So... I wrote a story a few years ago, and sent it to a publisher who gave me some ideas to improve it, saying it was too technical for people who don't know a lot about horses.
I toned it down a little and tried to make it a little less...awful... :oops: but anyway, I was wondering if anyone could give me some constructive criticism and such.
Thanks, here's the prologue and Chapter 1! (btw, indents aren't coming out for some reason, but I know to indent when people are speaking or a new paragraph...lol)
“You can’t!” George McCarthy cried out, his voice stricken with grief. “You can’t leave! What about Madelyn!?”
He looked at a pale red-blonde haired baby sleeping soundly in a crib. “What about… me?”
“I have to return to England!” Elizabeth McCarthy replied, her voice cracking, “My mother is ill! I need to take care of her! My father is in no state to care for her full-time!”
She paused and gazed around the room, first at her only daughter, then at the man that she had loved for so long. “You can care for Maddie, and I will return as soon as I can. You have to understand my decision,” she added in a near-whisper.
George looked despondently up at her. “What about your riding career?! What about your horse?! You had a chance of being an Olympic rider for America! Are you going to throw that all away?!”
Elizabeth looked at him; a long, sad look. “You know that nothing can change my mind, though you don’t want to believe it is true.”
She moved quietly across the room and picked up the baby, caressed its small head, and gave it one last long look before returning it to its slumber. Next she walked over to George and without a thought kissed him, a long, passionate kiss that she hoped had said everything she wanted to but could not. Then she picked up her luggage and revved up the car engine.
The last George saw of her for 16 years was her waving at him through the car window.
“Again!” barked my trainer as I circled the arena towards the triple bar for what seemed like the 3-hundredth time. Pride’s red bay coat darkened with sweat as I changed leads and urged his stride faster. My trainer, Lauren, continuously grumbled about my position until I eventually just pulled Pride to a halt and faced her.
“What?” Lauren shook her head, pulled off her ancient helmet (which she always wore even when she was coaching me from the ground), and looked at me.
“Sorry, Maddie,” she replied, “I’m a little nervous about your tryouts next weekend. The pre-qualifiers for the Olympics! And you should be, too. If you don’t place well…”
I sighed as I dutifully rambled through her favorite phrase, “…My training will all be wasted and your work will be for nothing and I’ll be an embarrassment to myself. You’ve told me.”
She laughed. “I’ve taught you well,” she said. “Go cool Pride and put him in his stall. He worked well today.”
I gratefully kicked my feet out of the stirrups and loosened the reins, allowing Pride to stretch his neck while I cooled him down. For the last week, Lauren had been giving me a three-hour private practice session each day. My horse was as fit as a horse could possibly be, all ready for the qualifiers next weekend. Problem was, I was not! My position was fine, and I had good dressage movements, but I could not hold Pride back. He had a tendency to rush the jumps -- and I couldn’t stop him! He would barrel towards the fence, jump flat, and knock over the poles. Lauren was ready to throw me off my Thoroughbred and into the muck pile.
Pride and I walked out of the arena and towards the barn. Even though I had been riding here at Forever Farms Equestrian Center for nine years, the stable’s beauty still amazed me. The glossy, dark hunter green barns looked as if they were newly painted, with not a chip or crack to be seen. The barn that I was heading to, Boarding Barn 1, was filled with top-level competition horses. Boarding Barn 2 had more boarders, children’s top-of-the-notch ponies, all of which that could enter the ring and get the job done. Then there was a barn of high-quality lesson horses and ponies. Forever Farms was home to the best young riders in the country, and was known for producing tons of Olympians and international competitors. That was what brought me here in the beginning- an 8 year old fresh from national Pony Finals with a borrowed pony and two champion ribbons from the show.
I patted Pride’s neck and walked with him into the barn. Dodging a grumpy chestnut dressage horse that stuck his head out of his stall and tried to bite us, I searched for an available pair of crossties and clipped them to Pride’s halter. As I turned to find my grooming kit, a heavy weight landed on my shoulders. I whirled around and raised my fist. Then I lowered it abruptly.
