Mudhoof grimaced as he gingerly picked up the dirty moss in his teeth. This was his least favorite part of being an apprentice. The elders never thanked him for taking out their dirty bedding. He walked out from under the oak tree, pushing his way past the leaves. As he spat it out in the dirtplace, Ottertail twitched her whiskers in amusement at the expression on his face. He walked down to the river and grabbed some fresh moss from the rocks, trying hard not to slip because of the rain.
As he patted down their bedding, Wetpelt snapped, "This is damp! Don't you know how to collect bedding?"
Mudhoof pinned his ears, but Silverpool cut in, "Come on, Wetpelt, you're just being picky. It's raining outside, or hadn't you noticed?"
Mudhoof blinked gratefully at Silverpool. She was the kindest of the elders; Wetpelt and Shellpelt were both cranky.
As if reading his mind, Shellpelt neighed, "I'm starving. Where's my grass?"
Mudhoof rolled his eyes and went to get some grass. As he left the den, Ottertail trotted over to him.
"It's time we did some battle training," she whinnied.
Battle training, Mudhoof thought excitedly. Finally, something interesting.
"I was just going to give the elders some grass," he neighed.
"Why don't you get Splashhoof to do it," Ottertail suggested.
As he trotted over to the apprentices' den, he saw Swanhoof napping under the overhang. I wish I could get out of the rain as well, he thought with a sigh. He looked toward the entrance and saw the gathering patrol come back, adding to the freshly gathered pile. That should please the elders, he thought.
Splashhoof and Mistyhoof had just come out of the apprentices' den. They were taking shelter from the rain, but it had just stopped. Mistyhoof was the oldest of the apprentices, and she was hoping to be made a warrior soon.
"Splashhoof," Mudhoof neighed. "I was wondering if you would feed the elders for me while I did battle training."
"Why can't you do it yourself?" Splashhoof snapped. She got her bad temper from her mentor, Frogleg, a long-legged buckskin stallion who was known for his sharp remarks.
Mudhoof bared his teeth, but before he could reply Frogleg came up.
"It'll be good for you, Splashhoof," he snapped. "All you do is sit around anyway."
Splashhoof rolled her eyes, but trotted away to the elders' den. Mistyhoof looked on, amused. Then she turned to Mudhoof.
"Good luck with your battle training," she whickered.
"Th-Thanks, Mistyhoof," Mudhoof stammered.
She blinked at him warmly, then turned and trotted away. He couldn't help but notice how glossy her fur was, and how pretty her head was, and…
He looked guiltily up to see Ottertail staring at him, her whiskers twitching, with a knowing gleam in her eye.
"Are you coming?" she asked. "Or are you too busy?"
"No, Ottertail, sorry," Mudhoof replied.
"Well then let's go," she neighed.
When they got to the training field, Mudhoof was surprised by how worn it was. There must have been generations of horses here before, who all came to this spot to train, he thought in awe. He shook his head to clear it. He needed all his thoughts focused on his training.
Ottertail faced him a little ways away.
"Now, here's the first battle move you'll learn. When I come at you, you dodge and then spin and kick me. You have to be very fast to use this, but since you're small you'll be faster than the other horse."
Ottertail neighed, "Well, let's try it."
She lunged at him, teeth bared.
After what felt like hours of training, Mudhoof was finally going back to the camp, tired, but satisfied. He thought of the exhilaration and strength that had run through his veins, and he knew in his heart that he was meant to be a WaterHerd warrior.