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Paul Francis Mc Cann

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Story of a girl who has a special gift with horses

By Paul McCann

Suzie was one of the quietest girls in school . She didn’t have a lot of friends but the ones she did have were genuine . Her hair was short and her skin was fair and Suzie was small for her age . Her figure was slim and her smile could win you over in a second . Most people saw her as friendly and intelligent . There was something else about Suzie that was intriguing .
She had that mystery charisma around her , something she kept secretly hidden away from others . She wasn’t what you’d call a genius or one of the brightest sparks in class but she did love agriculture . Apart from that she never liked and other subject at school .

Every day in the classroom the minutes passes like hours and recess times seemed years apart with no hope of an escape .

The demands of understanding algebra had not been one of her priorities and composing three minute monologues were usually something she would make up on the spot for the casual English teachers who drifted in and out every week like a landlords chasing his rent money .

The only thing Suzie cared about was horses . They had been the love of her life every since she could walk . Her Dad put her in the saddle when she was only knee high and before they lost the farm to the drought Suzie rode the horses around the large property until the daylight would disappear .

Every now and then when she sat in class she wanted to run away from school and catch the bus to the only place where she really felt at home ,
at the back of Fancy Shoe Racetrack for that’s where she worked every day after school . Suzie cleaned out the stables , hosed down horses , brushed their coats , plaited their tails and when no one was around she would jump up and ride bareback her favourite horse , Jack , otherwise known as Tick Tack , one of the countries best two year old sprinters .

Sometimes in life things are meant to happen , call it fate , destiny or just by chance , either way Suzie was meant to become a star on the track .

Finally the school bell rang and it was time to vacate the school for another day . Suzie put away her Mondayitus feeling into her school haversack and caught the bus outside school that would drop her off near Fancy Shoe racetrack .

She quickly made her way through the empty car park and the over to the entrance where she hurdled over the turnstiles and made her way down to the horse stables where a small number of thoroughbred horses were waiting .
Suzie went into the tack room where got out of her school uniform and into her work clothes and boots . Once she emerging from there it was as if she was transformed into someone else .

Confidently walking among the horses , she inspected them as they did with her .

Golden Light , the silver grey mare looked at Suzie and winked , then she said

“Well , hello Suzie . Look everyone , she’s back again .”

“Hello Golden Light , I see you’re coat needs a brush. “

The ever hungry Bay boy , reared up and said ,

“Look at me Suzie . Over here . I need a brush too and some food , if you have any to spare . “

“Always thinking of your belly Bay Boy and if you’re extra good today I have a special treat for you .“

Suzie was born with the gift of telepathy . She had a sixth sense much like horses and from a very young age Suzie could speak to animals and they in turn spoke to her .

There was a time when she thought everybody could until she was instructed in a dream to keep her gift a secret from others as people would not accept or understand what she could do .

Arklow was a bit of a show off and liked to sing and dance . He started to turn this way and that with his tail swishing and his ears flicking back and forth . Then he pranced and danced confidently as if he were on the stage singing an old melody from the war years ..

“ It’s a long way to Tipperary ..”

“That’s enough Arklow , don’t you know another tune . “
Said Bay Boy

Suzie’s best friend was Jack . When he saw Suzie he would always assert his authority with the other horses around .

“ Settle down I’m the boss round here.”
Said Jack who casually trotted over and stood beside Suzie .

“Hi Jack , I’ve got an hour today , so not a lot of time . No time to waste , so lets get started . “

She took a brush and started to brush Golden Lights coat . After a few minutes , she took a nag of black liquorice from here pocket and brought a few pieces to Bay Boy , who screamed for joy .

“Yippee my favourite taste . I’ll have some more of that Suzie .
Jack got a little edgy and said ,

“ Ok that’s enough Bay Boy . Listen everyone keep cool . Here comes Luke.”

A young man in his early twenties walked in to the stable . He looked at Suzie intently and said ,

“How many stalls have you done ?”
Suzie never answered .
Jack neighed and said ,

“Oh listen to him . He thinks he’s the boss around here . If I get the chance I’ll bite his butt so hard he won’t sit in a saddle for a month . “

Suzie nearly started to laugh .

“I’m on the last one Luke . “

He stood there and looked around at all the horses . The he said ,

“How’s the bay been since you arrived “

Bay boy reared up .

“Is he talking to me ?”

Suzie looked over.

“I think he is Bay Boy . Maybe he’s taken a liking to you .”

