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“And away they go” that’s when it happen. So fast that I couldn’t even help him. My dad the man who tucked me into bed at night had just hit the ground at 40 mphs. This was not the first time this happened I reminded myself. As his horse for the day Cleveland Music galloped away with the other horses. Her mud colored mane dancing in the wind, almost reminding me that this time was different; this time he wasn’t getting back up. Mom being around horses her whole life raced out onto the track. My uncle, Keith held on to me. Having been around horses since I was two, I just had the worst 8th Birthday present ever.
He didn’t die; he didn’t get paralyzed, but he couldn’t race again. He became a stable hand at the Track. My mother kept me from horses. I could never stop loving them. I promised myself that when I was ten I would have saved up enough money to pay for a riding lesson at the local farm.
Sure enough I did, but not at age 10. When I turned 9 I got $40 dollars from Uncle Keith who I think knew what I was up to. I told my mom I was going to Abby’s house. I didn’t tell her that we where going to the barn.
“Do you know what time your lesson is Katie?” Abby said nicely as we where walking the 2 mile road that lead to Chestnut Hill Riding Stables. She had been riding for nearly 5 years. She rode Chipper, a small bay Quarter Horse that adored her and her pink colored apple treats. “No” I said, I wasn’t really into talking right now. I really wanted to get there. When we arrived, the instructor, Ms. Brown, smiled and I gave her my money and she walked me up to a beautiful bay mare. They said that she was born for me to ride. I reached into my pocket and grabbed the carrot that I had used my left over money to buy. I looked over at the brass name plate next to the stall and gasped. In very fancy font the nameplate spelled out Cleveland Music. I was shocked! I felt that I was going to fall flat on my face. Ms. Brown just smiled and opened the door that lead into the stall. She remembered me I thought as I cradled her head between my lap, and ran my fingers though the mud colored mane that had danced in the wind on that horrible day. Ms. Brown came by and dropped off a saddle, bridle and a mart…in…gale. I knew how to put on the saddle and bridle but I needed help with the martingale.
The lesson started with a warm-up which included balancing exercises and walking Music around to loosen up her muscles. Then Ms. Brown showed me how to trot and post. I even got to canter a little bit. I remembered it all. Ms. Brown promised me that next lesson we could canter some more then after that we could jump!!!
I was dying to tell my parents, but all that would lead to was my parents would ground me and make sure that I never got near another horse again. Instead I resorted to drawing pictures of her and me, jumping! Abby and me never said anything about me riding horses in school unless we where by ourselves. When I finally had enough money to pay for another lesson it had been a week.
When I told Ms. Brown that I probably wouldn’t be able to have another lesson for a while because I was clean out of money.
She just smiled and said, “We need an extra farm hand around the stable if you are interested.”
“Of course…what time do you want me here” I almost yelled.
“When ever you can get her without your parents finding out”
After she walked away I took off towards Music’s stall.
When I got home finally it was after 5pm but my mom still wasn’t home. I quickly took a shower and changed into a pair of soffie shorts and a blue tank top. I grabbed some pizza out of the fridge and put it in the microwave. Around 5:30 is when my mom finally came though the door with all her bags and bills. She didn’t say hi to me, she never did any more since she got a job sitting at an office desk taking phone calls and all that junk. She used to work at Apple Hill taking care of horses that went to the big jumper shows, like the Bow River Classic in September or the Devon Wood Finals in December. Some horses she said even made it to the Olympics. She used to jump, till daddy had his accident.
My dad came home at 9:00, which was earlier then usual. He said that he got off work early because he needed to talk to me. We walked out to the old horse barn.
“I’ll talk and you will listen” he told me. “I heard that you have been going down to Chestnut Hill and taking riding lessons”
I froze, “How did you find out” I whispered
“I said I’ll talk and you will listen”
“I have no intension of telling your mother; if you let me come and watch you ride”
I nearly knocked him over when I went to hugged him.
“I love you daddy”
“I love you right back Katie Cat” he said.
