It's not a bad story so far, but something is missing and I can't quite figure out what it is. There just isn't the pull to read me feeling in the writing, if that makes sense. I want to read it simply because I started it and hate having an unread book in my head, not because it draws me to read it.
Maybe it's the lack of connection to the characters...I can't see their faces or persons so they just feel like entities lacking substance. I was trying to put faces to both as I read. Maybe I'm just having an off day and will feel differently reading later... Will come back and read it tomorrow while starting my vacation to see how it feels.
Sorry I couldn't give more positive feedback. I never like posting this type of response, but would rather give honesty than to be fake with anyone. It serves you no good for me to lie.
I love feedback like this! My big problem with writing is lack of detail and description. I thought it was lacking that pull as well, but I think it picks up later on. I'm mostly afraid of not having pull because I want this to be a rather technical fiction book, if you know what I mean. I don't want it to be full of butterflys and rainbows like most horse books, but I need to have that same pull. Also, the title and chapter was made up on the spot. After careful review, I changed the chapter name to Martingale. Martingale- the acto of betting just enough each time to cover previous losses until one wins. I feel like it fits the situation quite well, no?
Natalie almost questioned Liz as they stood, pouring bottle after bottle of Gatorade into the bucket. “Liz...” she started, and got a glare in return “She needs the electrolytes. Here, top it up with water. That should work.” Liz effortlessly lifted the full bucket, clipping it into the stall. 14X28 with a thick bed of wood shavings, it was geared solely towards the horse's comfort. Liz opened a medicine chest, rummaging around “she'll need this, and this, and this.” she pulled out bottles, handing them to Natalie, who sat them on a ledge in front of the stall, made exactly for that purpose. Liz wrote out the daily doses on a dry erase, and hung it in front. “Once we can get her system working, we'll give her bran mashes with corn oil, tapering to beet pulp. What are the top two things to remember?” Natalie was busy setting up the other stall, same size, same way, except with plain water “Er...Fiber and protein?” Liz scowled slightly in her direction “Tell me, don't ask me. You're right, of course. Fetch a bale of the bad alfalfa put a flake in a hay net, and put it in her stall.” Natalie sighed, grabbed the haynet, and ran down to the main barn to get the hay. Liz's eyes crinkled as she unloaded the horses “Silly girl. She didn't have to run.” She told the mare, who shook her head. “Of course you want her to hurry- that's your dinner, right?” the first thing the mare did when put into her new stall was lay down with a groan, only to shoot up as Natalie returned with the haynet and tied it. The other horse was unloaded, but Liz had Natalie hold him while she inpected him “He's a weanling.” she blankly stated, sighing “thats two years of commitment before I can do anything...maybe I can flip him at a different auction...” she mumbled, rubbing her face as she put him away and throwing in the 'bad' hay that was sitting there.
Natalie felt so exhausted from their adventure, she almost forgot that it was barely noon, and that she had a barn full of horses to take care of. Liz gave her an expectant look, and Natalie ran back to the barn. This time, Liz wasn't smiling “What have I gotten myself into?” she asked herself, running a hand through her greying hair “I'm too old for this crap.”
Feeding the horses had an odd rhythm to it- 1 2 1 2 3 1, grain, grain, 2,2,1,0. That last one, the horse made angry motions and noises toward her, but the pile of hay in front of him told the truth. He didn't need any more. Then there were stalls to clean. So many stalls to clean... But the entire time she took care of all those horses, there was only one horse on her mind. And after the stalls, there were lessons to prepare for- jumps to set up, horses to be groomed and tacked. Then, bales had to be thrown down and placed in front of the proper stalls. It took nearly all her strength to drag the bales- big, dense bales that weighed more than she did.
Then there were show horses to prep. Coats to be buffed to gleaming, rows of perfects braids to be plaited. Tails to be detangled. Her fingers and arms were sore at the end, and it was with great relief that she collapsed onto the bench outside. Liz came walking in with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a plate of ham and cheese sandwiches in the other. Natalie shot her a grateful look before beginning to eat. Liz sipped at her own glass of water, watching her eat. Once she took more than a minute to eat one, she knew it was safe to say “Want to check on our Gambit?” It took Natalie a second, since she didn't think the horse had a name, but then she was furiously nodding her head. “Well, than, finish that and we can head up.” The quarantine stalls hadn't changed much. They were a little dirtier, and Natalie could honestly say she had never been more relieved to see horse crap than in that moment. Liz threw a flake in, ripped a second one in half, and threw a half in. “She'll be getting free choice hay by tomorrow night.” Liz told her, and Natalie nodded, wishing she could be getting free choice now, but knowing it wasn't an option. The weanling neighed, and Natalie walked over to see it. He was pitch black, but she suspected he would start greying out soon- only one breed threw true blacks, and they wouldn't end up in that inglorious place.
“She'll be getting her first dose of supplements tonight. You'll watch so you can do it tomorrow.” Liz told her as they watched the horse eat “I've been checking on her between sessions. She's been eating and laying down the entire time.” Natalie wanted to pet her, but the mud and much were just too disgusting, even though it had mostly dried. “Tomorrow you'll groom her, and she'll get her feet done the day after.” The sooner the better for her feet, but the stress could be deadly. That was the only reason Gambit wasn't spick and spam already- the stress was the last thing she needed. It felt almost cruel to Natalie to see her frantically pulling hay out of the net while a full bale sat outside her stall, but one misstep could kill her at this point. “$30...This poor girl wasn't even worth half of kill bid.....” she shook her head at the thought, though she could clearly see the reason why. “Refill the net, Natalie.” Natalie went into the stall, and began untying the net. The mare began pulling more frantically at the net, and Natalie had to throw it over as soon as it was free. Liz picked it up, put another flake in it, and passed it in to Natalie. The mare whickered as the food was once again presented, and Natalie had tied it securely with the strings dangling out of the stall. That last detail she made absolute sure of, having heard enough horror stories about it to fuel nightmares for weeks.
