A Challenge

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Chapter 2

We let him settle down for a few days, get used to this new world of his. He had water and we gave him hay morning and evening. For the most part we left him along, just watching him.

I watched him a lot.

It was almost like I couldn't stop thinking about him. He reminded me so much of Jigsaw. His blue eyes, his long gray mane, and his spirited personality made me think of Jigsaw all the time.

I had just finished working all the horses I needed to exercise/train for the day, and it was time to feed the horses. Grain rattled in buckets and horses watched the tack room with ears pricked as we mixed their feed. Some were a little more impatient, banging their stall doors with frustration.

"Does Moonbeam need her ulcer supplement?" I called to mother. "Or is that in the morning?"

"Oh sorry, I haven't written it down on the board yet. No, she doesn't, she gets it in the morning," replied mother as she scooped up grain and dumped it in a feed bucket.

I nodded and grabbed Moonbeam's feed bucket. I squinted at the board that had what everyone got fed written on it. "Moonbeam, two and half cups," I murmured. I lifted the lid off a feed container and grabbed the scoop that was in it.

I measured out the two cups and half cups, then replaced the lid. I stacked Moonbeam's bucket on top of three others and took them out to the horse's they belonged to.

Soon the neighs and pacing quieted down to satisfied chewing and crunching. I returned to the tack room, washed out the buckets and stacked them, ready for the feeding in the morning. Now it was time to give them their hay.

"Who's going to take out Challenger's hay?" called out my father as he cut the baling twine on a square bale.

"I will," I volunteered as I grabbed coastal hay flakes and loaded them into a wheelbarrow. "As soon as I finished feeding the horses in the Hill Field."

The Hill Field was aptly named, as it the whole pasture was mostly of two rolling hills with a fence surrounding them at the bottom. The two ponies, Layla and Rayna, were waiting for me at the fence.

I tossed the hay out of the wheelbarrow over the fence into several piles. Layla, the bigger bay pony, squealed at Rayna and forced her over to another pile. "Hey now, play nice," I admonished.

Slowly I turned around and braced before grabbing the handles of the barrow and pushing into the biting wind. My face started going numb against the cold and my eyes watered.

Challenger was waiting for me at the gate. He paced back and forth, eager for his hay. Wisps of what he hadn't eaten twirled away in the wind. Grabbing the hay with my thick winter gloves, I hurled it over the fence to him.

Immediately his head plunged down and he began eating. Despite the cold I stood and watched him eat for awhile. He was a fine horse, I thought, too fine to be used for a school horse.

Suddenly I shook myself, startling him slightly. What was I thinking? That he was going to be mine? I snorted. No, he wasn't.

But as I turned away, the seed of an idea had already begun forming in my mind. Even if he couldn't be my main horse, I could school him so he would be a good lesson horse. Already my hands itched to hold the reins on him, to feel the great power that was surely there.

Our family didn't always have time to have breakfast or lunch, but we always had dinner together. Always. Unless one of us was sick or out of town, we had dinner together.

Tonight we just ordered pizza and sat on the couch eating it while watching a movie. Mom was too tired to cook and we all felt like comfort food.

Finally at the end of the movie and the pizza all gone, we got up and began clean up before going to bed. Mom and I were loading plates in the dishwasher when she remarked, "I think I'll start riding Challenger tomorrow."

Excitement coursed through me as I looked up and said, "Really?"

Mom raised an eyebrow in amusement at my enthusiasm. "Yes really. It's time I started working him."

I grabbed another plate and stuck it in. "Do you think I could ride him for the first time? Please? I'm more than capable." I couldn't understand this burning desire to get on his back that hounded me.

Mother sighed. "I'm not sure.."

"Please," I said again. "I'm really sure that I can handle him."

She relented. "Alright, but on one condition. I have to be there when you ride him, otherwise, no riding."

I nodded my assent but inside I was grinning enough to break anybody's face. My thoughts as I got ready for bed were consumed with riding him the next day.

What was it that made me want to ride him so bad? I didn't know, I just knew I wanted to. Really, really wanted to. Maybe it was the way he reminded me of Jigsaw.

But Challenger was no Jigsaw.

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