The Suzie walked over into Bay boy stall and put on a lead rope . She walked Bay Boy around for a bit and then answered Luke .

“He’s hungry as ever . Always looking for a treat . Other than that I can’t see a problem with him , why ?”

“Oh the boss wants to give him a run on Saturday week . He’s got five of the stable stock here at Fancy Shoe listed for one meeting .”

“What about me . Ask him Suzie if I’m having a run ? “Jack said .

“Will Tick Tack be racing Luke ?”

“He will be , A twelve hundred meter sprint .“

Said Luke .

“Piece of carrot cake “
Said Jack .
Suddenly all of the horses in the stable began to scream out .

“Am I racing . What about me Suzie . Am I going to the track too . Am me Suzie will you ask him for me .“

Suzie clapped her hands aloud and said ..
“Will you all hush up .‘

What’s wrong Suzie ?”
Asked Luke .

“Oh just a mosquito its been around me sine I came . Oh can you tell me what other horses are going to be racing Luke ?”

“I’, not hundred percent sure yet , but tomorrow morning , I’ll write all the horses that are running on the whiteboard inside the feed shed , that way you’ll know which horses are to be looking there best . “

He said .

“Ok , I’ll check that out tomorrow afternoon .“
Came the reply . Luke tossed a set of keys to Suzie and said .

“Listen Suzie , I’ve got to leave early today . Can you lock up for me tonight ?”

“No problems . “

“Yeah all right . Party time everyone . When Luke’s away the horses are gonna shake , rattle and roll “

All the horses began to throw in their two bobs worth .

“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam. “

“ Gimme me a good looking filly for I’m going silly in the stable alone .”

Suzie listened to each of the horses and smiled . Luke thought that she was smiling at him and he looked back at her with this sheepish kind of smile on his face . Then he took out a comb from his pocket and started to comb his thick black hair and he said ,

“Suzie , do you think my hair looks better brushed back or to the side ?”

Golden Light almost choked with laughter in her stall and said ,
“Oh Luke , you handsome strapper you . Come lets gallop off together into the setting sun , just you and me .”

Jack began to get a little uneasy and said .

“ Well listen to me partner . If you’re thinking of moving in on my girl , you better think again . For I’ll make a cabbage out of your ear in you do . Get it . Got it good . So move on redneck or I’ll kick some curls into that straight black mop of hair you’ve got on your tiny little head .“

Suzie started to laugh aloud .

“Luke , sometimes you make me laugh . Comb your hair what ever way you want . I don’t know . I’m just a school girl how would I know about that sort of thing . The only thing I love is horses . “

Luke was now a bit embarrassed and said .

“Oh , ok then , ah could you polish up three of the saddles before you go ?“

“Ok then , I’ll do that .“

Luke walked off and seemed to be in a hurry . The place went into an uproar as he thundered off in the four wheel drive .

With Luke out of the equation Suzie had a chance for a ride on Jack .
She looked at him and said ,

“Fancy a lap bareback around the track Jack .“

“I’d love to . Lets go “
Came the reply .

Suzie took a bridle and rein from the tack room and quickly put them on . Then she climbed up on the side of the stall nearby as Jack walked over so that Suzie could get on his back .

“Hold on Suzie , here we go .”
All the other horses screamed and shouted .

“ Yahoo “

Jack took off at speed with Suzie on board who often rode bareback .

If ever fate was to play a part in proceedings it was now about to happen for Suzie . Every now and then on the very rare occasion the horse owner would show up unexpected to view his horses .

As Jack hit the track running , the wealthy horse owner arrived in his chauffeur driven Rolls Royce . As soon as the car was parked , he spotted Tick Tack on a gallop around the track .
That’s odd he thought . Its too late for track work and who is that riding my horse . . He took a pair of binoculars from the car and went up into the members stand and fixed his eyes upon Suzie . He was impressed at her riding ability . Making his way over to the stables he waited for them to return .
As they did he stood in front of them with a stern look on his face and said .

“What on earth do you think you’re doing young lady ?

Suzie replied .
“Riding bareback on my friend Jack . Why , what’s it to you ?

“I’m Anthony O’Brien , the owner of all these horses you see in the stable. “
He said .
All the horses started to mutter and splutter almost at the same time ,
“Ok everyone look sharp . It’s the boss. ”
Said Arklow

“Any chance of a few extra slices if bread in the morning Anthony ?”
said Bay Boy .