“Oh, sorry, Kat,” My best friend, Kat Harkin, was sitting on the ground looking disgruntled.
She looked at me, mock-anger on her face. “I just wanted to say hello!”
“By jumping onto my back?” I teased, “So, what’s up?”
Kat didn’t even take a breath. “Well, it’s Saturday, so I started in a good mood in the first place, and then I got here REALLY early to practice, and I took out Randall for a quick ride, and then I did cross country with Alex, and Lady was amazing, and then I had a lesson with Lauren this afternoon and we did dressage, cross country AND show jumping, and Lady was PERFECT!!! We’re all ready for the qualifiers. How ‘bout you?”
My best friend always made me feel tired in comparison. Even her beautiful palomino horse, Lady Luck, and her light bay gelding, Randall, were bubbly and energetic. It’s a good thing that Alex isn’t that hyper, I thought to myself, or I’d be dropping to the floor by now. Alex was another one of mine and Kat’s friends at the stable, but she wasn’t as close as Kat and I were. We all had a group lesson every morning together -- Alex, Kat, and I, 2 other girls, and Valerie the teenage witch. Valerie was as close to a witch as a 17-year-old girl could be. The other 2 girls in the group, Carlie and Tina, were her sidekicks. They pretty much terrorized everyone at Forever Farms—but Valerie had a special hatred for me. Ever since we were young girls, we’d always competed head-to-head in shows, and I had beaten her enough times to make her loathe any sight or mention of me. Her feelings had come across in several nasty tricks or rumors around the barn over the years.
Pride bumped my arm with his nose.
“Okay, mister,” I laughed, “I’ll get you groomed in time for dinner.” Pride looked at me like, You’d better, making me crack up. Kat smiled and fished around in her North Face pocket for a horse cookie.
“Here,” she said, offering one on her flat palm to Pride. She grinned at me.
“He’s probably mad at me for distracting his ‘slave.’ Hopefully that’ll make up for it.”
Pride devoured the cookie in 2 seconds flat -- his new record -- and looked around for more. Kat laughed and waved goodbye, heading towards Lady Luck’s stall. I took my time grooming Pride and carefully untangled his long black mane and tail. Unclipping the crossties, I grabbed the lead rope and led him back to his spacious stall. When I first had gotten Pride, I’d searched the entire stable to find just the right stall. This one had a large window overlooking the cross country course -- Pride loved to race over it with me, Kat, and Lady Luck during our practices.
I heard the feed cart rattling down the barn aisle. That was my cue to go; Pride always seemed convinced that if anyone was around at seven o’ clock, they would try to steal his grain. I rubbed his nose and gave his neck a pat, then left him to snack on his long-awaited dinner of hay and sweet-feed.
I'll put up more soon, let me know what you think!! :D
First, it's not awful like you're making it out to be :-) I enjoyed it! I'd love to see more and find out more about how the prologue fits in with the rest of the story.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.
Here's some more of the story.
My alarm clock buzzed loudly at 5:00 Monday morning. I slapped the cold plastic and slipped into my breeches and boots. Hurriedly pulling on a sweatshirt, I ran down the stairs, taking a banana from the bowl my dad had left on the table. Then I shoved a couple of mints for Pride into my pocket and burst out the door. Breathing in the clear, cold morning September air, I checked my phone -- 5:11. I had my routine down -- I did it every morning, even on school days. Except on weekends, I could stay at the stable all day to practice. On school days, I had to settle for 2 hours before school and however much more practice I needed after.
I turned on my iPod and started jogging the familiar path to the stable. I had only recently convinced my dad to allow me to go on my own; an overprotective parent ever since my mom left when I was a baby, my dad had insisted on driving me to the barn at 5 am every morning and having Kat’s mother drive me to practice right after school before coming to get me at 7 pm on his way home from work.
