The Second book in the award-winning Morgan Horse series
American Morgan Horse Assoc.
Winner of the national book award, "Children's Choices for 2004" co-sponsored by The International Reading Association and The Children's Book Council. A total of 10,000 children from around the country voted on their favorite books and those receiving the most "great" votes are selected for this prestigious award. We are quite honored and excited to have this award given to one of our titles. To learn more about this award, visit the Children's Book Council site. Frosty, the second book in the Morgan Horse series, continues the adventures of Heather Richardson and her horse Blackjack. In addition, the story introduces a new character, a rare gray Morgan named Frosty. Through Frosty, Heather realizes that not all horses are meant to be show ring stars. Although disappointed at first, she soon discovers that Frosty's real talent lies in the area of trail riding, and it isn't long before Heather loves this sport. She and Frosty become trail buddies and must learn to trust each other if they are to survive the woods of Vermont...
Chapter One - A New Friend
The rain was letting up, but it was still a dismal day. There were thick, gray clouds filling the sky, refusing to let the sun break through. The ground had been turned into a big, sloppy ocean of mud from the early spring rain, and it was impossible to take a step without getting covered in brown muck.
Heather couldn’t figure out why she had come to this auction. It always made her sad to watch all the nervous, unloved horses go up before the crowds as the auctioneer rattled off quick, insignificant facts about each one in an attempt to get somebody, anybody, to bid on them. Very rarely would she find a horse that looked healthy and trustworthy. Instead, what she usually saw were thin, scared animals, quivering with fear. They’d follow a handler up to the front and nervously pace back and forth until they were led away to their uncertain futures. Why did she come here? She already had a wonderful horse, her stunning black Morgan stallion whom she adored.
Blackjack was sixteen-year-old Heather’s pride and joy. A purebred Morgan Horse, the stallion was registered as ‘Gallant Image’ but had been given the barn name of ‘Blackjack’ by Heather. They had been through some difficult times together, but their trust and love for each other had always pulled them through. Together they had learned how to compete at horseshows and won many blue ribbons. But it was the quiet trail rides along meandering woodland paths that Heather enjoyed most. It was here that she could have her heart-to-heart talks with her beloved horse and sort out all the problems of the day. So why was she here looking at all the horses crammed into small paddocks?
“Did you find anything?” came a voice from behind.
“Huh? Oh, no, not yet,” replied Heather as she turned around to face her friend, Laura. Laura was probably Heather’s best friend. They had met when Laura came home from college to help care for her dad after his heart attack. Laura’s dad, Chauncy, was the one who had taught Heather all about horses, how to care for and show them. He was also the original owner of Blackjack and had carefully guided the pair through some hard times. While Chauncy recuperated from his heart attack, Laura and Heather spent a lot of time together in the barn doing chores. They had quickly become friends as they discovered their mutual love of horses. Heather looked up to Laura and thought of her as the big sister that she had always wanted and took great pleasure in their similarities. Having gone to the same school, they loved to compare notes. They’d talk about which teachers they liked, those that they never wanted to see again as well as their favorite classes. Almost without exception, they would agree on every teacher and course. They both had bright blue eyes that seemed to sparkle all the time, even on the grayest of days. They also both preferred to dress in jeans and t-shirts, no matter what the occasion. However, in contrast to Heather’s long brown hair, which was always worn in braids, Laura sported shoulder length blond hair. Regardless of the difference, many people thought that they were sisters, which delighted Heather.
“Did you find any good horses?” asked Heather.
“Nah, there’s not much here. Do you want to leave?”
“No, not yet. Let’s look around a little longer.”
The two girls, both wearing rain slickers to keep out the weather, wandered around the grounds for another half an hour until a gentleman’s voice announced over the loudspeaker, “Please take your seats everybody. The auction will start in just five minutes.”
“Come on, that’s our cue,” said Laura. “Shall we stay and watch a little or go home?”
“Let’s stay, just for a little while. Why don’t you go to the arena and watch the start of the sale? I’m going to wander around for a few more minutes,” replied Heather.
“Okay, see you in five minutes,” said Laura as she turned and headed towards the arena where the sale was about to start.