“What about a new warm coat for the winter Mr O ?”
said Golden Light .

“The stables are a little lonely at times and I’m fed up with horse at times . Is there any chance of a black Maori goat or a small White Pony for company Mr O’Brien . Even a fox terrier would be nice for a change “

Said Jack

“Sorry Mr O’Brien . I’ve never met you before , I’m Suzie . I work here after school cleaning out the stables and doing odd jobs .“

“Well you won’t be working here anymore after today .“
“Oh I’m really sorry . Please don’t be mad at me . I really love my job here . Don’t sack me .“

Said Suzie and she jumped off Jack and stood looking into his eyes .

The owner smiled and said .
“As from today , I’d like you to become my apprentice jockey . The pay will be much more than you get for mucking out around here .“

Suzie screamed .
“Are you serious ?”

‘I’ve never been as serious in my life . I watched you ride bareback on Tick Tack and you’re a natural . I don’t know where you learned to ride but believe me Suzie , I think you’ve got a great career ahead of you . So what do you say ?’

:Of course Mr O’Brien ,I’d love to but I’ll have a talk with Mum and Dad tonight Can I get back to you .“

He reached into his wallet and produced a business card .
“Here ring me in any of these numbers or send me a text message . There[‘s also my web mail and P.O. Box , so I’ll be waiting to hear from you Suzie .”

He looked at Tick Tack and smiled .

”Looks like we have a promising future .“
Jack sais .

Suzie replied ,
”I can ‘t believe it Jack .“

After washing out the stalls and sweeping up she pulled the door to the stable closed and proceded to lock up all the gates and shed doors .
There was just enough time to catch the bus out the front , Suzie quickly said good night before she ran at speed to the exit .
Her timing was perfect the bus was just pulling in to the stop .She was home in twenty minutes and couldn’t wait to tell her Mum and Dad what had happened . After dinner Suzie broke the news to her parents who were excited and very supportive about the whole thing .

The next day she rang Mr O’Brien to tell him she would accept his offer .

Next day at school time stood still . Suzie couldn’t relax . She tried to concentrate on her studies but it was useless .

Finally the day ended and she rushed for the bus . When she got off at Fancy Shoe racetrack . Mr O’Brien was waiting there for her .

“Hello Suzie . I have your outfit for you . They’re racing silks with my colours and I hope they fit . You’ll need to try them on . If they need adjusted I’ll take care of that .“

“Oh thank you . Will I try them on before cleaning the stables ?“

“You’re not cleaning today . You’re riding .
I’ve got saddles on four of my horses and I’d like to watch you put them through their paces . I want to see what you can do .“

Suzie was eagre to get started . Mr O’Brien brought her to the jockeys change room , a place Suzie had never saw before . When Suzie tried on the outfit , iy was tailor made for her . She stepped out proudly and Mr O’Brien smiled proudly and said .

“You look absolutely beautiful . Now lets go and get you into the saddle .
Lined up in the saddling enclosure were Arklow , Bay Boy , Golden Light and Jack .

“ Take your pick Suzie and do a lap of the track on each . I need to do some track times “

“Pick me first .“
Said Bay Boy .

“Don’t listen to him Suzie , I’m first .“
Said Arklow .

Jack as always asserted his authority and said .

“Not another word from any of you . Come on Suzie lets put this track on fire and give O’Brien something to think about .”

“Ok . Sounds good to me Jack .“

Suzie mounted up and took Jack into the stall at the twelve hundred meters start . She waited for the stall to be released and suddenly it opened .
It was like Jack had been gassed up with nitro . He cut a path on the turf at about the half way mark Suzie said .

“Ok Jack , you’re going great , when you’re feeling comfortable change gear and use that lengthy leap we have been working on “

Jack was really flying and at the turn Suzie said .

“Ok Jack push it now all the way to the post . “

Mr O’Brien stood there in awe .

“That gallop was out of this world Suzie . You’ve just set a new track record “

She brought Jack back to the enclosure and tie him to a post .
Looking around at the other three she said .

“Ok . This is your chance to shine Bay Boy . Lets go “

One by one Suzie took each horse around the track . At the end of the session Mr O’Brien was extremely satisfied .

“Ok Suzie .I need you’re signature and your parents to complete all the forms I’m about to give you . If you can bring them back before the weekend , you’ll be riding here on Saturday . Suzie , you’re going to be make a few people sit back and take notice . Are you ready for the big time ?”

‘I’m ready Mr O’Brien. “
She said .

