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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

- Unexpected Trouble Chapter 1 -

Barn Raising

June 22, 2000

Dear Journal,

Everything's just wonderful right now. I'm at the barn, and all my favorite smells are lingering in the air. Freshly hewn wood, horses, newly mowed grass, leather ' and all the sounds are there too ' the whinnies, the whine of drills and the cut of saws, the friendly banter ' I don't think I've ever been happier.

I'm taking the time to write this while I'm waiting for Karen to finish making drinks for the workers. The new barns are over half up by now, and except for the empty frames, it sort of resembles its finished shape. There are about thirty people working on the buildings, two of them being Jim and Aaron. I hope I can help with something. I already rode today, and it's getting on into evening now.

I'm so glad we moved here, after all. When I whined about moving in one of my previous entries, I had no idea what lay ahead. Now I've got Cleopatra, Aaron, Tori, Nicole, Petra, Teri, Karen, Jim, all the horses, my great house and yard, a dog, a great job with the horses, loving parents and my grandparents next door, and God in my life. What girl could ask for more?

Karen just finished with the drinks, so I'd better go. Those men are going to be famished and dehydrated-they've been working since daybreak. At the rate they're going, those buildings will be up in a week!


A teenage girl with long, wavy, light brown hair pulled back into a braid snapped her journal shut and stuffed it into her backpack. This she zipped and threw behind a chair out of the way. Then she headed for the kitchen in the large farmhouse. It was a huge place, with a new coat of white paint on the outside and rustic furnishings on the inside, announcing it's occupants' passion, horses. After collecting her cargo of drinks from the kitchen, Kaitlin Evans headed out the door lugging the heavy basket.

She set down her load, a large classically shaped picnic basket with two openings, and reached to wipe her sweaty forehead. It was late in the afternoon, and she was taking food and water to the men working on Spruce Valley Stables' new barns. The sun was sweltering, and she was already hot after being in the heat only a few moments. Katy could only imagine what the workers must have been feeling. After wiping her hand on her jeans, she hefted the basket again and managed to reach the building site before collapsing. A boy of about seventeen walked over to join her. He had a white t-shirt on and carpenter shorts. His shock of light brown hair kept falling over his eyes, and his shirt clung wetly to well-formed muscles. His green eyes seemingly smiled at her as he strode toward her.

'Hi, Aaron. How's it going?' Katy pulled a bottle of mineral water out of the pack and handed it to him.

Before answering, he tilted his head back and gulped down half of the bottle. He then wiped his lips and grinned. 'Pretty well. As you can see-' he gestured to the five half-finished barns. '-we've got the frames up, and pretty soon we're going to begin on the inside facilities. You know, stalls, tack room, locker room, bathroom. With all these people working, everything should be done in a couple more weeks.'

Katy grinned. 'I can't wait till Karen goes shopping for more horses. She said Nicole and I could go help her pick some out.'

'What are we picking out with Karen?' Nicole, Katy's twin sister, came up behind them with another basket, cutting off Aaron's answer. Without waiting for an response, she continued. 'Come on, Katy. We need to distribute this stuff.' Katy shrugged helplessly to Aaron and followed her sister to one of the half-built barns. The men had spied them coming and were waiting eagerly for their meals. The food was gone in a flash, and soon the men were hard at work again. The sound of hammers ringing filled the air once again, not ten minutes later. These men really took their jobs seriously.

'What are we doing with Karen?' Nicole asked again, sitting down on a tack trunk where they headed out of the heat. The sixteen-year-old twins were relaxing in the barn in front of a stall.

'Remember Karen said we could help her pick out some horses for the barn?'

'Right. I can't wait. It'll be fun. By the way, Karen told me that two of the barns are going to be boarding barns. She also said that once all the barns are done we're going to move all the present horses into them and repaint and repair the old ones so they all match.' Nicole paused thoughtfully, then continued. 'The horses, that is,' she clarified.

Katy's eyes lit up. 'Boy, Fantasy will love that.' Katy was referring to her rescued orphaned foal, Life's Illusion. The colt had been rescued from an abused horse farm along with three other foals, five mares, and a stallion. Fantasy was the bright bay colt's stable name, since Illusion meant the same thing as Fantasy. The colt's registered name was to be used in future shows and breeding papers and such.

