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Chapter One From 'Robin: The Lovable Morgan Horse'
By Ellen F. Feld
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
The first chapter from 'Robin' introduces a new character, Karen Greene. Her horse Robin is lame so she decides to ride another horse that she knews she can't handle.
Chapter One - The Runaway
“Come on,” teased the young man, “don’t be a chicken!”
“Yeah,” added another rider. “What are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” answered the young girl. “I just don’t think I should be riding a strange horse.”
“He’s not a strange horse, Karen,” encouraged yet another rider. “I’ve ridden him before and so has John. He’s a lot of fun.”
“I dunno,” slowly replied Karen. “Isn’t he too much horse for me? I should probably wait until Robin is feeling better and then ride her.”
“But she’s lame, Karen. She has a stone bruise and she won’t be better for at least a week. Are you going to waste all week by not riding?” asked the young man who had first teased the apprehensive girl.
“But Tim,” pleaded Karen, “my parents would get upset.”
“Fine, be a chicken,” scolded Tim, as he crossed his arms in defiance. “We don’t need you to ride with us anyway.”
Karen felt confused and afraid. Standing around in the barn aisle next to her were five avid horseback riders, three boys and two girls. Each of them had beautiful horses, of different breeds, and they all excelled in whatever equestrian discipline they tried. Karen, however, had only learned to ride the year before and now, at fourteen years of age, she was just becoming comfortable around horses. She adored her Morgan Horse, Robin, a pretty bay mare, with one white sock, who tended to be a bit on the heavy side. “She’s simply well-cared for,” laughed her father when he first met Robin at the breeder’s farm. That good care continued when the Greenes purchased the horse for their daughter. They hoped the horse would help Karen overcome her shy nature and feel more confident about herself. Their plan obviously worked as Karen, a slender girl who always seemed to be the shortest in her class, blossomed under the careful attention of the Morgan, who always seemed to know what the girl wanted. The horse sensed that the girl was an inexperienced rider and rather than take advantage of her, as many horses would, the mare instead made every effort to keep the girl safe. If Karen began to lose her balance and slip to one side while they were trotting, Robin would immediately slow down to a walk. If Karen’s feet slipped out of the stirrups, Robin would come to a complete stop and patiently wait until Karen was able to get her feet back into the metal stirrup irons.
As Karen’s confidence grew, so too did her self-esteem. She began to come out of her shell and make more friends, do better in school, and have confidence in whatever she attempted. She spent every day after school at the barn where Robin was boarded, spending hours talking to the horse while grooming the animal, telling the Morgan her deepest secrets. They would either ride in the huge indoor arena that the facility offered or take a relaxing ride along one of many trails. Everything was going well until they took a wrong turn on a trail one day and ended up in a very rocky area. By the time Karen realized the terrain was too rough for her horse, the animal had already stepped on countless sharp rocks. As they returned to the barn, the horse started limping. When the lameness didn’t go away by the next day, Karen’s father called the veterinarian. The doctor quickly determined that the horse had suffered a severe stone bruise, a common cause of lameness in horses. Stall rest was ordered and the vet cheerfully told Karen and her father that the horse would be as good as new in several days. So Karen spoiled her horse and fed her treats, waiting for the horse to get better. But she also desperately wanted to be accepted by the other boarders, and she knew that the only way to do that was to show them what a good rider she was.
“So, what do you say? Are you coming? We can’t wait forever, you know. We’re supposed to be back before lunch,” urged Tim.
Pausing for a moment to consider the dangers, Karen finally announced, “All right, I’ll go. I guess I can ride Comet.”
“Good!” replied Gail, one of the girls. “His saddle and bridle are in the tack room. You know which ones they are, right? Tack him up and meet us outside by the arena.” With that, Gail led her enormous black Thoroughbred down the aisle and out the door.