As I arrived at Forever Farms, I glanced around quickly for any signs of Valerie. Nothing. I hurried into the barn, waving at Kat as I grabbed my tack and helmet from my locker.
I walked down the barn aisle and peered into Pride’s stall. As usual, he was lying flat in the straw, fast asleep.
“Wake up, buddy,” I called softly. Pride made an undignified scramble onto his feet and glared at me accusingly.
“He had to get up sometime,” said Alex from across the aisle. Her main horse, Phantom Shadow, was already tacked up and his sleek black coat gleamed. I laughed and pulled a piece of hay out of Pride’s mouth. After quickly grooming and tacking him inside his stall, we were ready in seconds. I unlatched the door and led him to the arena.
“Oh, look what’s finally here,” snarled Valerie from atop her huge dark bay Holstein, Prince’s Legacy. In addition to her tall gelding, Valerie also owned a light grey mare and a chestnut stallion. Carlie and Tina, never far from her side, stood their horses next to her and glared at me. Ignoring them, I tightened the girth and swung into the saddle. Alex and Kat pulled up next to me.
“I think she’s nervous,” whispered Kat, “she’s been unusually nasty today.”
I nodded and moved Pride out to the rail. He calmly walked around until I tightened my legs and asked for a working trot, then a canter. I practiced extending and collecting his canter until Lauren strode out to the center of the ring.
“Alright, everyone,” she shouted in her I’m-a-terrifying-instructor-and-you’d-better-listen voice, “today’s going to be a tough one.”
Kat and I simultaneously rolled our eyes.
Lauren went on, “We’ll be doing a little jumping today. This will be the course.”
She walked over to a high course of eight fences. I went over the order in my head-- Red vertical to blue oxer, sharp right turn, (enormous) liverpool, (scary) triple combo, (unwelcoming) yellow spread, vertical with flowers (that would surely spook Pride).
“Tina, you’re up first,” Lauren said, “be careful, as always, and go for the clear - don’t worry about speed.”
Tina heeled her horse, Dynasty, forward and sharply turned to the first fence. I cringed- she always pushed around her beautiful light dapple gray gelding, as well as her other horse, a bright bay mare. It was hard to watch.
Sadly, Tina and her horse executed a perfect clear round.
Lauren waved Kat on next. I watched as she gently urged Lady on to each fence and didn’t exaggerate her movements. They quickly flew over each obstacle and finished clear.
Kat grinned and Carlie began her round. She owned a light chestnut mare named Kandiebar, and was beginning to train a steel grey stallion, but he was nowhere near the skills of her mare. Carlie actually was a good rider and completed the jumps with no major flaws.
Lauren signaled to me to take the course next. I adjusted my helmet and pushed my heels down. I gave Pride a circle to settle and then pointed him at the first fence.
One, two, one, two, I counted strides in my head. I reached forward into two-point and slowed his stride for the next vertical. Pride leapt it easily and I shifted my weight for the Liverpool, a low fence with a wide pool of water below it. Before I knew it, we were up to the second-to-last fence. A giant spread, this jump always had daunted me. As I lost focus staring at what we had to tackle next, Pride took advantage of my lapse of attention and dramatically sped up.
No, no! I thought as I sawed on the reins to slow him. The spread was looming way too quickly, and I knew I had no hope of getting him back to appropriate speed in time. Instead of trying, I just rode with him. He approached the fence at a near gallop and launched into the air. I held my balance as best as I could and tried to hold him up for landing. He hit the ground heavily, but continued on and jumped the final vertical without a problem.
Lauren nodded and waved Valerie onto the course.
Valerie and Prince’s Legacy were a perfect match. Prince was as conceited as his owner. However, they were always in the ribbons with their highly polished skills.
They completed the course easily and in good time and Valerie lined him up with the others wearing a smirk on her abnormally arrogant face.
