She carried an armload of tack down to the pasture: bit and bridle, saddle and blanket. At the gate she stopped, looking at the bay mare with the small herd inside. The horse placidly cropped at the grass. She lifted her head to glance at the girl and whickered.
The girl set the tack down atop the fence and dug into her pockets as the mare ambled over. The horse lapped at the offered sugar cubes the girl produced, velvety muzzle and wet tongue tickling her fingers. When she finished, the girl reached over the fence to pat the animal's neck and comb her fingers through the dark mane. She lifted her left booted foot to rest on a slat of the fence. Her free hand brushed against the saddle resting on the fence. Fingers trembled, then withdrew to rest on the gate while she petted the mare.
After a few minutes, with no more treats forthcoming, the mare wandered off to nibble at the grass. The girl let her go, folding her arms against the gate and resting her chin atop them. She watched the mare in silence.
The girl turned to the man strolling down the rutted track to the gate, eyes shaded by his hat, face lined and leathery from years working outside in the sun. "Mornin', Garret."
He nodded, touching fingers to the brim of his hat, and continued until he stood beside her at the closed gate. Together, they rested against the fence and watched the mare. Sarah's left hand reached down absently to rub at her ankle.
"Cast's off," Garret remarked.
"Uh huh." Sarah wriggled her foot inside its boot. "Three weeks ago."
"'S good. Still botherin' you?"
"Doc seen it since?" He gave her a sidelong glance.
"Yeah." She rubbed at it again, then put her arms back on the fence. "Says it's fine. All healed up."
"Unh." Garret watched the mare flick her tail at a fly, hide shivering to shake it off. Silence fell again, until he gestured to the tack. "Want a hand saddlin' her?"
Sarah shook her head. In the pasture, the bay brushed flanks with one of the two roans, and whinnied a greeting.
Garret turned about to rest his back and elbows atop the gate. He tipped back his hat, looking at the blue sky dotted by puffy white clouds. "Nice day."
"Good ridin' weather."
The roan moved off, and the bay came back to the gate to investigate Garret for treats. He patted her nose for a couple of minutes, but didn't give her anything. Disappointed, she went back to grazing. "It ain't her fault, y'know," Garret said. "She's a good horse."
"I know." The girl didn't move.
"You gotta get back on someday, Sarah."
Sarah took a few moments to respond. "No," she said, quietly. "Actually. I don't." She took the tack off the fence and started back to the barn.
Garret walked after her. "You love riding."
She stopped and looked at him. "I love riding, Garret. I don't love carryin' tack, or polishin' leather, or haulin' hay, or comin' out twice a day to change the dressin' on a scrape. I don't love buyin' feed or payin' the farrier." She continued back up the track.
As she opened the barn door, he said, "You don't love fallin'."
She paused again, then walked into the tack room. As he watched, she set the saddle and blanket on its dummy and hung the bridle on a peg.
"Everybody falls, Sarah."
Sarah faced him again, arms folded. "Every rider falls."
"Everybody," Garret repeated, looking her in the eye. "Everybody gets hurt. You can't run from everything that causes you pain, girl. You gotta face 'em eventually."
She met his gaze, jaw set, and held it for a long moment before her head dropped and she looked to one side. "Maybe." Sarah uncrossed her arms. "Doesn't mean I gotta do it today." She walked out of the barn.
Though I probably should've stopped after "No, I don't" for purposes of minimalism, really.