My Dad slammed on the brakes and I jolted foward.
"Dad!" I screeched, as the contents of my bag spilled out onto the back car-seat, "what did you do that for?"
"We're here." He replied, calm as ever and I made a mental note never to travel with my Dad again.
A vast expanse of green streched out for acres, dotted with colour. Ponies!
"Bye then." I muttered, swinging my legs out of the car and grabbing my shoulder bag.
"See ya!" With a dismissive gesture, he pulled away from the curb, splattering my cream jodphurs with mud.
Cursing, I headed for what I guessed was the stable block. Starting a new stables was never easy. New ponies, new people, new instructors. I blinked back tears as I remembered Spot and Dusty, and how I would never see them again.
"Snap out of it." I told myself, and strode towards a stone building. The yard was desolate. I dithered uselessy, one hand on the door handle. Why was I even here?
"Ahh!" A hand muffled my scream as the door flew open. The hand seemed to belong to a bald, rotund man dressed in a polo top and jodphurs that were four sizes too small for him.
"Hello..." He uttered a greeting, removing his hand from my face. "And you would be..."
"Kaitlyn." I answered, still wary of the re-sized Munchkin that stood before me.
"Ahh. The wanna be stable girl, well, follow me."
I was convinced the stables could not be that desperate, that they'd find someone older, with qualifications.
Well obviously they were desperate. The boss ,Paul, a fat man smoking a cigarette and every now and then taking a sip of something from an anonymous can, hired me with little questioning. He stood up and I got a better look at him. Not that any sane person would want to get a better look at him. His belly protruded over his thick belt and he had hair all over, everywhere except his head. His skin was greasy and loose, to match his greasy hands smelling of chip fat and meat and his breath. Alcohol.
A strand of loose hay blew across the floor and I bent to retrieve it before the man could set light to the stables with his lighter. He was flicking it on and off now, watching the flame re-appear and then disappear with noted fascination. Twenty minutes trapped with him in a confined space was enough. Desperate for some civilisation, I asked to look around.
“Yep. Heidi or one t’ other kids ‘l show you ‘round.” He said, sitting down again and taking another sip from the can. Giving a loud burp and a signal I supposed was a wave, he went to sleep.
Outside, there were three teenagers chatting enthuastically about me. They didn’t know they were talking about me. All three of them made quite a startling trio. One of them was the sort of girl you’d pick out in a crowd of three thousand, she looked like a rainbow. The super-model of all rainbows. She had dark hair styled into a bun, with wool plaited through it and hanging down to her shoulders. She was wearing the bog-standard uniform of Wisterias High, but had customized it, and she now looked like something out of the latest copy of some fashion mag. She was wearing P.E shorts with bright red buttons sewn onto the front and denim pockets had also been added. Her top was a badge covered white polo top and she was wearing black and red tights under the shorts. I almost gasped. The second girl looked like a model too, but in a totally different way. I realised I was out of my depth, in more ways than one. She had long, blonde hair sweeping her hips. She wore tight, skinny jeans that hugged her curvy figure. Her nails were clear, but perfect and unbitten, unlike mine. She managed to make a standard riding top look brilliant, not baggy like they always seemed on me. The third was just as different and distingushed as the other two. She was wearing shorts over fuscia pink tights. (again) Neon trainers and about ten plastic bangles. Her shirt had been tied up, and it showed her flat, tanned stomach. Her hair was sculpted into a perfect, undisturbed bob. WOW. I glanced self-consciously down at my skinny, pale legs and thought of my stomach. Flat but an unattractive flat. Bony flat.
"Hey!" I interrupted their conversation. They parted, revealing a small, pale girl in jods and a shirt. She was freckled, thin and had flame red hair. I recognised her from the flats. Her name was Judie, but preferred to be called Jude, and we talked sometimes.
"Hey, Cassie. Everyone, this is Cassie. She lives in the flats with me. Cassie, this is Holly-Jade, Rebecca and Taylor."
OK. So the rainbow super-model was Holly-Jade, the Barbie lookalike was Rebecca, and the Natural Beauty was Taylor.
They corrected Jude, and went about questioning me.
God. This was like a game of 50 Questions. But I did find something out about them all.
Holly-Jade was adopted because her real parents had drowned on this ship on the way to Australia when Holly was eight. She was fifteen now, and the horse she liked to look after her was a majestic grey named Mystical Wars.
Taylor's horse was named Gold Drums, and he was a bay. She loved cross-country and was very daring.
Rebecca was very sweet and adored a bay named Frankenstein. I learnt my responsibility was a grey named Joker. He was gorgeous, but I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the bay in the adjacent stable. 16hh and muscled, beautiful and strong, he captured my heart.
“Stay away from him, he’s bad news.” Taya had warned as she showed me the routine, scrubbing hard at a feed bucket.
“Why? He’s so… beautiful.” I whispered, gently stroking the bay’s neck fondly. His hard, troubled expression softened and he flicked his ears back. I felt his neck muscles relax. Then they tightened again as I quickly jerked my hand back, seeing Paul stride towards me.
“Hey, kiddo. Stay away from Déjà vu. He’s nothing’ but trouble.”
“Couldn’t I just try riding him? He’s so gentle.” I stroked him again, my fingers softly brushing against his sweaty back, trying a massage technique mum had shown me on Colorado. Yeah. Days were different back then. Dad would happily hum a merry tune while me and mum brushed Colorado, happy days.
“Sure, if you want to break your back.” He laughed. Suddenly, nothing meant more to me than riding this gentle giant. I became stubborn. I’d get my ride. I knew it.
The next day dawned bright and early. When I awoke, the sun was just rising, and the sky a milky pink interspersed with peacock blue and lavender. Breath-taking. With the sun rose the birds, and the people, and the animals, until the whole village was alive.
If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong.* ~Pat Parelli