Lauren went over each of our rides and then said to us, “I think it would be more beneficial if you all just worked on your own faults individually, instead of having a group lesson this morning. You all can have the next hour or so to practice what you need to fix on a show jumping course on your own. Use this course of jumps here, and see you all this afternoon!” She flashed a quick smile and disappeared into the barn.
The six of us all jumped the course a couple more times. I stayed focused and held Pride back at each fence. Eventually, we agreed to stop and cooled our horses.
“Wasn’t that fun?!” Kat exclaimed as we led our horses to the stable.
“You and Lady were amazing,” I told her.
“Good decision with riding with Pride instead of against him,” she praised. We untacked and let the horses into a paddock to graze. Kat and I said goodbye to Alex and sprinted down the road to the nearest bus stop for our public school, while Alex, Carlie, Tina, and Valerie all piled into a carpool to Braxton Private High School (poor Alex!).
Remember, crit is always welcome! :-)
Sorry I haven't put up any more of the story in the last few days, school just started for me and its been a little crazy!
Here's Chapter 2, will put up chapter 3 tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, and I appreciate any critiques or advice that you have to offer!!
I moved through the day counting down the minutes. I for the most part enjoyed my classes, but sometimes, especially when I had qualifiers in less than a week, I just wanted to practice.
Kat apparently felt the same way.
“When is this going to be over!” she hissed to me in 9th period, math class. I shrugged and stared at the clock. Seven minutes left until three pm, the end of school.
To make the whole waiting situation worse, the bus ride home was taking forever.
“So, you want to practice together today?” Kat asked. “We could warm up the horses by doing dressage first, and then go out to the cross country course and cool them with a trail ride. I’m so glad that we already practiced jumping today so we can just relax on the trails for a while! We haven’t done that in ages!!!”
“No kidding,” I agreed. “I’ll meet you at the stable at three- thirty?” Kat nodded and we hopped off the bus at our stop. I jogged towards my house and thought over my lesson with Lauren that I was going to have this afternoon. She had promised that we were doing dressage, and I needed the work, but Pride hated dressage! He loved anything with jumps and speed, like show jumping and cross country. Still, he tolerated dressage enough to be good at it, and I hoped that the lesson that afternoon would go smoothly.
Finally! I thought as I burst into the house. It was empty; my dad would pick me up from the stable on the way home from work at 7 pm. I took a bag of pretzels, changed into my riding clothes, and met Kat a little way down the block.
“Hey,” she greeted me, “ready for some INSANE practicing?”
“Yep!” I said, “ Bet you Lauren’s going to say that we didn’t do enough, after we practice for 2 hours.”
Kat tilted her head. “What did she say she was doing with you in your private lesson today?”
“Dressage,” I answered, “you?”
“Cross country again,” she responded.
We chatted about the upcoming qualifiers until we reached the fence to Forever Farms. I typed in the code to open the gate and we walked over to the barn. Lady’s stall was three stalls over from Pride’s, so we led the horses out of their stalls and clipped them to two pairs of cross-ties that were next to each other. Kat and I laughed about something or other as we grabbed our grooming kits, saddles, bridles, and saddle blankets from the tack room. I petted Pride’s forehead and gave him a hug.
“Hello, boy,” I told him, “I haven’t seen you in- I don’t know, 7 hours?”
He whinnied and rubbed his nose on my arm, leaving a long trail of slime on my new jacket.
“Pride!” I groaned. Kat snorted and continued grooming Lady.
I curried Pride’s red bay coat and swept the body brush over him to make him shiny and soft. Then, I grasped my hoof pick and ran my hand down his leg.
“Up,” I commanded. He cooperated and picked up his hoof, allowing me to gently clean the dirt and rocks inside. I finished the rest of his hooves and placed his hunter green saddle blanket over his withers and slid it into place. I lightly lowered the saddle down onto his back. Seconds later, the bridle was in Pride’s mouth and we were ready to go!
Moments later, Kat pulled the reins over Lady’s head and was set.
