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“Hey, Julie, come ride with me!” Emma called through the din of the barn. Thirteen year-olds Emma Long and Julie Walker had been best friends for as long as they could remember. They had been born just 3 hours apart on the exact same day, their families had gone on vacation together since the girls were 3, and they had a double birthday party every year.
Most recently, they had competed against each other for the Anderson Farms Hunter under Saddle championship. Julie had won and Emma had gotten Reserve Champion. However, Julie had not jumped for a while because she had fallen and broken her arm while schooling Mia over a practice jump at another competition.
“Okay” Julie replied. “But only if we don’t jump. You know how long it’s been since Mia and I jumped, and I’m just not sure how Mia will like being jumped so soon.”
“What’s the fun in that, Jules? The only trail that’s not a mud pit is the one through the woods, and that has jumps on it. Any other trail will get Buster covered in mud. Besides, you and Mia need to jump something soon!” Emma’s horse, Buster, was a gray, and any stains were a challenge to clean out of his coat. “You know that the jumps out there are small, and it’s not supposed to rain for hours!”
“Okay, okay. You win, Emma. Let’s go.” Julie turned and smoothed the saddle pad underneath her jumping saddle. She retrieved Mia’s bridle from the tack room, and carefully guided the bit into her mouth, pulling her forelock out from under the browband of the bridle as well. They mounted up and rode out of the stable yard onto the woods trail.
The sky was only slightly gray, with the slightest hint of a breeze. As they rode out, their horses easily cleared the logs and piles of stones that had been placed on the trail. The clouds darkened, and the wind picked up enough to make even a large sycamore tree nearby sway.
Not long after, it started to rain. Julie glanced over at Emma nervously, noticing how little the rain bothered her friend. A clap of thunder boomed in the distance.
“Uh, Emma, maybe we should head back. The trail’s starting to get slippery, and I really don’t want Mia getting hurt…Emma!” Suddenly, Buster slipped and fell on a patch of mud. Julie jumped off Mia and ran over.
“Emma! What happened?” Julie grabbed Buster’s reins, standing a safe distance away until he struggled to his feet.
“Jules, Buster fell on my arm. I…I think it’s broken. Can you ride back and get help?” Julie tied Buster to a tree while she helped Emma gingerly to her feet. The rain was coming down in sheets now, showing no sign of letting up.
“I don’t know, I mean, the jumps were okay on the way out, but now that it’s wet…I just don’t know.” The wind had picked up and small whirlwinds of leaves where dancing around her feet.
“I’ve seen you jump much higher before, Julie. I know you can do it. Mia can clear those easily! Just don’t think about it. You’ll do fine!”
“Emma, I…I just don’t think I can. Maybe I could run back, you know I hold the school record for a mile!” Just then, there was a fierce gust of wind. Both girls jumped when they heard a loud crash in the distance.
“What was that, Emma?”
“I don’t know. Probably a tree. Julie, you need to go. Mia can canter faster than you can run, and….my arm really hurts,” Emma whimpered.
“Alright, Emma. It’s O.K. I’ll try. Here goes nothing…” Julie drew in a breath, mounted Mia, and turned her around. “Come on girl, you can do this.” They started off, clearing the stacks of logs and piles of large stones easily. Suddenly, Julie pulled Mia up short.
“Whoa, girl.” They had reached a sycamore tree that had been just been brought down by the storm. Mia could have jumped it easily, but now she pranced in place uneasily, sensing her rider’s fear. Lightning flashed overhead.
“That’s what that sound was!” Julie muttered to herself.
“Come on, Julie! You can jump that!” Emma called from behind them, the curtain of rain blurring Julie’s view.
“Okay, Mia. Let’s do this. I know we can, so let’s show Emma what we can do!” Julie gulped and turned her mare around to get her going. Mia took off at a nervous, jerky canter. When they reached the log, she gathered herself underneath her body and a stride from the log Julie rose in the stirrups, encouraging Mia to jump. The mare considered it for a second and then refused, stopping short and throwing Julie forward onto her neck. Julie let out a disappointed sigh, and turned Mia around to try again.
“Sorry, girl. I didn’t think we could do it, and I guess you could tell. Let’s try this again.” Julie took Mia back to the beginning of the jumps, thinking that they would need the momentum. They cantered easily over the other obstacles, this time not stopping at the log. Julie was too focused on getting Mia over the jump and getting help that she didn’t glance back to see Emma’s grin as they soared over the log.





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