Karen, still unsure of what she should do, first went to Robin’s stall. Seeing that the mare was contentedly munching away on a fresh flake of hay, the girl entered the stall for a moment, hugged the chubby horse, whispered, “I’ll be back by lunch,” and then hurried off. Next, she went into the tack room and found an old hunt saddle that had a small bronze nameplate engraved with the name Comet. Grabbing the saddle and the bridle that hung below it, Karen headed out of the tack room and down the aisle toward the frisky horse.
Walking toward the tall chestnut’s stall, Karen gently placed the saddle on a nearby saddle rack. As Karen approached, the animal lifted its head. Unable to see clearly through the bars on the stall door, the horse moved closer and tilted his head. Seeing the young girl as she grabbed the halter from the hook on the door, the horse flattened his ears. He didn’t want to work; he wanted to eat.
“Hey, Comet. How ya doing?” asked the girl, a bit of hesitation in her voice. Sliding the door open a bit, Karen reached in and attempted to put the halter on the tall horse but Comet was not interested. He raised his head up high, knowing that this would make it difficult for the girl to get the halter on. “Come on, boy. We’re going for a ride. Don’t you want to come?”
In response, the horse turned around so that his rear end now faced the girl. Not knowing whether the horse might kick, Karen exited the stall. She closed the door, raced up to the feed room, and grabbed a handful of grain.
“Hey, Karen? What’s taking so long?” hollered a boy’s voice from outside.
“I’m trying to hurry but Comet won’t let me get his halter on.”
“Well, hurry up. We’re not going to wait all day!”
Now feeling more pressured, Karen rushed back to the stall with the handful of grain, opened the door, and held out her hand. “Look, Comet. I have your favorite food.”
The horse, seeing the grain in the girl’s hand, immediately came forward and began to eat. As he did so, Karen was able to slip the halter onto the gelding’s head. “See? That wasn’t so bad.”
Leading the horse out of his stall, Karen brought him to the cross ties and then quickly brushed him. Leaving much of the dirt and bedding in Comet’s tail, Karen turned and grabbed a saddle pad that was lying on the ground. “I know this blanket isn’t yours Comet, but I don’t have time to look for your pad. This one will have to do.”
Next, Karen rushed back to Comet’s stall where she had placed the saddle and bridle. Returning to the horse, she hurriedly put the tack on the irritated animal who was now pawing on the cement floor of the aisle. “I know, I know,” pleaded Karen. “I know you don’t want to go for a ride, but please be good for me. Okay?” As she tried her best to tighten the horse’s girth, the nervous girl broke a nail. “Ouch!” she grumbled.
Slipping the bridle on the horse, Karen began to walk him towards the entrance to the barn but stopped as she remembered her hard hat. “Whoops,” she said to herself. Turning the huge horse around in the tight confines of the barn aisle wasn’t easy, but Karen knew that she couldn’t ride without her helmet. She had put it outside Comet’s stall, next to the spot where she had laid the saddle. Grabbing it, she again turned the horse, so this time they could once again head towards the main entrance to the barn.
“Are you ready yet?” yelled a girl from outside.
“Yes, yes. I’m coming,” replied Karen.
The bright sunshine momentarily blinded Karen as she came out of the barn. Squinting as she tried to tighten the girth a little more, the nervous girl next let the stirrup leathers down so that she could mount. She grabbed the reins and saddle with one hand as she put her left leg in the stirrup and pulled herself up as Comet danced around. The other horses too, were anxious to get moving.
“Finally,” groaned Tim. “Come on, let’s get going.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Tim turned his horse and trotted through a large field towards the woods at the far end of the property. Every rider in the group followed Tim’s suggestion and began to trot. As Karen adjusted her stirrups, Comet too took off at a brisk trot.
“Shouldn’t we walk first?” timidly asked Karen as she bounced around in her saddle, trying desperately to get her balance. There was no response to Karen’s question; all the riders seemed to be ignoring her.