They watched her eat in silence for a few seconds before Liz sighed “I don't think I need to tell you this, kid, but this is going to be slow going. She needs to gain at least- at least
- 200 pounds. That will take at least two months. Probably three before she can be put into training.” Nataliefinally tore her eyes away from Gambit to look up at her and smiled “She's worth the wait.”
Liz laughed, and the horse's ears turned to her “I don't doubt that. But like I was sayin', I have a group of three-year olds that need to be broken in. You can help me with them for those months.” Natalie smiled widely “I'd like that.” Liz nodded, smirking slightly “Good. It wasn't a question. These old bones of mine can't handle a fall as well as I'd like..”
The three-year olds were fun, to say the least. They required constant attention as she lunged them, first with nothing, then with a saddle with no stirrups. Then worked them with long reins. The only part that she was hesitant about was riding, searching out Liz's eyes as she worked another. Liz saw her, and smiled. Taking a deep breath, She swung herself up in the saddle, taking a handful of rein and mane in case he reacted. The horse's ears went back, but otherwise didn't react as Natalie shifted around, caught her stirrups, then continued moving. The horse stood more or less still, until she nudged him. He exploded forward, but she quickly reined him back. Once he was walking – a quick walk, but a walk nonetheless, she stopped him, and nudged again, gentler, while saying “Walk.” and he did, speed walking around the round pen a few times. After a lap, he slowed down, and his neck lowered. Natalie relaxed as well, and they did a few more laps before she slid off of him. Even if he didn't make a fuss, he was glad to have her off, letting out a gusty sigh. Natalie laughed, rubbing his nose “I'm not that heavy, wimp.” she told him, before dropping the reins and undoing the saddle. He turned his head to see her, but , let her lift it from his back and put it over the fence rail. As soon as the bridle was off, he smacked his lips a couple of times, looking at her expectantly with ears pointing straight at her. She didn't fail to deliver, presenting a peppermint to him. He quickly whisked it off of her hand and crunched it happily, before returning to lick her palm. “Silly horsie. You didn't earn another one.” she cooed at him, pulling her hand back before he had any naughty ideas.
She didn't bother brushing him out, since he didn't sweat, but turned him right out to the field, where he happily ran off to join the others. The horses in the drylot looked up, and she selected one, slipping a lead rope around it's neck. She had just put it into the round pen when Liz called to her “How bout you pop up on this one while I work the other one?” The one she had been working on was already saddled and bridled, and Natalie agreed after just a brief hesitation, mounting her. The first horse she was hesitant, uncertain how to proceed. By the third, she was feeling better about it. The fifth, she was confident, able to sit a bunny buck without worrying.
Liz watched her over the back of Dream, and smiled softly. Now she's getting it, she thought, nudging Dream into a canter, and then her eyes were drawn to her stallion, with his beautiful rocking motion, muscles rippling under his dual colored coat. He was bulking up nicely. Maybe it was time to enter him in shows again. After all, he wasn't getting any younger. And it'd be nice to have Dreamy babies running around again... Then she remembered all the weanlings at the auction, and thought better of it. But still, showing sounded appealing.
“What do you think about riding Dream in a show? You could do training level dressage. Or a competitive trail ride, I think there is one of those nearby...” Natalie's head whipped around, and she almost gave an affirmative reply, but something bothered her about it. She frowned down at the horse's neck, letting her stretch down and out, trying to pinpoint what it was, before it came to her “Wasn't Dream showing level three?” that would be a fall of three levels in the same number of years- not something that endears your stud. Liz nodded, nudging him into a canter. God he was beautiful “Just the first test. Pretty good for a 5-year old, wouldn't you say?” Natalie slid off the horse, untacking her while she waited patiently for her treat. After she turned her loose, she returned to the pen. “Liz, I couldn't. I don't think it's legal for me to handle stallions while I'm a minor.” Liz frowned, letting Dream slow down “Really? I'll have to look into that.” Her eyes never moved from Dream, and her smile reached her eyes and beyond “Look at him – I'm not pushing him at all and he'd still rather trot!” She looked sidelong at Natalie “I'd be a shame to waste this energy lunging. Want to go on a trail ride? Just around the farm?” Natalie nodded, biting her lip “Can we check on Gambit first?” Liz shook her head “Of course, of course...You really love that lil' girl don't you?” Natalie nodded “Of course. Who would've, if not for me?” Liz's lips twitched, but into a happy or sad smile, she couldn't have said. she beckoned Dream to come towards her, unfastening him from the lunge line and leaving him in the round pen. “If not me, who? If not now, when?” she recited, gesturing grandly. Natalie shook her head, embarrassed by her even if no one was there to see her. Liz bumped her “I'll look into you riding Dream. If it doesn't work, maybe you can ride Mystic. Or one of their babies.” Natalie was hesitant when she said “yeah...” Liz peered at her, and stated “You don't seem happy about getting a chance to show.” Natalie shook her head “It's not that. I'm not good enough to do the levels they were in before, and it won't look good for-” Liz held up a hand “Stop right there. You won't make them look bad,since most of the studs round here aren't even backed. This way, I don't only show off my horses, I'm showing you
off. It shows I'm not just a trainer of horses, I'm a trainer of people as well. Besides, any showing is better than no showing.” Then they were at the quarantine barn, and Natalie found Gambit to be much more interesting. Liz smiled slightly at having won. Her little student's hesitance was cute- and kept her from falling- but now it was just annoying.
(The hardest part of this is deciding the cut offs...I have 14 pages already typed for your reading pleasure