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How to Think Like A Horse: The Essential Handbook for Understanding Why Horses Do What They Do

Horse Stable and Riding Arena Design

Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook (Howell Reference Books)

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage: Designing and Managing Your Equine Facilities


Starting Over Chapter 1-

Another Move

Page 2

Katy sighed forlornly and trudged into the main barn, which housed twenty lesson horses and two boarders. Countess, a six-year-old bay Arabian mare with a thin stripe on her face, poked her head over the latched lower half of the Dutch door at the sound of the noise and whinnied when she saw Katy, who was her regular rider. Perking up already, Katy picked up her pace to the stall and gave the mare a quick pat and a kiss.

Now that she wasn't in such a sour mood, she was anxious to get out into the ring. She quickly haltered and tied the horse in the silent, deserted aisle. She stormed into the tack room, still somewhat upset at the lingering memories of her angry words in her journal. Trying to put her thoughts on hold, she forced a smile and picked up the English saddle and matching bridle that was assigned to Countess. She hadn't realized how irritated she was until she had put her feelings into writing.


Carefully setting the saddle down on its horn, Katy lifted the saddle pad over Countess's back. She covered the blanket with a white saddle pad, then set the saddle on top and drew the girth up underneath. She had tightened it as far as it would go before she remembered the breastcollar. After putting it in place she hurriedly pulled the girth back up to the saddle flap and tightened it for the second time. Next she untangled the bridle, which she had found on the floor where one of the other girls had thrown it to spite her.

Experienced as she was, Katy had a bit of trouble getting the obstinate mare to accept the bit. The mare had not been in training for very long, and since Katy was the most experienced rider of the girls at the stable, she was chosen to ride the mare. Her instructor literally had no time to ride or train the mare, so the tedious job had fallen heavily on Katy's shoulders. She was all too happy to accept, hoping she could drown out some of her problems in the delightful pastime.

Katy looped the reins over the mare's neck and loosened the halter. She let the mare stand while she hurried to the opposite wall to get her helmet and gloves. She grabbed her crop and zipped up her chaps. After making a final check over her tack, she pulled the reins back over the horse's head and held them in a confident hand. She hastily led Countess to the large gate at the side of the indoor riding arena. Katy opened the gate with one hand while keeping an eye on the horse she was controlling so that in case the mare bolted, she would still have ultimate control.

In the arena, three other girls were already mounted and walking around the dirty ring. All three of them turned to look at her, wondering who dared to show up late. They had all tasted Wanda's wrath before and pitied the person on the receiving end of the lecture. 'Nice of you to join us for today's lesson, Katy.' The sarcastic voice of her riding teacher rang across the ring.

Katy started but was grateful that that was all the confrontation came to. She turned to look at her riding instructor. 'Sorry, Wanda. It's my fault I'm late.' She studied her riding teacher's profile, committing it to memory. The woman was shorter than Katy and had short black hair that curled around her face in soft waves. She had a hat jammed on her head backwards, giving her the classic tomboy look. Her t-shirt and jeans were old and dirty but fit well and had long since conformed to the curves of her body.

After checking the girth and tightening it another two notches, Katy mounted with practiced ease, settled into the saddle, and nudged Countess with her heels to make the mare walk. She concentrated on sinking her weight into her heels and straightening her back and shoulders. She carried her hands low, in front of the saddle, just at the right level. After the girls had changed direction on the diagonal, Wanda gave the order for a slow sitting trot. Katy waited until Countess's back left leg lifted off the ground, then signaled for the trot. This way the mare could automatically extend her leg and go right into the trot. She executed the move as soon as Katy asked, moving unhesitantly into the faster gait.

'Good, Katy! That was excellent.' After another several seconds of observation, Wanda turned to Diane, a fifteen-year-old girl who was mounted on Rocket. The dumpy little black pony that she owned was plodding along, barely giving his rider enough gait to post to. 'Push him harder, Diane! You're letting him get away with too much. Make him extend his trot, and I said sitting trot, not posting!'

'But this stupid pony is so hard to sit that I can't help posting!' complained Diane loudly.

'Deal with it!' Wanda replied, entirely unsympathetic. She held no remorse for riders who said they couldn't do something. She had ridden every horse in the barn and asked nothing of the girls that she herself could not do.

Diane emitted a loud, disgusted sigh and thumped the poor little Welsh pony in the ribs so hard that he grunted and threw his head up in pain. He half reared and came down at a fast trot, nearly sending his rider out of the saddle. Fortunately for Diane, Wanda was looking the other way.

This time she was watching Merry, a thin girl with long blond hair. She was tall for thirteen, and she mounted on one of the best horses in the barn, Xenophan. The horse was a red dun Thoroughbred and only nine years old, so whoever rode him was privileged. He was sometimes difficult to manage and it took a most experienced rider to handle him correctly.

Katy had ridden Xenophan and found him very pleasant to ride, although he could be a handful for a more inexperienced rider. Katy was riding the best, although the most erratic, horse in the barn. Countess had not had a lot of training, but with Katy as her rider she was coming along splendidly. She had wonderful gaits and a beautifully smooth extended trot, and she was a naturally graceful horse, thanks to her breed. The mare had already won a lot of show ribbons and continued to improve.

Another student, Jane Fewther, was a wiry girl with straight black hair that hung to her shoulders. She was riding her own mount, a horse named Whisper. This was an eleven-year-old chestnut Anglo-Arab mare that went well for Jane, who was very shy. Jane had an olive complexion, and her hazel eyes slanted toward her nose. She was very quiet and seldom spoke. She seemed to love her horse, though, and lavished it with attention. Jane had only been riding for about a year and a half, but she was already nearly as skilled as Merry and Diane.

Jane was sitting quietly on Whisper when all of a sudden from outside the thin walls a horrible noise was heard. It sounded like a dog-and-cat fight, but it sounded three times as loud as the usual sort of fight.

Whisper snorted and bolted away from the wall. She skittered sideways, and, looking at the wall, didn't notice the jump on her other side. She slammed into it and toppled the jump. Whisper nearly lost her balance when she went to her knees, but somehow managed to stumble-step her way back to her feet, where she began a bucking tirade. Jane sat calmly, letting her body move with the mare's. After a few traumatic moments the horse was brought under control once again.

Wanda hurried over to her student's side. 'Jane, are you all right? That was quite an episode there.'

The tall girl smiled and nodded. 'I'm fine. She normally doesn't scare that easily. Although I can't really blame her, considering the level of those screeches.'

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