Saturday came and Fancy Shoe racetrack was starting to fill with people . There were jockeys and horse owners , Trainers and strappers , bar staff , chefs and cleaners , security guards and television crews , punters and bookmakers and other people like Suzie’s Mum and Dad who were there as invited guests of the Turf Club .

The first race was about to start . Suzie was riding the favourite who was without doubt one of the best sprinters seen in years . Tick Tack waited along with all the other horses and their riders for the stalls to open . For the very first time in his career Tick Tack miss timed the jump and came out last well behind the other runners .

“Oh no I’ve messed up Suzie , What ever will we do .”
Jack said .

“Well Jack , its time to fight back . I want you to think of the worst moment in your life . Was there ever something that happened to you that hurt you or was there anyone who made you feel bad .“

“Oh yeah , A cruel farrier once took to me with a hammer and I felt so frightened but Mr O’Brien saw him and sacked him on the spot .“

“Ok Jack its fight back time on the track . I want you to imagine the jockey on the leading horse is that farrier ok and if he wins the race you’re going to belong to him for the rest of your life.”

Suddenly Jack went into another gear . He went past each horse in the field one by one . At the turn he went into that huge leap action that really made a difference to the pattern of the race . He was head to head with the front runner but Jack still had a lot in reserve as he went neck to neck towards the winning post . About a length from the finish Jack screamed ,

“Hello Tick Tack’s name and fighting backs the game . Nobody is ever going to hammer me . “
The crowd went wild . Applause and cheering erupted all around the track .
Suzie had really made an impact at her debut on the track .
Every one had just witnessed one of the greatest efforts made by any horse and jockey on the track .
After the race the winning trophy was presented to the owner and the jockey
Was asked to make a speech . The media were focused on Suzie who thanked Mr O’Brien and all the people who had made this moment possible in her life . Immediately a star was born . The entire racing industry had just fallen in love with this very special person who it was rumoured to have been said one of the greatest jockeys ever to have lived .

As all the jockeys were being mounted up for the second race Mr O’Brien had a quick word to Suzie .

“Ok you’ve stole the show . Anything you do after this is really just for trimmings . I don’t expect Bay Boy to do anything against this lot . He’s never finished better than fifth in his career . So just give him a run and I’m happy “

Suzie went over to Bay Boy before she mounted and said .
“Hey Bay Boy what’s your problem with O’Brien ?”

“I don’t have any problem.“
Replied Bay Boy .

“Well he feeds you , gives you new shoes , keeps you warm and dry and you never want to win for him . That’s no way show your gratitude .”

“Oh don’t talk to me like that Suzie . He’s always happy for me to come fifth or sixth. That what I’m hearing .“
Bay Boy said . Suzie thought for a moment and said .

“Oh I get it Bay Boy .You’re just doing what you think he wants you to do, so you’re keeping him happy . ”

“Yeah , that’s right Suzie .“
She replied

“Well , if you want my advice , show him for once what kind of horse you really are and leave this field behind in your wake .”

“Would that make him happy ?”
You could almost feel the electricity in the air .

“He would be so proud of you Bay Boy .”

“Really , so he would like me to win ?”

Suzie patted Bay Boy softly on his head and said .
“Yes he would but he doesn’t think you have what it takes .”

Bay Boy was fired up now .
“Ok Suzie , I am going to change his mind about how feels . Lets go.“

Bay Boy anticipated when the stalls would open and went straight to the front of the filed . There was an immediate challenge for him . One of the favoured runners came along side and had a took a good eyeball across to Bay Boy .

“Hey Bay Boy. You’re never usually up front . What’s happening ?”

“Its all about my pride and dignity . My owner thinks I’m a no hoper and I’m going to prove to him I’m not .“

The other horse , took a deep breath and went past Bay Boy saying
“I think you’re a bit out of you league here in this company . See you around the tracks .”

“Ok Bay Boy . Settle in your running and let him go . He’s already spent his energy , he’ll fall back soon and you can pass him at the turn .”

Sure enough as they rounded the turn the leading horse began to shorten stride . Now’s the time to show them who you really are Bay Boy . Go my fine four legged friend . “

Bay boy went past the leader as if he was standing still . On the way past Bay Boy looked over and said .

“Horses like you can eat my dust . I’ll be seeing you around .“

Bay Boy kicked and went further ahead . With the winning post in sight . the only battle left was on who would come in second and third . Bay Boy had hammered the field winning easily .