Nicole nodded, deep in thought. She stood up and turned around to pet the dappled gray mare in the stall behind them. 'Twilight will like it, too. She knows this place is a ton better than that awful farm or even the woods, but she'll think she's died and gone to heaven in a brand new place.'

Katy laughed. 'That's for sure.' Switching subjects entirely, Katy asked, 'How's her training coming, anyway?'

'She's gotten to the point where she'll let me put the bit in her mouth without protest. She lets me groom her now and touch her anywhere. Also, notice how well her coat has grown out.'

Katy groaned as she rose from her slouched position on the tack box and peered into the slightly dim interior of the twelve-by-twelve foot stall. She could make out how the now-lush coat covered all the old scars and wounds, evidence of past beatings from her abusive owners. Katy agreed with her sister and moved to slip into the next stall, which housed her horse, Cleopatra's Starpasser. In a flurry of events, it had been previously discovered that Twilight's Blazing Star, formerly Gray Eagle, was Cleopatra's mother. Papers were recovered from the owner of the abused horse farm, who was now serving time in jail for his despicable behavior. The girls had been delighted with the discovery and immediately moved the horses into adjoining stalls. There was a joyous reunion, and the horses were almost inseparable. Even after all those years of separation the mares knew each other. That phenomenon also explained why the mares had been so companionable when around each other before the find.

Nicole clipped a lead line onto Twilight's halter and led the mare out of the stall into the aisle, where she set the mare up between the crosstie posts. She fetched her grooming tools from the tack room and set to work with Katy sitting by idly scratching her horse's nose through the bars of the stall door. Soon the mare's coat gleamed and Nicole was done her job. She wound the lead rope around Twilight's neck for a handhold and took off the mare's halter. Then Nicole reached for a hook and settled the bridle into her hand. She shook out the tangles and drew it onto Twilight's ears. With only a little resistance, Nicole got the soft rubber bit into the mare's mouth and buckled all the leather pieces.

Katy looked impressed. 'That's pretty good. It won't be very long before you've got her saddled and even ridden. That'll be a monument in her training.'

Twilight followed her young master obediently around the aisle. Katy wandered outside with Nicole but didn't stick around to see her sister training her horse. She didn't feel like riding, either, so she wandered over to the worksite again. Looking up at the tall buildings, she wondered what they would be like filled with the aromas of horses, hay, grain, and leather. She could hardly wait. Katy spied Jim at the base of one of the barns and headed over to him. 'Hi, Jim. How's it going?'

Her riding instructor looked up. Glad for an excuse for a break, he wiped his forehead on a cloth that hung from his belt and clambered off the supports. 'Hello, Katy. Thanks for the drink and food earlier. Everyone appreciated it.'

Katy shrugged. 'It wasn't just me. Karen did a lot of it, too.'

Jim set a sweaty hand on her shoulder. 'Thanks just the same.'

Katy grinned. 'Got anything for me to do?'

Jim stroked his chin. 'Let me see.' He gazed around at the buildings. 'Well, I'm not sure you can help with the initial structure, but ' hmm, then again, maybe you can. How about putting some stalls together?'

'I'd love it! What do I have to do?'

Jim showed his student how to screw the boards onto the cross braces for the barn. Under his supervision, she got a height of six boards onto the stall wall. 'Good. Just keep doing it just like that. I'll be back to check on you in a little while.'

Katy nodded but didn't look his way; she was too busy concentrating on sending the long screw into the hard wood. After another little while she had gotten to the point where she couldn't reach any higher. Just as she was going to find Jim, he showed up. 'All done?' he asked jovially.

'Yes, I can't reach up any higher. What should I do now?'

The older man showed Katy how to work on another section of the stalls, and she set back to work with renewed energy. After Jim walked off, Tori came up. Katy didn't hear her over the roar of the cordless drill, so she jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She released the trigger and spun around, her free hand flying to her heart, which was suddenly beating faster. 'Oh, hi, Tori. What're you doing here?'

