A Challenge

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Chapter 10

I had told Lacy that Challenger was my new horse. Which, in a way, he was. But my parents didn’t know about my growing affection for him. They still thought he was going to be an advanced lesson horse.

So now I had to convince them otherwise.

“Supper ready mother?” I asked as I walked into the kitchen.

“Mmm? Oh yes. Could you take the salad to the table? Your father will be in soon,” she replied as she pulled dressing out of the fridge.

I nodded and grabbed the salad bowl. As I set it on the table I noticed that the fork was to the right and the spoon to the left on dad’s and I’s places, but not on mom’s. That bothered me, so I switched mom’s spoon and fork.

Yes, I’m weird like that.

I went back into the kitchen and grabbed the salad dressing. Just then father blew threw the door. “It’s getting cold out there,” he said as he shoved the door shut against the wind. Goosebumps tickled up my arms from the cold air he let in.

“It’s supposed to get warmer in the next few days,” replied mother as she came in with a huge pan and set it on the table. “Supper’s ready.”

“Good, I’m starving.”

I quietly took my place at the table, inhaling the savory smell of the roast mother had cooked. My mouth watered, and I stared at the pan hungrily. “Smells good mother.”

“Thanks Tessa.”

My parents took their places and we said Grace. Father thanked God for a warm house, that our animals were safe, that we were healthy, and of course for the food on the table. “Amen,” he finished.

Mother reached for the pan and opened it, letting out more delicious roast aroma. I inhaled and rolled my eyes back in pleasure. While she cut up the roast I grabbed the salad and dished some out. I passed it to father, then grabbed the dressing.

“So Tessa, how did your riding go today?” asked father.

This was a ordinary question at our dinner table, and father didn’t expect a quick, “Oh, it was good,” in reply. This wasn’t small talk for us.

I gave him a summary of every ride I’d done today, finishing with Challenger. Mother added in her comments along the way.

“Overall, I was pleased with all of them today. A good way to end the work week,” I finished up. I took a bite of the roast and savored it. It was just as good as it smelled. “How’d picking up the feed order go?”

“Good. It’s always hard to hand over that check though,” he replied with a wince.

I snorted. “Yep, I’m sure it is.”

“You are obviously not the one paying for it,” he countered.

I couldn’t fight very well against that one, so I nodded to concede the point.

Mother broke in just then. “We’re getting a new student tomorrow.”

I perked up at this. “Really?”

“Yep. Her name is Hazel Simpson. Her parents say that they just moved here and are looking for a place for their daughter to take lessons. Apparently she’s been riding for about four years, and has jumped up to three foot.”

“Oooh, an experienced rider,” I said with interest. “When’s her lesson?”

“At 3:30, you should be able to watch it.”

I nodded. Then I gathered up my courage and let it burst out before another subject could be chosen. “Switching subjects here. You guys want me to get another horse right?”

They both looked up, surprised at the switch. Dad found his voice first. “Of course, when you think the time is right.”

“And I have my pick of the stables, except for the boarder’s horses?”

“Sweetie, you already know that,” replied mother.

“Well then, do you think Challenger could be my new horse?” Unable to bear the strain of looking at them I keenly examined my plate.

Mother set her fork down. “Well, we did get him for a lesson horse...” I could practically feel her glance towards father.

Father cleared his throat. “Why do you want him Tessa? I would think you’d want something more... advanced. He’d never seen a cross country course until yesterday!”

I looked up. Why did I want Challenger? I opened my mouth to give some professional answer but then went with the truth.

“I don’t know. I just know that I do. I want him to be my next horse. Besides, if it doesn’t work out, he could always be the lesson horse you planned for him to be.”

Mother slowly nodded. “I guess so. But sweetie, are you sure? Challenger won’t be ready to compete when show season comes. You were ready to compete Training level and perhaps even Prilim, but with Challenger you’ll have to go all the way back to Intro.”

“Mom, you know that’s never really mattered to me.” I shrugged. “Besides, if I’m going to compete at those levels, I’d prefer I take a horse there with me, rather than buy one that’s been brought there by someone else.”

“We’d have to get another lesson horse,” said Father. “I don’t know if-”

“James,” said mother, raising her hand. “Now it’s my turn to be honest. I made a mistake with Challenger. I shouldn’t have bought him. He’s too flighty, too sensitive, to be quickly turned into a lesson horse. To disrespect his nature is ill-advisable. If she thinks she can do something with him, let her try.”

I gaped at mother. “Then why’d you buy him?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t realize how immature he was.”

Father rubbed his chin. “I’ll let you have him on one condition Tessa. If and when he is able to be a lesson horse, then he has to be used occasionally for that. Agreed?”

I looked down. The idea of someone else riding my horse wasn’t just an idea that I didn’t like, it was one I loathed. I knew it would get worse once I rode him more and got to know him more.

But, on the other hand, it was my one chance to do that.

“Agreed.”

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