A Challenge

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Chapter 5

As I untacked Challenger I thought about my ride on him. I reviewed it over and over in my mind, trying to figure him out. He was an odd one. Most horses would just give in and do what you asked when you added more pressure. Yet Challenger hadn't gone on until I stopped kicking and instead just did a gentle but firm squeeze.
I pulled the saddle off him and wound my way through the people to the tack room. This was the day where our stables were really busy, because this was when lessons began.
As I put the saddle up on its proper rack I heard my name called. "Tessa? Tessa?"
I turned. "Yes?"
A young lady saw me and a expression of relief flooded her face. "Do you know where Colorful's saddle is? It's my first time riding him and I don't know what saddle to put on him. My lesson is in eight minutes," she said desperately.
I nodded. "I know where it is." I turned, scanning saddle racks. Then I started pointing. "You see that dressage saddle, number 12? Well two saddles down to your left is the saddle you're looking for, number 15."
She nodded her head. "Thanks," and hurried towards it.
During this time I tended to function as part time groom. I knew this stable like the back of my hand, because I'd grown up in it all my life. However, I did all this while sitting the barn aisle, tack room, or ringside while doing my homework.
I sighed. The fun part of the day was over. Now it was time for the more boring part of it. I was homeschooled, and while that allowed me to do what I did, it was still school.
But first I had to put Challenger back in his paddock.
So I wove my way through frantic riders and reached him. He was looking a little wild-eyed. All this people bustling and hustling had him agitated. He pawed in the stable.
I looked at all the people, the horses, and the noise they were making. I looked back at Challenger. I decided maybe I'd better wait till things calmed down a bit before I lead him through a crowded barn aisle. I didn't want him hurting someone, although it would be by accident and my fault because I would have put him a situation he couldn't handle.
I exhaled slowly. If I waited, it meant I would probably miss the first part of the advanced lesson. The advanced lesson was the one I liked to listen to the most, because it had riders at about my skill level. But it couldn't be helped.
I stroked Challenger's fluffy coat and murmured to him. "Calm down bud, it's alright. Soon I'll take you back out to your paddock, away from all this."
He snorted and shook his head. I chuckled as I pushed a piece of mane over along with the rest of it. He was such a character.
Finally things quieted down somewhat, and the barn aisle looked fairly clear. I untied his lead rope and led him out. He skittered out of the stall and walked quickly beside me.
I hunched my shoulders and braced myself as I headed out into the January wind. Brrr, it was cold. It tickled my neck and tried to trickle down it.
Thankfully it was a somewhat short walk to Challenger's paddock. I opened the gate, leading Challenger through it. He came through smoothly compared to some horses I knew.
It was clear Challenger was excited to leave, but I wouldn't let him just yet. I wrapped the lead rope around his neck, holding on to it so that he wouldn't be able to just bolt off the moment I had the halter off. As I slid it off he tried to run, but ended up doing a circle around me.
I held him until he finally was standing still. Then I let go. He trotted off, quite proud of himself, although for what I didn't know. He sniffed and pawed the ground a bit, then laid down for a roll.
I groaned. Challenger was still fairly young and his coat was dark, so the dirt wouldn't show up as badly. But in a couple of years he would turn snow white, and then it would be impossible to keep him clean.
He got up with a snort and shook himself, creating a dust cloud that floated away in the wind. I giggled and began the trek up towards the barn.
As I hung up the halter I reflected on how mismatched the colors were. The green and orange clashed very badly, and it didn't look good on him. Perhaps I could exchange it for one of the other halters...

I sat by the ring, trying to focus on my math. But to be honest, algebra is not as interesting as the lesson that was in front of me. There were four riders, and they were focusing on getting the horse to engage its hind end more, while connecting over its back. Some people might be bored with this stuff. To me, it's as interesting and as hard as jumping.
"Make your inside leg like a pillar," called out mother. "It will be easier for them to bend around you. Push your foot down into the stirrup."
I shook my head and tried to focus on the paper in front of me. Shoulda known better than to do this, but I thought I could do it without getting too distracted. The letters and numbers on the page refused to register with my mind as I listened to mother's instructions.
"Careful Julie, you're letting her slip out when your circle is closest to the barn. Act as if your going to cut in on the circle, she'll make up the difference," called out mother.
Sighing I marked down an answer on the page. It was probably the wrong one.

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