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Chapter One From 'Rusty: The High-Flying Morgan Horse'
By Ellen F. Feld
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
The first chapter from "Rusty" introduces Frosty's new filly Shadow.
Chapter One - A Magical Event
Frosty was agitated. She swished her tail, pinned her ears and paced along the fence. Back and forth, back and forth she went, ears slanted backwards the whole time to show her displeasure.
The pretty gray Morgan Horse suddenly stopped, let out a loud squeal and waited for a response. Staring towards the nearby barn, Frosty again whinnied. Annoyed that nobody responded, the horse pawed at the ground with a front leg, digging a small hole into the soft spring dirt. She threw her head up and down several times. Looking towards the barn once again, she pleaded with her eyes. Waiting a moment longer, Frosty gave up and continued to pace.
As time passed, Frosty broke out in a sweat. She wasn’t hot and tired, but rather nervous and aggravated. The sweat brought out the first flies of spring. They attacked the horse’s head and neck and further agitated her. Throwing her head high into the air, Frosty whinnied.
“What’s the matter, girl?” came a voice from the barn.
Frosty stopped and looked as her owner, Heather Richardson, approached. Pawing impatiently, the mare tried to convey her unhappiness to the girl.
“Do you want to go in already? You’ve only been outside a little while,” said Heather as she walked to the ring. Grabbing the halter that lay on the ground outside the fence, Heather slipped through the rails and put it on the irritated animal. Frosty showed her gratitude by rubbing her itchy head on Heather’s shoulder. “Hey, don’t do that,” gently scolded the girl. “Where are your manners?”
Heather led the mare into the barn, with the horse’s large belly rolling from side to side as they went. Entering the building, they were greeted with soft nickers from two other horses, Blackjack and Rusty. Blackjack, Heather’s gorgeous black Morgan stallion, eagerly leaned up against his stall door, straining his neck out towards Frosty. On the other side of the aisle stood Rusty, a much more patient horse than his younger companion. The pretty bay gelding, also a Morgan, belonged to Chauncy Campbell, the owner of the property. Chauncy was Heather’s mentor; he had taught the girl everything she knew about horses and she admired him greatly. Always willing to share advice, but never too harsh with his criticisms, Heather considered him a second father.
As Frosty was led past Blackjack’s stall, the tall black horse tried to nip her, but the mare was just out of reach. Not wanting anything to do with another horse, Frosty let out a high-pitched squeal and Blackjack immediately backed away. Once inside her stall, Frosty walked over to her hay, sniffed it, took one small bite and then walked back towards the door. Heather was just latching it shut and was surprised to see her horse approach her. “Don’t you want your hay?”
Frosty, like her stablemates, loved to eat and only ignored food when something was wrong. She looked at Heather and then began to pace in her stall, around and around.
“What’s wrong Frosty? Your due date isn’t for another week, so why are you so restless?”
Heather began to get concerned. Perhaps her mare was going to have her foal early. It had been a long eleven months, waiting and anticipating the birth of the baby, but now, with the exciting event so close at hand, Heather was nervous. She opened the door, walked into the stall and began to stroke the mare’s neck. Her actions had a soothing effect on the horse. As Frosty relaxed, Heather checked for signs of impending birth but the usual things, soft hind end, a full, distended udder or even milk dripping for the udder, were not there. “Must just be having a bad day,” thought the girl.
The mare suddenly dropped her head and rubbed it on Heather’s leg, trying to drive away the itch that a particularly nasty bug had caused. Heather normally wouldn’t let any horse use her leg as a scratching post, but given the circumstances, decided to allow the misbehavior. Frosty pushed against Heather so hard that the girl almost fell over, but soon, the itch was gone and the mare stopped scratching. Regaining her balance, Heather continued to talk to her horse and pet the animal along its neck. Feeling the reassuring actions of her owner, Frosty calmed down and eventually turned her attention to the hay. With her horse content, Heather left the stall.
“Hey Heather, what’s up?”
Heather turned to see Laura, Chauncy’s daughter, come in the barn. Heather and Laura were best friends, having known each other for a few years and sharing many likes and dislikes. Although Laura was older and in college, the two girls were closer than many sisters. Laura still came home almost every weekend and also during the summer to be with her parents and the horses. While home, she spent a lot of time with Heather. Both girls loved the horses and rarely talked about anything else. They would spend hours going on long trail rides together, with Heather riding either Blackjack or Frosty while Laura rode Rusty. During show season, Laura would hook up her truck and trailer so she could take Blackjack and Heather to many of the local horse shows. They would spend as much time as possible at the shows, competing, watching other friends show and eating lots of greasy hamburgers and fries.
