The Palomino Pony Runs Free (9 page)

BOOK: The Palomino Pony Runs Free
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A
s Georgia hugged Lily over and over, the evening’s events began to sink in. She rugged up the little palomino and, still feeling dazed, settled her back into her temporary stable. People were congratulating her left, right and centre, but Georgia couldn’t quite take it in yet – her head was still spinning.

“That’s Ellen Whittaker!” Emma clapped her
hand over her mouth, giggling, as a pretty blonde girl in a flashy red jacket paused to pat Lily and chat to Georgia. Dan just couldn’t stop grinning.

Everyone was in a party mood – Sophie danced around with Melanie and stuffed Lily full of carrots at the same time. Even Janey, who was normally brisk and firm, was teary-eyed and lost for words. Georgia was thrilled to see Josephine Smalley and her daughter, Alice, who had been competing in the show hunter pony class.

Just then, other riders turned to gawp as two familiar faces joined the celebrations. It was Will and his older brother Jasper. Georgia half expected Jasper to be dressed in breeches and shiny black boots, like his photographs, but he looked quite normal in jeans and a checked shirt. He certainly had charisma though, and she suddenly felt quite shy.

However, she was delighted to see her friend
Will looking back to normal other than the stitches above his right eye.

“Will!” she exclaimed, wondering how he was going to be after the dramatic events of the last few days. She needn’t have worried – Will instantly gave her a huge hug, swinging her round and grinning.

“Hey, Georgia,” he said warmly. There was no trace of arrogance and no awkwardness in his voice.

“How is, I mean, how are you … how … what about Santa?” Georgia didn’t know where to start.

Will laughed. “Well, first I’d better thank you for saving me … the doctors said that if you hadn’t showed up when you did…” For a minute the smile faded, and he looked totally vulnerable.

“It was all Lily,” Georgia broke in, running her hand gently over the little palomino’s ears, who leaned in to her as she spoke. “One thing I’ve been
wondering about, though – how did she know to head towards your old house?”

Will patted Lily’s neck as he explained. “You know when Mel asked me to ride Santa and lead Lily?”

Georgia thought back and remembered the day that she and Melanie had gone to the saddler together. She nodded.

“Well, I rode that way,” Will continued, looking thoughtful. “To visit the cottage where my brother and I grew up. I thought I would check it out, just in case I needed…” He paused.

“To get away from everything?” Georgia said gently.

“Well, not exactly,” Will said with a rueful smile. “But then I heard from Jasper – the night we had the fish and chips in the tack room – that we had definitely lost the sponsorship. Even though Melanie told me everything would be OK, I didn’t
know if it would be. It was certain that Santa would go and I just couldn’t stand the thought of her being sold. So I left in a hurry, but only to hide her. I knew Ryan wouldn’t waste any time picking her up, so I thought if I moved her from Redgrove, it would buy me some time…”

He paused again. “I was trying to settle her in, then I slipped getting down some hay. I was rushing, panicking…” He turned to his brother, looking slightly unsure, and Jasper cleared his throat.

“It’s my fault,” Jasper said, placing a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “I shouldn’t have put all that pressure on you. The loss of the yard, and our sponsorship, that’s my responsibility, not yours.”

“But what will you do now?” Georgia couldn’t help but ask. “And what about Santa? Oh, Will – you love her so much.”

“It’s all OK, Georgia.” Will grinned. “It’s going
to be fine. Just ask Melanie!”

Georgia turned around to look at Melanie, who was smiling happily.

“I bought Santa back,” she said. “Not for me, of course! Will and Jasper are going to pay me back when they can, a bit at a time.” She stroked Lily. “When I heard that Santa had been with the boys for over ten years, I couldn’t bear the thought that she might end up somewhere horrible. She’s an old girl who deserves a good retirement after all the prizes she’s won for them
and
their sponsors.”

For a moment, Georgia was speechless, and then she gave Melanie a huge hug. Melanie was so kind and always thought about the ponies first. “Wow,” she said, totally in awe of her. “You really are the best, Mel!”

Melanie chuckled. “I could see how Will loved Santa – just like you love Lily, and then I thought about Wilson and Callie… I know that I want to
keep them forever after all they’ve done for me. Santa deserved that as well.”

Georgia turned to Will and Jasper. “So what will you do now?”

Smiling, Will turned to his older brother. “Can I tell them, Jasper?” he said.

“Of course,” his brother said. “It’s going to be public knowledge soon enough anyway.”

Turning back to Georgia, Will smiled. “We’re moving back to Redgrove,” he said happily.

“So you’ve lost the yard?” Georgia blurted out before she could stop herself.

“Yes,” Jasper said, in a regretful voice. “All those years of hard work, riding some of the best ponies money could buy, and now nothing. Just one pony left, but, without doubt, the most loyal pony I’ve ever ridden.”

Then, smiling, he explained that Janey had heard about their predicament and had offered
him a teaching position within the Pony Club. They needed someone young and vibrant, and Jasper was a hero among his old club. He also had a couple of young ponies lined up that he was going to bring on for their owners, and earn a small salary.