The next day, daddy got off work early and drove me down to the barn in his rust covered truck. I had told him that there was a surprise that I had to show him and daddy never liked waiting for a surprise. You could tell he was excited because he was 20 miles over the speed limit. Ms. Brown was surprised to see daddy and of course daddy explained what happened and that he wasn’t about to tell mommy.
“Is she inside” I asked Ms. Brown not meaning to interrupt her and daddy’s conversation.
“Yep she is waiting for you” she said while flashing her smile that I loved.
As me and daddy walked to Music’s stall I made sure that he had his eyes shut.
“One, two, three and open” I said.
“Oh my God” he said looking like he was about to cry.
Music let out a soft nicker and nosed his pockets for treats. Next thing I knew little wet tears came dripping their way out of his eyes. He slowly opened the door like he was handling glass or something fragile and looked into her big brown eyes as if thanking her that she was here. Then he lost it. He broke down and cried all his tears right there in the stall. He was in there for the whole 2 hours that I did my chores. When I was finally done, I grabbed Music’s tack and brought it to her stall. This time when I tacked up, I didn’t have some 21 year old stable hand helping me; I had my dad, just like old times.
The highlight of the lesson was my dad helping me get over my fears of falling off while I was going over the jump. He said as long as I keep my weight in my heals I would be ok. The red and white poles looked a lot more imitating up here then they did on the ground.
“One, Two, Three and UP”
And up I went and landed perfectly on the other side. Thank you Ms. Brown; I had no idea when I was to go into a jumping position. Although we worked on this before it was a lot harder to put it all together.
For the rest of the lesson we worked on jumping and when to go into a jumping position and put all of it together. We also worked on looking up and looking at the next jump and turning the horse that direction. Abby and Chipper also rode with us. Both of us jumped the course and went on trail rides together with Ms. Brown and her horse Mac and Cheese. She said that she named him that because…..
His coat color is the color of Mac and Cheese, which is called Buckskin.
He likes to eat Mac and Cheese for a treat.
I just wish my mother would start riding again. She always seemed sad since Sonata got sold.
The next day Ms. Brown voice boomed over the loud speaker as me and Abby where doing our chores, “Can Abby and Katie come to my office please”.
“What do you think she wants” I whispered to Abby as we came to the oak door that lead into Ms. Brown’s office.
“ One way to find out.” Abby said knocking on the oak door.
It took both Abby and me to open the hard oak door. When it was finally open Ms. Brown handed us a packet of papers. On the top of the first paper in fancy font it read…Greed Meadows Jumper Show. Abby and Me almost exploded with excitement.
“The date of the show was next Saturday. You will need to be here by 6:30am.” Ms. Brown explained. “All the information is in the packet. You are going to have to work hard to win a ribbon but I think you girls can do it. You will be showing in the Baby Jumpers while the older girls show in the Juniors Division. Dismissed”
When the show date finally came daddy woke me up around 5:45am. He had bought me some tan breeches, coat, top and boots last night when mommy had to work the night shift at the office because her best friend that work the night shift was having a baby. I pulled my sweat pants over my breeches and I put my coat and boots in different trash bags. I grabbed my hoodie and hoped in the truck.
By the time we got to the barn it was 6:31am. Abby and Me grabbed our shinny horses out of their stalls. Music hoped right on the trailer, but it was Chipper that needed some coaxing. Abby had just the thing and pulled out a pink apple treat. When we jumped in the back seat of the truck it shook like a rocking horse. Daddy and Ms. Brown hoped in the front seat. When we finally checked in and unloaded the horses Ms. Brown and daddy helped us tack up and get our numbers on.
“Number 234 on deck” boomed the announcer.
Abby jumped with excitement. “That’s me”
“Great job” I whispered to Abby as she trotted out of the ring back to the trailer.
“Thanks, good luck”
It was probably the scariest thing in my life. When we cantered up to the brush jump Music pinned her ears flat against her head in fear.
“Easy girly, easy” I whispered in her ear. “One, two, three.”
I heard the soft landing of her feet and I knew that I was safe and would always be safe because I had the heart of a jockey.