Karen and her horse were last in line as the group approached the woods. Comet didn’t like being last. He was an energetic, slightly nervous animal and being at the back of the pack only made him more panicky, more anxious. So he did what he always did; he stretched out his neck, pulled at the reins, and increased his speed in the hopes of catching up to the other horses. The young rider tried to control the unruly horse but the animal was too strong. Before Karen knew it, the two of them were passing the horse that had been directly in front of them. That horse instantly swung his hip out towards Comet and struck out with his leg. Comet jumped sideways as the leg flew towards him and managed to avoid being hit. “Hey! Watch it!” demanded Gail, who was riding the other horse.
“Sorry,” replied Karen as she tried to slow her horse. Fortunately they were still in the field so there was plenty of room for all of the riders. If they had been in the tight confines of a wooded trail, Comet probably would have been hurt.
Comet continued to pull at the reins as the riders headed towards the woods. Because he was so busy fighting with the bit, he failed to notice the dip in the ground. He stumbled and almost fell. This quick action forced his rider forward in the saddle and she too, almost came crashing down. Karen grew increasingly fearful as her horse became more and more anxious.
Finally the group reached the woods and Tim, who was leading the ride, slowed to a walk. Relieved that the pace had been slowed, Karen relaxed a bit. Pulling tightly on the reins to slow Comet, as that seemed the only thing to which he responded, Karen was finally able to get the horse to walk. But still he fought. The ill-behaved animal continuously threw his head up and down, still trying to pull the reins out of Karen’s hands. It was a constant battle and Karen was afraid she would not be the winner.
“Hey, guys!” hollered Tim as he turned in the saddle to face all the riders behind him, “What trail do you want to take?”
“Oh, let’s take the one that follows the power lines!” suggested one of the other boys.
“No, I don’t like that one!” replied Susan, a champion western rider who had won many competitions on her gray Arabian mare. “I like the one that goes through the woods to the lake.”
“That one is boring. I don’t like it,” said Ben, another boy on the ride.
“No, sir, that is the best trail,” argued Susan. “You’re the one that’s boring.”
Ben, a plump, dirty-blond boy who tended to slouch in the saddle, turned towards Susan and stuck his tongue out. Karen, watching the two, couldn’t tell if they were serious or joking.
“Let’s take the dirt road that goes up the mountain to the tower,” said Gail.
“That one is too rocky,” complained Susan. “I don’t like it.”
“You guys will never agree, so I’ll have to pick,” announced Tim. “I want to take the power line trail.” Pausing a moment to see if there would be any objections, Tim ordered, “Let’s go!” With that, Tim turned his horse, a large chestnut Quarter Horse, to the left and soon disappeared into the woods. All the other riders had to hustle to keep up with the young man and his muscular horse.
Comet, who had never really stopped fighting, bolted towards the woods and once again, almost threw Karen. She managed to stay on by grabbing the horse’s mane with both hands as her legs flew forward and her body was thrust backwards. Unwilling to let others know of her fear, she kept quiet and followed as best she could.
Leading the group, Tim rode his horse at a brisk pace. The trail was a bit narrow and rocky in places, but the agile Quarter Horse, who was in excellent shape, was able to maneuver through the many obstacles with great ease. Hanging branches, uneven ground, and sharp rocks jutting out of the hard dirt were no problem for Tim’s well-trained horse. The young man did not like to walk and rarely allowed his horse the luxury of a slow, meandering gait. Instead, their rides were almost always ridden at a quick trot or canter. In fact, even on such a narrow, winding trail, Tim urged his horse into a canter on several occasions.
Several other animals shared the same rugged abilities as Tim’s horse and easily followed their leader. Comet, however, who was primarily used in the indoor ring as a lesson horse and only occasionally was asked to go out on the trail, was in no shape to keep up such a rigorous pace. Karen, too, was more familiar with relaxing strolls with her beloved Robin and was hard-pressed to move along so fast. She didn’t enjoy the pace but again, was afraid of telling anybody. She so wanted to fit in and have them like her, and she knew they never would if she showed any sort of fear.