“Come on!” I called to her, bringing Pride to the main dressage ring. She hurried her horse along and was right behind me as I easily mounted and adjusted my stirrups.
“Want to practice the dressage test for the qualifiers?” Kat yelled.
I gave her a thumbs-up and said, “I’ll go first-- you be judge.” She settled herself right outside the ring on Lady and carefully watched me. About a week ago, the dressage test for the pre-qualifiers on Saturday had arrived in the mail, and I had been studying it every night as I lay in bed. Now, Kat would judge my skills during the test just like a competition. It would be a great show prep for Saturday.
I entered the ring at a working trot and gently pulled Pride to a smooth halt at the center point of the ring, X. I saluted ‘crisply’ (as Lauren always yelled at me) and urged Pride into a smooth collected canter. I rocked lightly in the saddle and turned him across the diagonal. We approached the center of the diagonal line across the arena. At this point, Pride and I were supposed to pull off a flying lead change. During a flying lead change, I had to command him to change leads--in the air-- at the exact center of the ring.
Pride tugged his head forward. I gently pulled back and got his head back up. Seconds later, I would ask. Now! I thought as we got to X. I pulled Pride’s head to the left and moved my right leg behind the girth. Pride instantly took off on the left lead and I relaxed in the saddle. After we lapped the ring twice at a sitting trot, I circled Pride 40 meters and did a half-pass at the sitting trot. Next, I asked Pride to perform a shoulder-in and he did so with ease. I squeezed--hard-- with my calves and directed my horse into a slow gallop. We cruised down the long side of the arena and I checked him back into a canter. After, I cantered him around the ring and asked him to switch to the “incorrect” lead for the countercanter, a movement which required Pride to lead with the outside foreleg instead of the inside as he cantered around the arena. Finally, we performed the final salute at the free walk.
Kat applauded. “Brava! Bravo!” I laughed and walked Pride out of the arena.
“So, how bad was I?” I asked.
Kat looked at me seriously. “Honestly, that was pretty much perfect. But when you’re doing the shoulder-in, just watch that he doesn’t get unfocused. His ears were flicking all over the place! Also, right before the lead change, he pulled his head forward-- the judges won’t like that.”
“Thank you,” I told her. “You’re up next!”
She rode into the ring and began her round. As soon as she made her first salute, I knew the ride would be perfect. And it was! Lady was obedient and Kat was still in the saddle. All of their circles were enviably round and their hard work practicing definitely showed.
While I watched Kat perform the test, I began thinking. If she rode like this, she’d definitely ace the qualifiers. How did that affect me? Did I want her to do well because she was my best friend, or did I want her to not ride her best because she was my competition? I sighed. There were only 5 opportunities to be given to 5 riders out of the entire east coast at this qualifier event. Only the top 5 riders at the eventing show would go to the final qualifications.
Kat finished and led Lady up to me where I was waiting by the gate.
“How was I?” she asked, breathless.
“Perfect,” I said, not hesitating. And she had been. I made an agreement in my mind to always see Kat as a friend, and never competition.
“Let’s go to the cross-country course!” she exclaimed. I nodded and we led our horses to the well-worn trail of the advanced course.
“Ok,” I said as we got to the top of the hill, the starting point of the trail, “let’s organize ourselves.”
Kat nodded attentively.
I continued, “I’ll go on the course first, and you’ll come after me in 5 minutes. We’ll meet in the meadow by the creek and discuss our rides.” Kat gave me the thumbs-up and motioned for me to start the course.
I settled myself in the saddle. Because Kat and I had ridden this short cross-country trail so many times, we didn’t need to study a course map. It was to my advantage that I knew every shadow, every place where the ground was soft or sticky, every tree that birds always fluttered out of. Pride and I were so ready!
