The Palomino Pony Runs Free

BOOK: The Palomino Pony Runs Free
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For little Grace,

who’s pony mad like me!

O.T.

 

T
he boy placed a comforting hand on the neck of his dark brown mare as he guided her carefully down the ramp. Three gorgeous ponies caught his eye as he glanced around the pretty cobbled yard; they were gazing at the new arrivals with keen interest. His first impression was that this was a really well-kept, happy yard and he was sure they would be fine here – it was just so different to home.

Clicking his tongue, he led the mare into a box and began settling her in. What would the other people be like? He had heard a bit about the teenage girl who had a pony here, but other than that, he didn’t know much. Thinking of home again, he pressed his face against his pony’s neck as she snuffled his hand, comforting him. He sighed heavily.

This was it. He had one last shot, one last chance to succeed. He didn’t know if it would work, but he needed to try his very best for his pony’s sake. Gathering his thoughts, the boy pulled on his baseball cap, straightened up and stepped out into the sunlight, ready to meet the yard owner. Looking back at his pony, he took a deep breath. It was important that he created the right impression and did not let his mask slip even once. He had to do this for his pony – to repay all that she had done for his family over the years.

“G
eorgia? Are you listening?”

Georgia’s friend, Dan, gave her a nudge as the teacher walked over and stood in front of them.

“Sorry, could you repeat the question?” Georgia asked, trying to focus on the whiteboard at the front of the class. She was experiencing it again – an uncontrollable, tummy-churning rush of nerves that had arrived totally out of the blue in
the middle of a history lesson. Georgia clenched and unclenched her clammy hands. She felt quite lightheaded as she pushed aside an unruly blonde curl and looked apologetically up at the teacher.

Dan shot her a sympathetic look, but luckily Miss Hayes had given up waiting for her answer and had turned her attention back to the whiteboard. Georgia tried to concentrate, but the noise of the classroom had become nothing more than a background hum now. As she closed her eyes, all Georgia could see were the bright lights of the arena at the Horse of the Year Show, and all she could feel was serious panic!

Once the pure shock and elation at qualifying for the Show had worn off, Georgia had started to feel the pressure of competing at such a level. From that point on, all eyes had been firmly on her and Georgia had begun to have doubts about whether she and Lily deserved their place at the
Horse of the Year Show. The pretty palomino had caught everyone’s eye as soon as they’d started competing, but as Georgia was new on the circuit no one had viewed them as serious contenders until now. Georgia had only been riding Lily since last summer, and even though they were a brilliant pairing she couldn’t help but feel nervous. And if she felt like this with several weeks still to go, what was she going to be like on the actual day?

Georgia let out a shuddering breath, which caused Miss Hayes to look around at her again.

“I–I’m sorry. I’m not feeling well,” Georgia stammered. “May I go to the bathroom?”

“What was all that about?” Dan asked as he caught up with Georgia after school, jogging beside her as she hurried down the corridor and out to the bus. “Are you OK? What’s the huge rush?”

“I just want to get to the stables, all right?”
snapped Georgia. “To see Lily.” As Dan fell into step beside her, Georgia took a deep breath and imagined resting her head against the palomino pony’s neck. She knew that burying her face in Lily’s creamy mane and breathing in her sweet horsey scent would make her feel so much better!

“Is it the Horse of the Year Show again?” Dan raised an eyebrow. “You know Georgia, you don’t
have
to compete. Not if it’s bothering you this much. No one would mind, especially not Melanie!”

“Do you really think so?” Georgia considered this as she thought about Melanie, the owner of Redgrove Farm, where Lily was kept. Melanie had done so much for her – she had saved the little palomino pony by buying her, for starters – and then she had given her to Georgia on loan.

“Yes, I do,” Dan replied. “You just have to do what’s best for you.”

Georgia knew that he was right. But it had always been a dream of hers to compete in the Horse of the Year Show, and then to carry on year after year as a professional show rider. But now that it was within her reach, the thought of taking part completely terrified her!

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head as the school bus pulled up outside the gates to Redgrove Farm and the swing doors brushed open. “I’ll call you later, Dan, OK?”

“Sure.” Dan waved and Georgia jumped down, making her way up the drive and past the tennis court and paddocks. Redgrove Farm was a large modern house with stables attached. It had everything that you could possibly want – even a swimming pool! Georgia felt so lucky that she was allowed to come and ride here whenever she wanted. She lived with her mum in the village, but she came to the stables every day.

As Georgia made her way into the yard, a few of Melanie’s bantam chickens were scratching around the edge of the hay barn, searching for stray pony nuts. There was a note pinned to the board in the feed room.

Hey G, I’m out at a Pony Club meeting. Can you come and see me when you get back from your ride?