Heather walked around the last two paddocks and was about to leave when she spotted a pretty little mare cowering in the corner of the last paddock. The horse couldn’t have been more than 14.2 hands, and her hair was matted with mud and burrs. Her mane and tail were a mess too, with so many burrs entangling them that it was doubtful they could be removed without taking a good chunk of hair with them. Still, she was such an eye catching color that Heather moved in for a closer look. Underneath all the mud, Heather could see that the horse was a dark, almost black animal. Upon closer inspection, she saw that the mare was mostly a grayish color with a splattering of white hairs everywhere. The color was darkest near the tail and gradually lightened up towards the head. Looking at the muzzle, there was no black or white hair but only a soft layer of gray. Her mane, tail and forelock were all black and quite long and full. Perhaps the most striking feature that caught Heather’s attention was that this horse had the biggest, softest eyes she had ever seen. On the rump of the little horse was a large white label with the number ‘18’ written on it. Heather picked a clump of grass and cautiously approached the mare. Talking softly, the girl slowly put her hand between the metal rails and offered the horse some grass. The shy mare, seeing the grass, let hunger overtake her fear. She slowly walked to the rail, stopping just out of reach. Instead of coming close to the girl, the horse stretched out her neck and moved her lips in an attempt to grab the grass.
“There you go, tastes good, doesn’t it?” asked Heather as the horse managed to get some of the luscious grass.
Seeing that another horse was being fed, a tall, lanky bay horse made it’s way towards the two new friends. Flattening his ears against his neck, the muscular gelding quickly forced the little mare away as he grabbed at the leftover grass.
“Hey, that’s not very nice!” scolded Heather as she pulled the treat away. “This isn’t for you.”
The bold, ill-tempered gelding was certain that he could get some food from this new visitor. After all, everyone else who visited this paddock seemed happy to give him a treat. So sure was he that there would soon be some tasty morsel offered to him, that he thrust his nose through the rails of the paddock, and moved his lips in an effort to grab the grass. Unable to reach the treat, the horse then reached over the rails of the fence, stretched out his neck and once again moved his lips in an exaggerated eating motion.
“No, I’m not going to give you any. Now go away,” demanded the girl. She turned her back to the horse and walked around to the other side of the enclosure.
“There you are,” softly said Heather, as she walked towards the mare, being careful not to frighten the skittish horse. The pretty mare had wandered over to the far side of the paddock, away from all the other horses. As Heather approached, she again picked a clump of grass and slowly raised it to the level of the horse’s face. The cute little mare slowly made her way to the fence, still cautious but having hunger overtake her fear once again. Unfortunately, the noise the grass made as it was pulled from the ground, although barely audible, was instantly picked up by the pushy gelding who was carefully watching this new visitor. He pricked his ears forward towards the sound and decided that he had another chance at a treat. Trotting over to Heather, he was pushing at the rails before the mare even had a chance to get the grass. Heather instantly pulled back, unwilling to give her treat to this intruder. Upset that the grass would not be his, the gelding showed his displeasure by flattening his ears back against his head and lashing out at the mare. First he nipped at her, then he swung his hind end around and kicked at her. The frightened mare quickly trotted away.
“What do you think of that one, Dad?”
Heather turned around to see a boy that was perhaps twelve, with dirty blond hair and a red and black-checkered flannel shirt and jeans. He was pointing at the gelding that had been giving Heather so many problems.
“That’s the one I saw earlier today,” replied the father, an older version of the boy.
“I’ve got a halter here, now which one did you want to look at?” came a third voice. An older gentleman, with black hair that looked like it hadn’t been brushed in a very long time, dressed in jeans and a dirty brown t-shirt, approached the two potential customers.
“That one,” anxiously answered the boy.
The auction employee climbed over the fence, approached the big gelding and haltered him. Eager for the attention, the horse willingly followed this person to the gate and out into the open where his new fans could look him over carefully. Heather watched the action from her end of the paddock but lost interest when she realized that this was her chance to gain the mare’s confidence. She picked yet another juicy clump of grass and walked over to where the horse was now standing.
“Come on, let’s try this one more time,” encouraged Heather.
The horse looked at the girl for a minute, trying to decide if the grass was worth the effort. Slowly, cautiously, the mare took the few steps necessary to reach the fence.
“There you go,” said Heather, as she fed the horse.
Within seconds, the grass was gone and the mare was looking for more. This time, Heather picked several large clumps of grass and offered them to the horse. Without the bossy gelding around to chase her away, the mare forgot her fear and eagerly ate the snack. Once again, the grass was eaten in an instant. Enjoying this treat, the young horse softly nuzzled Heather on her neck, begging for more.
“Oh, you’re such a sweet horse!” encouraged Heather. She turned around and found more grass to feed to the horse. Returning with a third large bunch of grass, Heather fed it to the mare with one hand while she reached out with her other hand to pet the horse. Finishing the grass, the mare stood quietly while Heather stroked her neck.
“You like that, don’t you?” asked Heather. “I bet you haven’t had much attention in a long time. I wonder why? Why would anyone want to sell you? You’re so sweet and pretty, and you don’t look like you’re very old. How did you end up here?”
As Heather talked, the mare continued to stand perfectly still. The horse gazed at the girl, her soft brown eyes looking so sad. It was this look that just melted Heather’s heart, and that’s when the girl realized that this horse had to come home with her.