“And, GO!” Kat cheered. I heeled Pride forward and we raced down the trail. I slowed him to a fast canter and pin-pointed the first obstacle. This log was the first cross-country fence I had jumped one day when I was 11. Pride checked his own stride--rare-- and took off at the exactly right time. I rose into an automatic release and gave him plenty of rein to land. Then we headed into the woods. I sped Pride up for the next fence made of two broad wooden boards. We cleared it and cantered up the next hill. My horse had so much stamina after our intense training sessions with Lauren that I barely had to slow him as we climbed the steep incline. We splashed through a narrow creek, leapt our way through a difficult log-triple-combo and raced to the finish that Kat and I had created one day when we first started cross-country. It was a narrow line in the dirt that had 2 flower boxes on the ends. We had begged Lauren to let us put it there, and she had eventually agreed. I smiled at the memory. Pride put on a huge burst of speed as we reached the end of the course (as I had spent hours training him to do) and we crossed the finish line at an unbelievable pace. I hauled Pride to a stop before he could run me right into the creek that ran along the edge of the meadow. He snorted and danced from foot to foot.
“Calm down,” I told him, dismounting. I held onto his reins and began to walk him in lazy circles. I’d let him cool down while we waited for Kat.
Minutes ticked by. Bored, I led Pride to the creek and threw rocks into the trickling stream of water. More time passed. I checked my phone. Kat had been on the short course for 10 minutes! Where was she?
I’ll wait 5 more minutes, I thought, trying to push away the worry in the pit of my stomach, then I’ll go look for her.
The 5 minutes seemed to draw themselves out, just like math class. I jumped to my feet and grabbed Pride’s bridle, then put my foot into the stirrup and swung up into the saddle.
I trotted Pride down the trail. We passed the finish line and continued into the woods. My horse suddenly threw up his head and let out a suspicious snort.
“Pride, stop that,” I told him, “this is important!”
He ignored me and tugged impatiently on the reins. And as soon as I rounded the turn to the triple log combo, I saw why.
Lady lay sprawled on the ground, Kat feet away from her. Both were totally still. One of the logs had a huge crack in the center. The other lay on its side, as if something heavy had landed on top of it. And right beyond the splintering combo lay my best friend and her horse.
Oh my gosh! What happened to Kat and Lady!? I can't wait until the next chapter!
Thanks, I'm glad the story's keeping you on your toes! haha :D
Here is Chapter 3.
I completely froze. Should I go to Kat or Lady first? Then Kat raised her head.
“Maddie!” she cried, “I wanted to go find you, but I couldn’t!”
“Why not?” I asked.
She motioned to Lady. “I couldn’t leave her here!” Good decision, I thought as I looked at the gorgeous, proud, tall mare laying in the leaves. She suddenly didn’t look as tall.
My dad had taught me to always take control in a situation like this. “I’ll call Lauren on my cell phone. She’ll come out with her trailer, we’ll take Lady back, and then we’ll call the vet.”
I pressed speed dial 3. “Lauren!”
A tired voice answered. “What? I was just getting some paperwork done. These show registrations are a nightmare! They-”
“Lady’s hurt!” I shrieked into the phone. I explained the whole situation.
“I’ll be there with the trailer right away. Can she stand up? And is Kat okay?”
Oops. In all the worry over Lady, I’d totally forgotten about the other end of the accident!
“I don’t know. Come pick us up, please. Quickly.”
“On my way,” Lauren replied.
I snapped the phone shut and grabbed Lady’s reins and gave Pride’s to Kat.
“I’m going to try to get her up,” I said. I grasped the leather tightly in my hands.
“Up, girl,” I said to Lady, “please. It’s for your own good.” Lady snorted and rolled over, putting her legs under her.
“That’s it. Come on.” Kat encouraged.
Lady gave a heave and pulled herself to her feet. Kat and I cheered and I glanced down at the horse’s legs. Uh-oh. Her left foreleg was swollen and hot to the touch.
“Leg issue,” I called to Kat. She put her head in her hands.
Lauren drove her huge trailer into the narrow clearing. She hopped out of the truck.
