okay, Willow," he said. "You know this happens sometimes. It's just being stubborn. You'll see."
I was shaking and he hugged me. Behind me, Nathan put his hand on my back. We all watched and I finally heard a soft whinny. My knees almost gave out. Josh said something then he rushed over. He was covered with blood and fluid.
"Both mother and son are going to be just fine," he said and I let out a breath of relief, leaning into my father. "We'll keep an eye on the foal, though. It took a little longer to get him out than normal. The membrane was thicker."
"Will that hurt him?" my dad asked. "We've never had that happen before...."
"It shouldn't," Josh said. "We'll have someone stay with you for a month." He turned to me, pointing a gloved finger at me. "Stay away from the barn for that month." My shoulders fell. "It's best for you, Lightning, and the foal."
"Why?" Nathan asked.
"Does he know what happened when Spirit was born?" he asked and my dad nodded. "I can see that Willow is panicky as hell."
"I can't help it," I whispered.
"I'm not criticizing you," Josh said quickly. "But your nerves will rub off on the two of them and it will make the development complicated. When we've got a definite answer about the foal's state, you can come see him."
"Okay," I mumbled.
"Lightning was doing a lot of bucking," Nathan said. "Why?"
"Probably because she was trying to find a place to nest and she wasn't happy with her stall," my dad answered. "She's always been a stubborn mare. Mare is the term for a female horse," he said when Nathan looked confused.
"Why did we have to move her to the corral?"
"It was the best place for Lightning," I answered, still leaning into my dad. "We would have let her give birth in the pasture like Freedom did with Spirit but she would've torn off where we couldn't follow. She's too fast."
Josh had gone back to help them with the foal and Lightning.
"That was horrifying," Nathan said, his face white.
"That's birth," my dad said with a laugh.
"What will they do next?"
"They'll move Lightning and the foal into our large stall," I answered. "Which reminds me, we need to move Flame and Little Bit now."
"Do you think they're ready to be separated?" my dad asked as we went into the barn.
"Yeah," I said. "We'll put them in the stalls with the gated wall. That way they can still see each other and it'll make weaning Little Bit easier."
I got a bridle and put it on Flame. She tossed her head at first, sensing my nerves, but I led her out and she calmed down. Little Bit immediately ran for Nathan and he led her into one of the stalls. He played with her until my dad closed the stall door. He continued to play with her as my dad and I fed the other horses.
"Time for you to go," my dad said. Josh had come for a bridle for Lightning. I sighed sadly. "I know, baby, but Josh is right."
"I know he is."
"I'll go with you," Nathan said. "That's a little too freaky for me."
We laughed and he and I headed up to the house.
"Was that how it was with Freedom and Spirit?" he asked and I nodded.
I stopped when I heard the whinnying but he put his hand on my back and pushed me onward.
"She gave birth in the pasture, though," I said in a shaking voice.
"What happened?" he whispered.
I got inside and immediately went for the liquor but he stopped me and pressed a can of Coke in my hands. We sat at the table.
"She bled too much," I explained, taking a large gulp. I burped and winced. "Excuse me. Anyway, her contractions had been painful but we thought it was because Spirit would be large since Freedom had been such a tall horse. My dad and I chased after her. Josh is a master when it comes to delivering foals."
I sighed, seeing it all over again.
"When she did fall over onto her side, it was just the three of us: Josh, my dad, and me. That was the problem, though: she fell. She didn't get on her knees and then get on her side. Some horses do it on their side but some do it while lying down like a dog. There-There was a lot of blood by the time Spirit came out. It took too long to get her out. I was the one to do it. Freedom died shortly after from the blood loss and Josh thinks the pain was too much for her."
"How old were you?"
"Eleven," I said, drinking more of the Coke. "I can't believe I'm restricted from the barn!"
"We'll keep you busy up here," he said. "We'll make you be the maid again."
I laughed and shoved him.