The horse inside the trailer banged fiercely against it, demanding that he be let out. He neighed shrilly, and the other horses answered. This seemed to excite him, he banged all the more.
I hadn't seen the horse before we bought him. I'd been sick with the stomach bug, so mother thought it best that I stay home. This was going to be the first time I saw him besides pictures.
Mother handed the papers she had signed back to the Mrs. Brisby, the former owner. The horse was ours now. His name was Challenger, we had bought him in the hopes of turning him into a higher level lesson horse.
Huh. Little did we know at the time that Challenger would not suffer the indignity.
The ramp was let down and he backed out. He came out snorting and dancing at the end of his lead rope, his breathe leaving puffs of white in the cold January air. His dapple gray coat was beautiful, his long mane gorgeous. He was half thoroughbred and half quarter horse, an Appendix.
He stopped prancing just long enough to let out a shrill cry and listen to the reply. His ears swung back and forth, taking in the new place. His muscles rippled with tension.
He struck a memory deep within me. Sadness welled up and with it tears. But still I maintained composure and tried to focus on him.
"Tessa," called my mother. "Come take off his traveling boots." She took his lead rope from Mrs. Brisby and tried to calm the horse down so we could take of his traveling boots.
He refused to settle down. He just kept on dancing around, pivoting every few seconds. As I walked up to him, I too tried to reassure him.
"Easy boy... Whoa. You're safe here. Calm down."
At the sound of my voice Challenger stopped for a moment. He pricked his ears towards me and watched me approach. Another memory struck up. There'd been another horse that had done that.
Ignoring my thoughts I focused on him. "Good boy... Thatsa boy. Look who's a good boy." I looked him in the eye, his blue eye. He looked slightly wild.
Slowly I bent down and began to undo the Velcro on his travel boots. He snorted and side-stepped uneasily. "Eh now, hold on. Let me get these off," I told him as I followed his motion and continued to undo the Velcro.
One by one, I worked the travel boots off him and handed them to the former owner. Once they were all off I stood up a bit too quickly. He spooked and skittered to the side. He eyed my uneasily.
"Whoa boy. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that," I said quietly.
"Here Tessa," said my mother as she handed me the lead rope. "Take him to his field."
I could almost feel it coming through the lead rope, his nervous energy. I began to walk forward and he followed me without so much as a tug on the lead rope. He strode forward with great strides and I had to resist the urge to either walk faster or tug on the lead.
I turned him loose in the field. He practically ripped his head out of the halter in his hurry to get away. He trotted off, his head and tail high.
I climbed up on the fence and watched him. He bucked and galloped, his tail a banner proclaiming his pride. He acted as if he owned the place.
Mother came up to the fence and watched him with me. "He's beautiful," she whispered.
"Yes. He reminds me of Jigsaw," I replied with a crack in my voice.
Ah, Jigsaw. My first real horse. He was cheeky but also kind. I had loved him to end. He had died a week ago, from a sudden bout of colic, we didn't know what it had been caused by. I missed him, deeply.
That was my first encounter with Challenger.