The two friends also looked alike. They tended to dress the same, always wearing jeans and t-shirts, regardless of the occasion. Blue eyes and bright smiles were shared by both as well as the lack of makeup. The only noticeable difference was that Heather had long brown hair that she kept pulled back in two braids while Laura wore her short blond hair loosely over her shoulders.
“What did you say?” asked Heather, too busy watching Frosty to notice anything else.
“I was just wondering what’s up?” repeated Laura.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m worried about Frosty. She’s acting weird.”
“She seems really annoyed, like something is bothering her.”
“Maybe the baby is moving around a lot. It can get pretty uncomfortable towards the end,” suggested Laura. “She’s not due for another week, right?”
“But new mothers are notoriously hard to predict,” interrupted a man’s voice.
Both girls turned to see Chauncy walk up. The elderly man, slightly bent over from age, was wearing his usual green cap that covered much of his gray hair. He had a kindly smile and was full of Yankee humor. Always happy, Heather had never heard him raise his voice in all the years she had known him.
“Then how will we know when to start sleeping in the barn?” asked Heather.
Going into Frosty’s stall and carefully examining the mare, Chauncy replied, “I would suggest that you start tonight.” The elderly man gave the horse a friendly pat on the neck and then turned to Heather. “It could be tonight; she looks like she’s getting ready to foal. But as I said, first time mothers tend to be hard to figure out, so you may be spending the next few weeks sleeping on the straw.”
“Well, I better call my mom and let her know,” said Heather. Chauncy and Laura couldn’t figure out if there was excitement or anxiety in Heather’s voice, but really, there was a little of both.
Heather spent the rest of the day at the barn, riding Blackjack and Rusty while also keeping a close eye on Frosty. The horse had settled down but still seemed upset. Knowing that mares liked to foal in private and that they seemed able to wait until all humans had disappeared, Heather was worried Frosty would foal in the middle of the night while everyone slept. What if something went wrong? Who would be there to help? Heather’s parents had agreed to let their daughter sleep in the barn, provided Laura was also there and either Chauncy or his wife kept close tabs on them. Heather had never spent the night in a barn before and was looking forward to curling up in the sweet smelling hay next to her favorite horses.
After the horses had been fed their dinner, Heather hurried home to take care of her own needs. Her mom, knowing that Heather would be spending the night in a cold, damp barn, had made an unusually large meal. Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, corn and black olives filled each plate to the brim. After eating, Heather went to her room and packed a few things - pajamas, her toothbrush, a comb and a book.
As dusk settled overhead, Mrs. Richardson dropped her daughter off at the Campbells’ house. She gave Heather a big hug and kiss and told her to call if she needed anything. Heather jumped out of the car, grabbed her stuff, promised to call as soon as Frosty had her foal and ran towards the house.
The house, a ranch style building, was painted barn red to match the horse barn, which was set back and slightly out of view from the road. As Heather was about to ring the doorbell, Laura opened the door and asked, “All set?”
“Yeah, I think so. How does she look?”
“No different from this afternoon. Maybe she isn’t going to foal tonight after all.”
Heather felt a slight tinge of disappointment at the thought. “Nah, she’ll foal tonight. She has to because I don’t think my mom will let me sleep over every night for the next two weeks!”
“Let’s just hope Frosty cooperates, then!” laughed Laura. “I’ll grab my things and meet you down at the barn in a couple of minutes.”
“Okay, see you in a few,” said Heather as she hurried off to see Frosty.
Once in the barn, the girl heard the comforting sounds of several horses eating their evening meal. The barn, a ten-stall building, only held three horses - Frosty, Blackjack and Rusty. It had once been full of animals but that was before Chauncy had fallen ill. Forced to sell all but one of his horses, the barn was slowly filling up once again, with the help of Heather. The foal was to be the first baby born at Gallant Morgans in two years and was eagerly anticipated by everyone, including Chauncy. The father of the foal, or more correctly the ‘sire’ as Chauncy had told Heather, was Blackjack. Blackjack’s real name, used only at horse shows, was ‘Gallant Image’ and he had been bred and raised by Chauncy. This was to be his first foal and Chauncy was quite excited to see if the baby would be as beautiful as his sire.
“Hey Blackjack! Hey Rusty!” greeted Heather as she rushed passed their stalls. Frosty’s stall was right next to Rusty’s, and it only took Heather a moment to reach her door. The mare with the overflowing belly was busy eating her hay and didn’t want to be disturbed. Normally she would immediately stop whatever she was doing to greet Heather, but this evening, the uncomfortable mare ignored the girl and continued to eat. Heather stood at the entrance to the stall, watching her horse.