The writing was Melanie’s and she’d added a little smiley face. Georgia thought that Melanie probably wanted to talk about Lily’s training routine for the run-up to the Show. A shiver ran down Georgia’s spine again and she had to shake herself. She was just here to hack out on Lily this evening. No pressure!

Picking up the little mare’s tack – a simple snaffle bridle and soft suede saddle – she made her way
to the fields. Callie and Wilson – Melanie’s other ponies – were already waiting by the gate. Wilson, a dark brown thoroughbred cross, was wearing a lightweight rug to keep him warm but Callie was unclad, her hardy Exmoor coat protecting her from the chilly breeze. The sky was still as blue as it had been in the summer but there was a definite nip in the air. Georgia wrapped her jacket a little tighter round her.

“Looking for a treat again, Callie?” She chuckled as Callie’s soft nose brushed against her hand. Georgia pulled a Polo mint from her pocket and gave it to her. She looked over the Exmoor’s back to see Lily hanging back, behind Wilson.

Georgia felt all her troubles wash away as the palomino whickered a greeting and gently pushed her way through the other ponies. Seeing Lily always made Georgia smile! The little Welsh pony had never looked better. Her champagne
coat shone brightly and her creamy mane was lustrous and soft, brushed by Georgia every day until it was as smooth as silk. Her muscles were clearly defined beneath her coat, but Lily was slim and elegant and her delicate neck arched as she nuzzled Georgia, gently breathing on her face. You’d never know that she had foaled last year – a little colt called Secret who had gone to live at Josephine Smalley’s show yard, up the road. Georgia had worked her gently since Secret was weaned, and Lily looked amazing!

“Let’s get you tacked up,” said Georgia, slipping the bridle over Lily’s head and sliding the saddle down her back. If only Eric, Lily’s breeder, could see her now. Georgia had heard that he had been in and out of hospital, so she hoped he was OK. She had sent him Lily’s qualifying rosette in the post with a letter but hadn’t received a reply yet. Maybe his granddaughter, Jemma, had opened
the letter. Georgia shuddered, remembering the events of the previous summer when she’d rescued Lily from the brutal girl. At least Jemma couldn’t hurt Lily now, and with rumours circulating on the competition circuit about her cruel treatment of Lily, Jemma rarely showed her face at shows any more.

“Come on, my angel,” Georgia whispered, leading Lily through the gate and gently pushing Wilson and Callie back. It was still light enough after school to have time for a decent ride and Georgia was able to squeeze in the all-important hill work to keep Lily fit.

Leading the palomino up to the yard, she tied her by the mounting block for a moment while she quickly changed into her old navy jodhs in the tack room. She tied her curly blonde hair back into a ponytail. Then, remembering Melanie’s yard rules, she pulled on a high visibility jacket, just in
case the sun started to set before she got back.

Swinging lightly into the saddle, she set off on one of her favourite rides. She meandered down the lane from the yard, then looped round the heath that fell between the stables and Dan’s farm. On a clear day she could just make out the red brick building of the farm shop, and see Dan’s black-and-white collie, Hattie, who liked to lie by the entrance catching the last rays of sunshine.

As Lily’s long, fluid strides ate up the chalk path and she moved into a rolling, rhythmic canter, Georgia felt all her worries vanish. This was what riding was all about – being out and about and enjoying time with your pony. She concentrated on keeping her contact light and soft and her legs still in the stirrups, and time seemed to melt away.

But all too soon, it was time to head home. “Whoa lovely, whoa.” Georgia soothed the little mare back to a walk, letting her have her head so
she could warm-down after her hill work. Lily stretched her long, elegant neck and gave a happy snort. Georgia laughed and patted her, thinking again how lucky she was to have the palomino pony.

She was so deep in thought that she almost didn’t hear the heavy thud of hooves until another horse was suddenly bearing down on them.

Lily gave a startled squeal, leaping into the air as a sleek dark brown pony overtook her at a fast canter.

“Wotcha!” The rider laughed as he hurtled past, turning sideways to grin at Georgia and flashing white, straight teeth. He was wearing a dark green baseball cap instead of a riding hat and a blue zip up jacket with motifs emblazoned on it.

“Hey – watch it!” Georgia cried, unnerved as Lily plunged forwards and half-reared. Everyone knew you should wear a hard hat and it was an
unwritten rule that you should be careful not to pass other ponies at speed when you hacked out! The rider and his dark brown pony continued on around the bend before disappearing from view, leaving Lily crabbing sideways.

Georgia was furious. Soothing Lily, she patted her neck and walked her forwards in the direction of Redgrove, outwardly calm but seething with anger inside. Whoever that rider was, he could have caused Lily to bolt or fall. Georgia shuddered to think of the palomino crashing to the ground and hurting herself. Their perfect evening ride had been ruined by that arrogant boy and his pony – and just when Georgia had started to relax and forget her worries. What an idiot!

BOOK: The Palomino Pony Runs Free
11.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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