Angel and the Flying Stallions (5 page)

BOOK: Angel and the Flying Stallions
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“You’re kidding?” Alfie was wide-eyed with disbelief.

“I wish I was,” Issie sighed. “You should have seen the
faces. They thought I was a loony!”

Alfie shook his head. “I wish I’d been there! Why did I skip training to go into town and get the horse feed?”

“Well,” Issie said, “You’ll get plenty of chances to see
me making a complete fool of myself in the arena. Francoise has scheduled me in for training every single day of the week.”

“It will get better,” Alfie told her kindly. “Angel is just sensitive, you’ll get the hang of it. And the
are really good guys. I have ridden with most of them for years now. They won’t hold it against you. You’ll see, you can learn so much from them. They’re professional horsemen.”

“I’m sure they are,” Issie said darkly. “And I bet none of them shriek like a girl when they do the courbette.”

Chapter 6

Issie tugged on the flouncy red flamenco skirt and pink polka-dot T-shirt and pulled a face at herself in the mirror. She never wore skirts usually and this one was laden with frills that fell all the way to the floor. She took a step and the Spanish ruffles rustled loudly as she moved.

“I look ridiculous!” she protested. “Can’t I just wear my jods?”

Francoise, who was dressed in an off-the-shoulder violet dress, also floor-length with balloon sleeves, shook her head. “You know what the Spanish are like with their traditions. It is customary for us to be in flamenco dress for the

“But how am I supposed to ride in this?” Issie groaned.

“Be thankful that you are riding!” Francoise replied. “I am being carried to the
in the traditional way.”

Issie wasn’t sure what she meant until they got down to the stables and saw Avery waiting for Francoise, already mounted up on his horse, Sorcerer.

“Want a lift?” he asked with a grin.

Francoise reluctantly hitched up the skirts of her violet dress so that she could climb the mounting block, while Avery positioned Sorcerer alongside and held him steady so that Francoise could swing herself up on to the horse’s broad rump.

“Are you comfy back there?” Avery asked.

“I would hardly say I am comfortable,” Francoise complained as she arranged her skirt so that it fell in elegant tiers over one side of Sorcerer’s rump, “but I am ready.” She looked around with a frown. “Where are the others?”

Alfie came out of the stalls as she said this, leading a bay Lusitano.

“His name is Pepe,” Alfie told Issie. “Do you remember him? We got him as a colt. He was one of the five horses that we claimed from Miguel Vega when you won the race for the Silver Bridle.”

Like Storm, Pepe had grown up into a stallion. He looked handsome with the traditional bobbles of gold, red and violet, the colours of El Caballo hacienda, that Alfie had braided into his mane.

All the horses were decorated with bobbles and braids today. Issie had been busy that morning working Storm’s mane into a long running plait down his neck. She had secured colourful red, white and pink cotton bobbles along the plait to match her flamenco outfit. The stallion’s bridle also had red and pink bobbles attached to it and his saddle blanket was gold, with the El Caballo insignia printed on it – the letter C with a blood-red heart inscribed in the middle.

“Come on, boy.” Issie felt the butterflies in her tummy as she led Storm out of his stall and over towards the mounting block.

Storm stood patiently as she grappled with her flamenco skirt, pushing it out of the way to stick her foot in the stirrup and swing herself up into the saddle.

The thrill of being on the stallion’s back was unbelievable. Finally, she was sitting astride this magnificent horse that she had raised from a baby foal.

Avery saw the look of wonder on Issie’s face and smiled. “Your first ride together. It’s a big moment.”

“Uh-huh,” Issie nodded. “I’ve waited so long to ride him, now it all seems so unreal—”

She stopped talking suddenly, as an even more unreal sight came round the corner of the stables.

A tubby chestnut pony with a dozy expression had plodded into view. On his back, dressed in a sunny yellow flamenco frock, with her hair worn up in a classic Spanish twist, was Mrs Brown. She was clinging to the reins, fists clenched and knuckles white. A look of total terror was plastered to her face.

Issie couldn’t believe it. Her mother, who usually shrieked if a horse even came near her, was actually riding!

“Ohhh! Ohhh nooo!” Mrs Brown was trying to steer the chestnut pony towards the rest of the group, but her reins were far too long. Instead of walking in the direction that she intended, the pony had spied a stack of hay bales over by the wall and was heading straight for them.

“Ohhh!” Mrs Brown squeaked. “Stop that, Ferdinand!”