Mr O’Brien was speechless . He raced over to the winning enclosure and immediately said .

“Suzie I don’t know what you did on his back but that horse is not the Bay Boy I have come to know . I’ve just seen a champion emerge from the pack . Suzie I must say you have just gave me the biggest thrill of my life . I was so proud of Bay Boy out there today . Thank you. I don’t have another runner in the next race so go and take a break . I’ll see you in an hours time for Golden Lights race . ”

Suzie jumped off Bay Boy and looked up into the crowd .She saw her Mum and Dad waving from the members stand . She could tell how happy they looked . She took off her riding hat and threw it up in the air . Then she blew a kiss to them both .

As they draped the winning rug and sash around Bay Boy . Suzie held on to the bridle and said .

‘See I told you . He is so proud of you .”

“Wow Suzie . That felt so good .”

Suzie spent her break talking with Golden Light in the stall .
With momentum on their side . It was basically all over before the race started .The stable were on fire . Golden Light was sent out a red hot favourite and when it was time for the race to start most punters just watched on .

Suzie could sense Golden Light was not going to loose the race and as they went into the starting gate she said .

“Ok I’m just along for the ride ok .“

The stalls opened and away they went .
Golden Light took a sit three back on the outside of the field . At the turn she went to the front and accelerated well ahead . There was no contest .

“Suzie spoke to Golden Light in the enclosure .
“Always run true like you did today . Be free as the wind . “

Before the next race when Arklow was to run Mr O’Brien had a quick word with Suzie .

“I need you to do me a special favour in this race Suzie . I want you to bring Arklow in third place ok .“

“Third ok Mr O’Brien . No problem .“

Before Suzie mounted on Arklow she took the bridle and shared a special moment with the horse .

“There’s no doubt that you’re the best horse in the field . But I have been asked a special favour to ask . We need to come in third .”

Arklow rubbed his head softly on Suzies face and said .

“Oh sure . I’ve done that before . The jockey usually ends up pulling back on the reins . When they do that I usually go faster which nearly pulls their arms out of the sockets . I mean who do they think they are .I’m bread to win . Nobody pulls me up .So I appreciate you talking to me about the race before the jump .No problem I’ll come third .”

Suzie replied ,

“Yeah but third with dignity .So what we’ll do is miss the jump . Like we’ll travel maybe five lengths behind the last horse . That way you’ll have a lot of ground to make up . You’ll really have to be on the pace after the that ”

“Ok fine . We’ll give them a sight they’ll not forget in a hurry .”

They were all in behind the starting gates and as they opened Arklow came out last and reared up in the air . To the looker on he seemed well out of commission in the race .
Suzie sat quietly in the saddle and said .

“Ok , that looked great . Now what I need you to do is closes your eyes and think there is only one horse ahead of you in the race . Trust me and follow my guide . “

“I like challenges ok . I’m running blindfolded . Great .“

Are you’re eyes closed ?”

“They are “

“Good . Arklow the horse in front is a half mile ahead of you . There’s no other way to go but down the extreme outside as its all down hill on that side .“

Arklow did as he was instructed because he had complete trust in Suzie and her ability . But the real truth of Arklows run was such a miraculous ride never before seen on the track . Suzie pushed Arklow through the field , Weaving in and out between runners , through an eye of a needle hole gap , scraping paint off the fence as it went , making spaces in the field where none existed ,
Placing him in striking distance at the turn to win the race .

Never before did a rider take as many chances as Suzie had done .
“How far ahead is the leader now Suzie .

“You’re still a fair way off the pace: .”
Came the reply

“So how far is there to go ?”

“I can’t say . Maybe a quarter mile .“
In fact the race was over and Arklow was in a photo finish for third place .

Suzie let Arklow do a lap of honour as she waited for the result of the photo .
The judge finally made the decision and it went in Arklows favour .

“How far now is the leader ahead now ?“

“Arklow you’ve caught up and the race is over .“

“So where did I end up ?”

“Where we wanted , in third place .“
Said Suzie ,

Everyone was astonished at Arklows run . It was a truly amazing effort .
Mr O’Brien was in the enclosure waiting for their return .

“If I hadn’t have seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed that run . It was unbelievable . Humility Suzie is part of who we must be .We’re not meant to be perfect . So imperfection is in everything we do . I think three wins out of four runs isn't a bad effort at the end of the day .”

The End

By Paul McCann

       Web Site: ABC Tales

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