“Okay, girls. I’ll take over from here.” She took Lady’s reins from me and I took Pride’s back from Kat. Kat hurried to Lady’s side. Lauren supported Lady’s left shoulder and moved her into the trailer.
“You might as well take Pride back this way, too.” She said to me. I tied my horse up in the trailer and climbed into the truck.
“What do you think is wrong with her?” Kat asked Lauren tearfully as we drove carefully back to the barn.
“I don’t know for sure, but she might have possibly pulled a tendon, and she has some pretty bad scratches.” Lauren replied.
The car was silent for a few moments. “How about you?” Lauren gently asked Kat, “did you get hurt?”
“No,” Kat said. But I knew she was lying. I could always tell when she wasn’t telling the truth, being friends with her for 14 years.
I glanced at Lauren. She nodded slightly. “We’ll get you checked out anyway.”
The short ride from the farm to the course seemed to take forever. Lauren immediately ran into the barn to get the vet’s number.
“You two stay here and get them out of the trailer. Kat, you stay here with Lady. Maddie, you go bring Pride into his stall and untack him. Once he’s groomed you can come back out and see what’s going on.”
I shot her a look like, seriously? “Fine,” I said. I lowered the trailer ramp and led Pride backwards out of the trailer. He was a true show horse; as soon as he saw the ramp being lowered, he began whinnying shrilly like, when do I start?
I almost smiled. “We’re not at a show, buddy.”
I quickly led Pride up the aisle into his stall and untacked in record speed. I informed him of the situation and groomed him quickly.
“Sorry, I’m rushing,” I apologized, “but I need to find out the news on our friends.” He nudged my arm. I hugged him back and latched the lock on his stall door.
“I’ll be back later,” I promised.
When I got in the stable yard, the vet truck was parked in the parking lot and a man in a white coat was examining Lady’s legs. Kat was squatting on the ground, concentrating on his words. Lauren motioned for me to come over.
“Bowed tendon on left front, major bruising, stitches; she's lucky,” she hissed to me. I nodded and focused on what the vet was saying.
“Now, she’ll be fine, but she needs can't be ridden for at least two months,” he told Kat. Kat’s look of disappointment and sadness was enough for me to almost burst into tears.
“Awww, no qualifiers for you,” laughed Valerie as she walked by. Where had she come from?!
“Excuse me?” I asked her, “Are you happy that Lady is hurt?”
“Well, of course!” she said brightly, “Less competition!”
I wanted to smack her. Really badly.
Having heard about the accident, Kat’s parents came to the stable and insisted on taking Kat to the hospital and having her checked out. Kat resisted, then finally agreed if she could get Lady settled in her stall first. She disappeared into the barn, then reappeared about 15 minutes later and left with her mom and dad.
I visited Pride and checked on Lady, then waited in the parking lot for my dad to pick me up. Eventually, his old silver Toyota rolled into the property. I climbed into the front seat and told him about everything that had happened that day, from the jumping lesson this morning and the never-ending math class and Kat and Lady’s accident and how I had missed my lesson this afternoon but didn’t really care.
My dad listened quietly as he drove to our house. Then he asked me a question.
“The qualifiers are this weekend, right?”
“Who’s driving you?”
I automatically responded. “Kat.”
Then Dad made a fair point. “But if Kat and Lady got hurt, is she really going to want to drive you from Long Island to Virginia just to think about what she is missing?”
Oh, my, God. I’d totally forgotten about that!
“You can drive me, right?”
My dad sadly shook his head. “No, remember? We talked for months about this! I can come and watch you ride, but I can’t drive you in time. I’ll be at a huge meeting for work; my boss said he can let me off a little early, but I can't leave early enough to get you there on time!"
“But I never willhave a chance to be in the Olympics if I miss the pre-qualifiers!” I wailed. I knew that my dad felt bad about the predicament, and was doing his best, but I couldn't hide my disappointment.