It was too late. The pony stuck his head down and began to munch on the hay.

“Pull his head up, Mum,” Issie cried. “Don’t let him do that!”

“I’m trying, Isadora,” Mrs Brown said as she gave a futile tug on the pony’s reins. “He doesn’t seem to listen to me!” Mrs Brown was yanking with all her strength but Ferdinand was merrily ignoring her and tucking into the hay.

Roberto came alongside Mrs Brown on Marius and took charge of the situation. “Do not pull both reins at once,” he advised her gently, “Pull on just one rein. That’s right! Well done! Now keep your reins shorter, and give him a nudge with your legs.”

Mrs Brown let the reins immediately slip back through her fingers and Ferdinand promptly spun around and began to eat hay again.

Roberto Nunez leapt down out of the saddle and grabbed a lead rope from the tack room. “I think perhaps to begin with we should put you on the lead rein,” he told Mrs Brown as he clipped the shank of the rope on to her horse’s bridle. “I’ll lead you. We can ride side by side until Ferdinand learns to behave himself.”

Normally when Issie and the others rode to the village, they would trot or canter most of the way, but with her mother on a total plodder, the ride to the
was painfully slow. At one point Roberto suggested that they try to trot, but Mrs Brown completely failed to master the art of rising to the beat and began bouncing up and down, her hands jagging poor Ferdinand in the mouth. When Mrs Brown gave a shriek and almost slid off entirely, the trot was quickly abandoned.

“It is a lovely day for a walk anyway,” Roberto said kindly, holding Marius back so that the grey horse would fall into stride beside little, tubby Ferdinand.

Issie was dying to put Storm though his paces. She had never ridden the stallion before and was desperate to know what his trot and canter really felt like.

“I can’t believe it!” she muttered to Alfie. “I finally get on Storm for the very first time and I have to stick to a walk!”

“I don’t think I’ve ever ridden this slowly in my life!”

Alfie groaned in agreement. “At this rate it will take half an hour to reach the village!”

“Don’t worry, Storm.” Issie gave the stallion a reassuring pat, “it won’t always be this dull, I promise you.” In her mind, she had pictured her first ride on her horse as a wild gallop across the countryside, not this painfully slow procession to the village. It was an anti-climax to say the least!

Mrs Brown, on the other hand, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying her first ever horseback ride. When Issie turned Storm around at one point and went back to check on how her mum was doing, she found her looking rather smug.

“This riding business is actually quite easy,” Mrs Brown said. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about!”

“Mum,” Issie couldn’t help herself, “you’ve got a lead rope on. You’re only walking. It’s hardly the Grand National!”

Although Issie and Alfie were frustrated by the pace, eventually they gave up on grumbling and began to discuss Storm and Issie’s
haute école

“So, how have you enjoyed your first week training with the El Caballo?” Alfie asked.

“I don’t think ‘enjoy’ is the word exactly,” Issie groaned. Since her dramatic introduction to the Spanish school when she had accidentally done a bounding courbette across the arena in front of the
, Issie had been trying to keep a low profile at training sessions. The other riders were kind enough to treat her as if she wasn’t there, which was better than laughing at her as she attempted to keep up with them.

can be hard to get to know,” Alfie told her, “but they are good guys. You will see, once they accept you.”

“It’s not just the
,” Issie admitted. “I find the whole
haute école
thing so hard to understand. I mean, to me a trot is just a trot. But the way Francoise explains it there are all these variations – medium trot, extended trot, working trot, collected trot…I can’t tell the difference! It’s like she’s speaking another language.”

“You mean Spanish?” Alfie asked.

“No!” Issie was exasperated. “I mean when she bangs on about dressage. It’s just so complicated. I feel like I’m a little kid learning to ride all over again. I’m so unco-ordinated and goofy! I try to do what she says, but I just don’t think I’m ever going to grasp it.”

Haute école
dressage takes a lifetime to master,” Alfie said, trying to be kind.

“I don’t have a lifetime,” Issie said, “I have a month

– tops! I need to get back to Chevalier Point and start training Comet for the new season. I can’t stay here forever learning twenty different kinds of trot!”

Alfie nodded. “I feel the same way when I am away on tour. It’s like wherever I am in the world I feel a longing for El Caballo. Like you, I am only truly at home when I am with my horses.”