“But where will you live?” Georgia asked.

Will grinned happily. “Back at our old house!” he said in an excited voice. “It never sold and so Mum has agreed to rent it to Jasper – for just a small amount at first, until he finds his feet.”

Pausing, his smile grew even wider. “And even better, I’m going to go back to school – your school! Now we’re not always showing and jumping, Jasper doesn’t have to home-school me any more. And I can still do shows with Santa, if I want. She’ll do brilliantly in the veteran classes.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t thank you enough, Melanie.”

Melanie just smiled. Georgia thought she couldn’t admire her any more than she did at that very moment – first, helping her rescue Lily, and now ensuring that Santa’s future was safe. She decided that if she didn’t make it as a famous show rider, or a veterinary nurse, she would be perfectly happy owning a yard like Melanie and helping ponies in need. In fact, maybe she could do both, or all three. After all, Lily had been a rescue pony and now she had won second place – technically joint-first! – at the most prestigious horse show in the country. At that moment, her thoughts were interrupted by a familiar cry, as her mum pushed her way through the crowds and into the stable area.

Flinging her arms around her daughter, she wiped tears from her cheeks as she congratulated her over and over again.

“Thanks, Mum.” Georgia hugged her mum
back, clinging to her for just a few seconds. “And sorry I’ve not been myself recently – everything was getting to me…” Her voice trailed off.

“I know, darling.” Mrs Black smiled at her daughter. “And next time you need to tell someone!”

“I will, Mum, I promise,” Georgia said solemnly.

Lily nudged her at that point, as if to say “Hey!” and Georgia chuckled, putting her arms around the little mare’s elegant neck. “And you can have a holiday now!” she said, hugging the beautiful palomino all over again.

Georgia’s phone was beeping madly with text messages from her friends at school and even from Harry and Lottie and the other Pony Club members – good news travelled fast. With everyone still buoyed up by the celebrations, and the stable for Lily booked for the night, Melanie
suggested pizza at a nearby restaurant to carry on the party.

Dan, Emma and Sophie whooped and cheered. Will and Jasper would join them as well, and Janey, too. Georgia had a funny feeling Will would become a good friend of the group now that he was moving back to the area for good.

A night celebrating with her friends and her mum would be amazing but first Georgia just wanted a few minutes alone with Lily, to thank her. As everyone drifted off to get ready for supper, Georgia slipped into Lily’s stable and placed her arms around her neck. The little mare stood quietly, enjoying the attention.

“I promise I will never let my nerves get to me again,” she whispered into her ear.

Now they had finished the Show, she felt as though she could do anything with Lily. Maybe they would qualify for the Horse of the Year Show
next year, and who knew what would happen then!

Georgia thought about what she had said to her careers adviser. She decided that she definitely did want to have her own yard, but only with ponies that needed rescuing, like Lily. She felt a moment of pride at how far Lily had come. She knew Lily trusted her more than anyone, and it was the best feeling in the world.

Looking up, she saw Dan leaning over the stable door, smiling and wearing her rosettes like earrings. Georgia laughed. “Hey,” she said, slightly shyly.

“You were brilliant, Georgia,” Dan said warmly.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t tell you how nervous I was,” Georgia stammered.

“That’s OK,” Dan smiled. “Tell you the truth, I was a bit worried you fancied Will, and that’s why you were being so off with me. I thought you
secretly liked him…” His voice trailed off and he looked a bit embarrassed, as Georgia laughed in amazement.

“No way!” she said sincerely. “I never thought of him like
that
! It was only that I knew you could tell how nervous I was, but I just didn’t want to face up to it, and … oh … well…” she stammered, as Dan grinned.

“Friends again?” he said.

“Always!” Georgia cried, then chuckled as she gestured for Dan to look at Emma, who was giggling and flirting with Will over by the entrance to the stables. They both laughed.

“Now, that looks like trouble!” Dan said in amusement, and then softened as he turned back to Georgia. “Ready to celebrate?”

“Sure,” Georgia grinned, gathering up her jacket and hat, but reluctant to stop hugging her beautiful little mare. “Wish she could come as
well!” she said.

“Tell you what,” Dan said. “Let’s go and have pizza with everyone, then come back and see Lily – just you and me.” Taking her hand, he led Georgia out of the stable and she glanced back at the palomino, who gazed at her with her soulful amber eyes.

Dan was right. Georgia would go and celebrate with all the people who had helped her get this far, and then come back for a goodnight cuddle with her pony, who was the bravest and sweetest creature Georgia had ever known.

And then they would drive home to Redgrove where Wilson and Callie and Santa would be waiting. They had crisp winter rides, rallies and shows to look forward to, and Lily was hers, now and for always.

And nothing would ever be more important than that!

Nosy Crow would like to thank Katy Marriott Payne for letting her lovely palomino pony star on the covers of this series.

 

BOOK: The Palomino Pony Runs Free
3.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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