Authors: Miralee Ferrell
Tags: #Horses, #Equestrian, #Riding, #English, #Trail-riding, #Jumping, #Hunt Seat, #Dreams, #Western
To Kate, my darling granddaughter.
I hope by the time you're old enough to read these books, you'll love horses and reading as much as I do.
Horses and Friends Series
A Horse for Kate
Blue Ribbon Trail Ride
Upper Hood River Valley, Odell, Oregon
May, Present Day
Kate Ferris hauled back on the reins and brought her Thoroughbred mare to a stop. Her arms ached with the effort. Capri was a lot of horse to keep under control.
The mare tossed her head, and froth flew from her mouth.
Kate patted the mare's neck, her palms sweaty against the dark-red coat. “Easy, girl. Settle down. It's okay.”
It's really not okay.
Kate frowned, hoping her voice didn't show her frustration. Determination pushed her forward. No way could she quit and let Capri win this battle. Kate hadn't learned as much as she'd liked in the few lessons she'd taken while working at the English-riding barn a couple of miles from home, but she knew she shouldn't reward Capri by dismounting when the mare wasn't responding to her cues.
The chestnut horse threw her head again and pranced in place.
Kate gave an exasperated sigh. “All right, let's try it again. Slower this time.” She nudged her mount into a trot along the rail of the outdoor arena, trying to focus on rising and falling to the beat of the Thoroughbred's long stride. Getting the hang of posting hadn't been easy, but Kate finally had it mastered. At least she
she'd mastered it.
Capri pricked her ears, broke into a canter, and ducked her head, throwing Kate off balance. Kate scrambled to stay in her seat, clutching Capri's mane for a moment before gripping the mare's sides hard with her knees. She planted her feet more firmly in the stirrup irons and pulled her horse to a standstill. “I give up.” Her shoulders hunched in defeat.
She had been
excited when God brought Capri into her life. Her dream of owning a horse had finally come true! Kate believed it wouldn't be long before she could compete in shows around their areaâmaybe even qualify for the regional championships in the fall. She'd never expected to own a mare who'd had professional hunter-jumper training.
Problem was, Capri had stood in a pasture for over a year when her owner got sick, with no one to help her maintain what she'd learned. During the past several weeks, Kate's hopes had crashed as she came face-to-face with her own poor horsemanship. Capri was well trained and smartâmaybe too smart. She took advantage of the tiniest bit of hesitation on Kate's part, making it obvious the horse had a mind of her own. She was smart enough to figure out she had a novice in the saddle.
Running the palm of her hand along the mare's sweaty neck, Kate loosened her grip on the reins and urged Capri toward the gate. She leaned over and pushed it open, then rode toward the barn where her mother was working. “Mom! I need you.”
Nan Ferris hurried from the open doorway, dusting bits of hay off her jeans. “What is it? I'm trying to organize the tack room.”
“I can't do this anymore.” Kate lifted her chin, her frustration at Capri bubbling to the surface. She bit her lip to keep it from trembling.
“Do what?” Her mother's hazel eyes narrowed as she stared at the sweating mare. “Have you been running that horse?”
“No. I've been working her in the arena, but I don't know enough, Mom. I'll never get her ready for a show at this rate.”
Her mother sighed. “We've discussed this, Kate. You're taking lessons once a week in exchange for cleaning stalls. Your father and I can't afford more right now. Honey â¦ why can't you be thankful you have a horse to love and ride, and not worry about showing?”
Kate swallowed the irritation pressing to escape. Mom didn't understand how important it was to her to learn to ride better. Sure, she knew the basics, but she'd dreamed of competing ever since her aunt took her to a horse show a couple of years ago. It wasn't like Kate spent a lot of money on clothes. All she'd ever wanted was a horse, but now that she had one, she longed to learn more.
“I've barely started riding a full-size horse instead of Lulu. I love it, but I only have an hour lesson a week. It's not enough, and they aren't teaching me to jump.”
Kate heard the complaining in her voice and winced. She knew her dad was working hard to pay for their recent move and to make up for being without a job for so long. With her little brother Peter's autism, and his need for after-school care, her mother had her hands full.
When her mom didn't say anything, Kate swung off her horse and pulled the reins over her mare's head. “I'll walk Capri for a bit and cool her down, then I'll help with the barn.” She kicked a dirt clod. “Mom?”
Kate placed her palm against Capri's neck and grinned. She had the perfect plan â¦ if only Mom would agree. “We have a lot of empty stalls. Can't we advertise and take in boarders? I could clean stalls and feed the horses. And earn money for lessons.”
Her mother paused at the big rollaway doors. “Your dad and I considered tearing down this indoor arena or converting it into a storage building. Your grandfather used to board horses here when I was growing up, but his accident is one of the reasons I quit riding. Mother was terrified I'd get hurt too.”