"Isn't Alex going?" Dad asked me, "can't you drive with her?"
"She is taking the pickup truck with Lauren, so she has a trailer to tow her horse. There's only two seats, and her parents are in Hawaii so she has to go with Lauren."
Dad was resolute on getting me there. “Aren’t there three other girls on your team who are going in the same car? Couldn’t you go with them?”
Valerie, Carlie, and Tina were all driving to the show together in Valerie’s mother’s car. There was no way that I'd get into that car without someone dragging me in by force.
My father knew what I was thinking. “I know you hate those people, but it may be the only way to get to that show. And that show is pretty much one of the most important things in your life, right?”
I absentmindedly nodded. If that was the only way, I’d do it. But I’d really prefer not to drive with the Snobs and their supervisor.
That night, I laid in bed thinking about how uncomfortable the car ride would be. And Valerie’s mom would definitely agree to drive me. It was funny; Valerie was creepily nasty, and her mother was creepily nice.
More will be up tomorrow! Thanks for your comments!!
Sorry I haven't been posting, I promise I will put up the next chapter tomorrow afternoon!!
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Tuesday morning, I sprinted to the stable and got there earlier than usual-- 5:04 am. I looked around for Valerie, as was my routine. No sign of her yet. I heard a loud neigh coming from the barn. Pride! I rushed to his stall and gave him a comforting hug.
“Bad dream?” I asked him. He bobbed his head up and down.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to him, “I have to check on Lady.”
I hurried down 3 stalls to the left until I reached Lady’s. She was leaning against the side of her stall, and let out a friendly nicker as I stuck my hand out to pet her neck. Kat wasn’t around.
“Where’s your owner?” I asked Lady. I heard someone moving around in the tack room. I kissed my hand and placed it on Lady’s nose. I would never again kiss a horse’s nose after Pride had nearly split my chin by raising his head while I had been doing it.
I moved to the tack room and saw Kat’s familiar blonde head bent over her grooming kit.
“Hey!” I called.
She looked up and smiled slightly. “Hi.” There was a lavender plaster cast molded around her wrist.
“Break?” I asked simply.
“Yup,” she replied. I knew she didn’t like drawing attention to herself, so I let the subject drop.
“How’s Lady?” I asked, “I checked on her on the way over and she seemed happy.”
“Yeah, she’s fine. I’m icing and hosing her leg like, every 5 minutes.”
“Do you want to come over at seven tonight? My dad can pick you up when he’s driving me home. We can talk about…. stuff.”
For the first time in a while, Kat smiled. “I’d like that.” I grabbed my helmet from my tack box and said goodbye, heading back to Pride.
“Hello, mister,” I said as I got to his stall. I clipped him to a pair of cross-ties in the barn aisle and groomed him super-thoroughly. Then I tacked up and met Alex outside of the indoor arena. The rain was pouring down so we were practicing here, instead of outside.
“What’re we doing today?” I asked her.
“Dressage,” she responded happily. Her and her horse Phantom Shadow loved to do dressage.
“’Kay,” I said. We walked into the arena and began warming up. Throughout the entire lesson, I kept Pride focused as Kat had advised yesterday and rode as well as I could. It was definitely weird not having her and Lady in the ring with us. After running the test a couple of times, we stopped the practice in order to catch the school bus.
When we started cooling down our horses, Lauren said, “I’m extremely proud of all of you. You all have worked incredibly hard to get where you are now, and I cannot believe I was blessed with the good fortune to have 5 riders going to the first Olympic qualification round! As you probably all know by now, Kat will not be competing with us on Saturday. She had an accident yesterday while practicing, and I sincerely hope that she will be invited to the qualifications next year.”
To my surprise, Carlie and Tina looked actually and genuinely upset that Kat and her horse had gotten hurt. Alex, of course, looked sad also, but Valerie just smirked. Anger boiled inside of me and I wondered how I would survive the car ride all the way to Virginia with someone that was such an exercise of self-control.
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