Comet was soon huffing and puffing and before long, started to sweat. The reins rubbing against his hot neck became sticky with perspiration. The wet, moisture-soaked leather made the reins slippery, and Karen was finding it difficult to keep her hands in one place. As the frustrated horse continued to throw his head up and away from the bit pressure, he began to lather. The thick, white foam made it even harder for Karen to keep her grip on the reins.
Finally, as Karen had given up all hope of ever getting to walk, Tim motioned to the group to slow down. Even his horse, the well-conditioned, competitive animal who was used to long runs, was getting tired. As everybody slowed to a more relaxing pace, conversation broke out. While they crossed a paved road and picked up the trail on the other side, several people talked about the ride, how far they should continue, what to do when they got back to the barn, and about a forthcoming party that everybody was planning on attending. Everybody but Karen, who had yet to be invited.
“How’s it going?” asked Susan.
“Okay, I guess,” replied Karen, not wanting to give away her fear.
“Is Comet behaving? He seemed sorta obnoxious back there while we were going up the hill.”
“He’s been a bit of a pain,” admitted Karen. “But I can handle him.”
The two continued to talk for several minutes until Tim began to trot his horse.
“Here we go again!” gleefully announced Susan. “Yee-haw!” she cheered as she spurred her horse onwards.
Karen didn’t have to do anything to Comet. He started trotting before Karen was even able to pick up her reins and ask for the gait. At least this time she was ready for the quick action and so managed to stay in the saddle without too much work. Trotting once again, the pair followed everybody else along the path.
As the trail grew more and more narrow, Karen was astonished to see the other horses in front of her break into a canter. It was all she could do to dodge the overhanging branches. How could she canter along this trail? But Comet didn’t care about Karen’s wishes. He didn’t even wait for her command; he simply started cantering.
The constant fighting was starting to wear down Karen, and Comet was growing more and more aggravated. They were further behind the other horses than they had been since the ride started and Comet didn’t like that. He became even more obnoxious. He threw his head up, stumbled on the rocky trail, and swished his tail as he cantered along. Concentrating on the noisy clang of the horse’s metal shoes on the rocks, Karen was barely aware of the nearby sound of a dirt bike. She didn’t notice the roar of its engine growing closer and closer and didn’t know there was a vehicle approaching until she and Comet came around a bend in the trail and the dirt bike was directly in front of them.
Comet had had enough! He reared up and spun around on his heels. Landing hard, he took off at a full gallop towards home. Karen, terrified and confused, pulled hard on the reins, but the sweat soaked leather was almost impossible to hold.
“Whoa! Comet! Whoa!” pleaded the frightened girl. But it was no use. Comet ignored his rider as he charged along the trail. His teeth clamped down on the bit so hard that the young girl couldn’t pull it back any further. Head out and tail extended, the horse flew towards home.
As the branches struck Karen’s face, she continued to pull back on the reins. Her actions, however, had no effect. The horse was acting on instinct now; he was going home and there was no way to stop him. The frightened girl began to cry as she used all her strength to try and slow the horse. “Stop, Comet! Stop!” she shouted. But the high-pitched pleas only confused the horse.
Suddenly the trail opened up and Karen saw the road that they had crossed just minutes before. As the horse ran into the road, his metal shoes slid and he tumbled to the ground. At that instant Karen saw the car approach and she screamed as it blared its horn…
Site: Robin: The Lovable Morgan Horse
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|Reviewed by Ellen Feld
|"This mid-grade young ladies' horse novel uses a mixture of horse and human personality types to tell the story of Karen, a girl who is badly injured by an uncontrollable horse that runs away and throws her off in the path of a car. The rest of the story chronicles how through the help of parents, true friends, and a lovable horse she eventually regains her confidence and love of riding. The author uses just the right amount of horse terms and horse events without becoming too technical. As the characters go about their interactions with their horses, the reader's own equine education is reinforced by the characters' actions and their horses' responses. She uses plenty of conflict on many levels and a string of obstacles and the characters' solutions to craft a very interesting story with a quick pace. We rated this book five hearts." - Bob Spear, Heartland Reviews|