“I know, Mom. I've heard that story a million times.” Kate bit the inside of her cheek and closed her eyes. Why couldn't Mom understand how important this was? It wasn't like they had miles of trails close by where she could ride, since her parents didn't want her riding alone away from the barn. It was boring walking or trotting Capri around in the arena without knowing how to use Capri's training.
She worked to calm her voice. “I'm sorry. It's just that I want this so bad. Would you at least talk to Dad about it? Please?” Her heart raced. “We could have our own business. Maybe even get a professional trainer to give lessons, and we could host shows.”
Her mother narrowed her eyes. “Not so fast, young lady. There's a lot to think about. We'd have to check with our insurance agent and see what coverage would cost. The arena needs work, and it means putting out money for hay, shavings, and additional feed. I'll admit it has potential, but it has to work financially. I'll talk to your father when he gets home, if he's not too tired.”
“It'll work. I know it will.” Kate tugged at her mare's reins. “Come on, Capri. I'm going to make this place shine â¦ after I clean your stall, that is.” She shot her mother a look. Mom did a lot around the place, as well as working part-time from their home and caring for Pete. Somehow Kate had to prove she could pull her own weight. “And feed the rabbits and take Rufus for a walk.”
A loud bark behind her made Kate jump. She swung around in time to see her ninety-pound German shepherd launch himself across the grass toward her. Capri danced at the end of her reins as the large dog drew closer. Kate held up her hand. “Rufus! Sit, boy!”
Rufus stopped a few inches from Kate's toes. His tongue hung out, and he turned adoring eyes up to meet hers. Then he plopped down and extended a paw.
Kate giggled and dug into her pocket, withdrawing a treat and dropping it into his eager mouth. “Good boy. Did you see that, Mom? I've been working with him, and he finally got it.”
Her mother's eyebrows disappeared under her bangs. “Amazing. He's never done that before.”
“He's smart.” Kate ruffled the fur on his head and scratched behind his ears. “Aren't you, buddy?”
Rufus woofed a reply. Kate could have sworn he was grinning.
“Come on, Rufus. Let's put Capri in her stall.” Kate hesitated. “So ... when will you call the insurance agent? Like right now, maybe?”
A tiny smile tugged at the corners of her mom's mouth. “We'll see what your dad has to say first.”
“Can I call Tori? She'll be
excited.” The reminder of her best friend sent Kate's spirits soaring. Tori loved hanging out at their barn.
“You can talk to Tori, but I'm not making any promises. Even if Dad agrees, there's a lot of work to do before this can happen.” She hugged Kate. “I know you're excited, honey, but please don't get your hopes up.” Her mother's smile faded.
“Why? What's wrong?”
Her mother sucked in a sharp breath and blew it out slowly. “I'm not sure how your brother will fit into this. It's not like Pete can do anything with horses.”
“Aw, Mom!” Kate clenched her fists. Why did Pete always have to come first? Couldn't anything be for
to work. Tori would be in heaven if Kate's family had a riding stable. Tori didn't have a horse, and her family couldn't afford to buy one.
We could ride horses together, and take lessons, and
â¦ Kate's thoughts whirled.
Then reality hit. She gritted her teeth.
“That's not fair, Mom! Pete can sit out here and watch while we work. He doesn't have to stay in the house. We shouldn't baby him just because he has autism.”
“I'm not trying to, Kate.” Mom smiled. “You pray about it, and so will I. Besides, we don't even know if anyone would want to board their horses here.”
Kate tried to force herself to relax. She wrapped Capri's reins around a fence rail, then turned to face her mother. “Sure they will. Tons of people around here own horses. Besides, I've heard about riding programs for special-needs kids. Maybe we could find an instructor who would work with Pete. That could bring in even more business, as well as being good for him.” Hope surged through her. “We're in some of the best horse country in the Columbia River Gorge, if not the entire Northwest. There are only two show barns in all of the Upper Hood River Valley and none in The Dalles or across the river in White Salmon.”
“Sounds like you've been thinking about this for a while.” Her mother tucked a curly wisp of hair behind Kate's ear. “I'll find out what the other barns charge and ask if they're full. Go take care of your horse. Pete's taking a nap, but I'd better check on him.”
Kate gazed after her mother as she walked along the path to their two-story house set back in the trees. She loved her six-year-old brother with all her heart, but she hoped he wouldn't be the cause of them not getting to run a boarding stable.
She slapped the riding crop against her leg. Somehow she'd find a way to make this work. Mom spent so much time caring for Pete that Kate often felt left out. Couldn't it be her turn to have something
wanted for a change?
The suggestion to pray about the new project flitted through Kate's mind, but she pushed it away. She loved God, but sometimes He didn't seem very practical. After all, He hadn't kept Pete from being disabled, and He hadn't answered her prayers for more money to help her parents pay the bills. Why should she think He'd care about her dream of owning a show barn and taking lessons?
An instant later, shame washed over her as she was reminded of the miracle of Capri's arrival. God had done that, no mistake. “All right,” she whispered heavenward. “Maybe You could help on this request too, if it's not too much to ask?”