Before leaving for dinner, Heather had filled the stall with two big bales of straw, which were now fluffed up and covering much of the horse’s legs. The veterinarian, Dr. Reilly, had told his young client to remove the shavings from Frosty’s stall prior to her foaling and replace them with straw. Heather was surprised at this as she thought a stall deeply bedded with shavings would provide the perfect foaling environment. That would be nice, agreed Dr. Reilly, however, he warned, the shavings can clog up the openings to the foal’s nostrils, causing problems. Heather purchased several bales of straw the next day.
Every few minutes, as Frosty continued to eat, she would stomp a hind foot or swish her tail. This was not unusual as Heather had seen her do this many times to shoo away an annoying insect. But there were no flies in the stall so what was bothering Frosty?
“She’s kinda restless, huh?”
Heather turned to see Laura standing behind her. “I didn’t hear you come into the barn.”
“I was trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t upset Frosty,” explained Laura.
“I don’t think it would make a difference,” sighed Heather, disappointed that her horse wasn’t being affectionate. “She’s not interested in me right now.”
“Don’t take it personally, Heather. She’s about to become a new mother and, heck, she’s just got other things on her mind right now. Anyway,” said Laura in a light-hearted voice, “we’re going to have fun tonight! I’ve got lots of snacks, a deck of cards and my cell phone in case we need to reach Dad quickly. That should take care of everything. Come on, let’s set up our sleeping bags in the next stall.”
Heather turned, grabbed her belongings, and followed Laura. The stall on the other side of Frosty’s was vacant and had long ago been cleared of shavings. When Heather had gone home for dinner, Laura went into a cleaning frenzy and removed anything remotely resembling dirt from the stall. She had taken a broom and removed all the spider webs and dust accumulating on the walls, every pebble on the ground, pieces of hay from every little crevice and laid a tarp over the floor. It was impossible to tell that a horse had once lived there.
The two girls spread their sleeping bags on the floor, ripped apart a bag of chips, popped open a couple cans of soda and began to talk. They gabbed about school, friends, different horses and most importantly, what the upcoming summer might entail. Every fifteen minutes or so, one of them would get up and check on Frosty. The mare, oblivious to the attention she was getting, ignored them. She had finished eating and was slowly drifting off to sleep.
Around midnight, Heather’s eyes grew heavy and she, too, felt the urge to sleep. Forcing herself to stay awake, she kept yawning as she continued to talk with Laura. But her sentences were growing shorter and shorter until all she said was “yeah,” regardless of what Laura asked. It wasn’t long before she dozed off.
“Heather,” whispered a voice. “Heather, Heather wake up!”
“Huh? What?” asked a weary girl, trying to remember where she was.
“Heather, would you wake up for crying out loud!” pleaded the hushed voice.
“What? What’s the matter? Laura?” mumbled Heather as she suddenly realized where she was.
“Geeze, you’re hard to wake up. Come on, take a look! You’ve got a new horse and she’s adorable!”
Instantly coming to life, Heather jumped up out of her sleeping bag. Frosty! Frosty must have had her foal! Dashing out of their sleeping quarters, Heather ran to the front of Frosty’s stall and peered in. What she saw amazed her. Standing quietly in a corner, head lowered, was Frosty. Next to her on the ground, partially hidden by all the straw, was the most incredible little black ball of fuzz Heather had ever seen. Frosty had had her foal, and the baby was perfect!
Site: Rusty: The High-Flying Morgan Horse
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|Reviewed by Ellen Feld
|"Middle readers looking for books to nestle with will enjoy the horse theme of these new releases. Willow Bend Publishing's "Morgan Horse" series by Ellen F. Feld stands out. Frosty: The Adventures of a Morgan Horse and Rusty: The High-Flying Morgan Horse are quick, entertaining reads. Feld's knowledge of the equine is apparent on each page; detailed descriptions of the movements and responses of the horses bring the reader right into the world of these splendid animals. The realistic voice of Heather creates a relatable main character for girls this age. Heather's adventures with Frosty and Rusty will keep horse lovers reading well beyond lights out." - ForeWord Magazine|
|Reviewed by Ken Chartrand
|Hello Ellen, I read your excerpt from"Rusty;The High-Flying Morgan Horse"....I enjoyed it very much as I have always loved horses though,I haven't rode one since I was a teen-ager on my Gramma's farm. I am a married ,middle-aged man now and miss being near horses. I wish these books were around when I was younger; I know my school day reading would be better. Great books. Please feel free to visit my site here in the"Den".|