Issie realised at that moment how well they understood each other, her and Alfie, even though their lives were so different. She remembered how Stella had teased her about seeing Alfie again before she left for Spain. “Stuck for a month with a cute Spanish boy?” Stella had giggled. “Poor you!”

“He’s like a big brother to me,” Issie insisted. “We’re friends. That’s all.”

Issie had emailed Stella last night to check in with her best friend and ask her how Comet was coping with the rainy weather back home in Chevalier Point.

Forget Comet,
Stella had moaned in reply,
he’s fine! It’s me you should be worried about! I’m stuck here in the rain
while you’re in Spain. And I know for a fact that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain – ha ha!

Issie had groaned out loud at Stella’s appalling joke. Then there was Stella’s reaction to the news that Issie was being forced to learn the
haute école

Has Francoise actually seen the way you ride dressage?
Stella boggled.
Issie, you’re going to be stuck there forever trying to do a fancy trot – you’ll never be able to bring Storm home!

Issie was worried that Stella was only too right.

As the white houses at the top of the hill came into view, Issie remembered the last time she had been here. The elegant town square surrounded by white houses at the top of the ridge had been the scene of her great victory in the Silver Bridle.

Today it had been decorated for the
. Brilliant pots of pink and orange geraniums hung from the white buildings and colourful flags were flying from every lamp post. Around the edge of the square stalls had been erected selling hot food; the yummy Spanish egg and
potato tortilla and platters of tiny, sweet, grilled pimento peppers.

This was a horse
so, although a few people were on foot, most of the villagers were on horseback. There were riders from all the local horse farms, dressed in colourful costumes. Many of the women, like Francoise, were being doubled on the back of their boyfriend or husband’s horse. They chatted to their friends, passing around platters of
pastries and
– paper-thin slices of Iberian ham – as if they were on a comfy sofa at home rather than the back end of an Andalusian stallion! Their husbands drank glasses of sherry and joked with each other as the horses beneath them stood patiently.

In the past Issie would have secretly coveted many of the magnificent horses at the
, wishing they could be hers. This time, however, it was Issie’s own horse that was drawing admiring stares. All the riders here today were knocked out by the stunning presence and good looks of the big bay stallion.

“You are lucky,” Francoise grumbled, “I would much rather be riding my own horse than stuck here on the rump of someone else’s!”

Avery grinned. “Oh come on, Francoise! Let me buy you a plate of pimentos and a glass of sherry to cheer you up.”

As he turned Sorcerer to ride off towards the food stalls, he glanced back over his shoulder at his passenger. “If you want, you can put your hands around my waist.”

He saw the shocked expression on Francoise’s face. “I-I mean to help you keep your balance.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my balance,” Francoise said sniffily. But she did as he suggested and wrapped one arm elegantly around his waist. Avery tapped his legs against Sorcerer’s sides and they trotted off towards the pimento stall.

“Do you want me to get us some pimentos too?” Alfie asked Issie. “You can stay here if you like, I’ll bring some back for you,” and he trotted off after Avery and Francoise.

Mrs Brown had dismounted from Ferdinand and had tied him up to one of the hitching rails. She looked quite grateful to have her feet on the ground once more as Roberto accompanied her, strolling through the crowds towards the flamenco dancing display.

As Issie sat and waited for Alfie to return she realised
she should have asked him to grab a drink as well as the pimentos. She was just about to trot over to the drinks stall when she saw a man on an enormous chestnut horse riding towards her across the square.

“Little Chica!” Miguel Vega gave her an oily grin as he cantered up to her. He was wearing the traditional
costume and already, in the heat of the day, his shirt was soaked with sweat. Issie could see the buttons straining to contain the fat belly that threatened to escape and overlap his cummerbund.

Vega pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at his piggy face. “So, I see our colt is all grown up? And very handsome he is too!”

Vega cheekily reached out a hand to touch Storm’s bridle. The stallion, who had been so placid up until that moment, suddenly gave a high-pitched squeal and lashed out with his front leg, swiping the air and stamping his hoof emphatically back down on the ground.

“Leave him alone!” Issie said. “You know you’re not allowed to come near him.”

There was the clatter of hooves behind her and a moment later Alfie was at Issie’s side.

“Is he bothering you?” Alfie asked, pulling Pepe up alongside Storm.

“It’s OK, Alfie,” Issie insisted. “I can handle this.”

But Alfie wasn’t convinced, and he stepped his horse forward to defend Issie from the taunts of the tubby

BOOK: Angel and the Flying Stallions
4.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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