Her friend shrugged. 'Wandering around. What are you doing? Is it interesting? Can I help?'

Katy laughed. 'It's interesting, but it's tedious. And sure, you can help. You can hold up the boards as I screw them in.'

With both girls working the job went a lot faster. More than two hours were gone by the time either realized the hour. Katy gasped. 'Boy, I've been doing this for almost three hours now!'

'What've you been doing?' Aaron had slipped up unnoticed behind them. Both girls whirled. Tori held her chest, trying to still her rapidly beating heart, just as Katy had done a while earlier.

'Good grief, Aaron! Don't do that!' she yelped, collapsing against one of the newly completed walls.

Katy grinned at her friends. She was thankful for their roles in her life, especially since the last place she had lived she had been rendered companionless. 'We're building stalls,' she informed the other teen.

'I can see that. Listen, do you girls want to make saddle racks? I'll trade jobs with you.'

Katy glanced sideways at Tori with a mischievous smile. 'Why do you ask?'

Aaron rolled his eyes. 'Cause making saddle racks is a weeny job. I want to work with the men.' He gestured to another several workers assembling the stalls around them.

Tori grinned, getting the gist of Katy's glance. 'Maybe we'd rather work here. You can go build your 'weeny' saddle racks. Who says we want to get stuck with a 'weeny' job like that any more than you do?'

Aaron shrugged. 'Oh, come on, please?' He had a look on his face that said he would begin begging any moment.

Katy laughed and relented. 'Come on, Tori.' She dragged her friend toward their new job site and after receiving instruction, set to work. They assembled the wooden racks far more quickly than they had the walls of the barn and were well satisfied with their work. The pieces were simple, only three separate pieces of wood screwed together, but they became elegant saddle holders after Tori sanded and varnished them. Katy made enough saddle racks for the whole room by the time her friend even finished sanding and finishing half of the others. She laughingly helped her friend sand smooth the other racks and carefully helped stain the remaining ones.

After the racks were hung up to dry, Katy and Tori left the tack room and looked around for something else to do. Finally they headed for the foal paddock. The four foals had been in the same paddock since they had arrived a month ago. None of them were yet halter trained, so they were unmanageable. Karen and Jim had other reasons for keeping the foals in one place, such as for putting weight on. The foals had previously been at the barn where Twilight was from, the place with the horse abuser. All four of them were painfully thin at their time of rescue, but now they were filling out nicely. Their energy was up, too, and they cavorted in the paddock all day long, pausing intermittently to doze in the blazing sun.

When they crested the small rise in front of the lower paddock, the girls spotted the foals standing perked on a little hill. Spying their visitors, all four of them began to race at a flat-out gallop. One foal, a small bay colt, outdistanced the rest and slid to a stop in front of the fence while the others turned and raced past.

'Hi, Fantasy!' Katy fondled the small foal's ears. 'You're looking good, sweetie!'

Fantasy, whose registered Thoroughbred name was Life's Illusion, nickered and nibbled on her hand. Katy gently nudged his teeth away with a firm 'Quit.' Fantasy started rubbing on her arm. Katy withdrew and walked to the gate.

She noted that there were no halters lying on the ground, so she bolted back to the supply room to fetch a couple. She scanned the walls and searched among the halters and bridles. She finally located a row of smaller halters and headed for them. First she picked out a leather slip halter for Tori to use, then picked a bright blue halter off the wall. She picked up the matching leads and hurried back to the paddock.

Upon approach Fantasy nickered to his young master. Katy had spent so much time with the colt that he had grown quite used to her and was developing a special trust for his young teacher. Katy handed Tori the leather halter and slipped between the poles of the fence, not bothering with the gate. She approached her charge as usual, placing her hand on his shoulder and running her hand up his neck. Fantasy leaned into her caress harder and harder before Katy finally pushed him away. She began rubbing the halter against his face, covering everything from his ears and muzzle to his poll and forehead. The colt seemed uninterested, so Katy ever so slowly drew the noseband of the piece onto the baby's nose. Fantasy snorted and backed away hurriedly.

Katy knew better than to go after him, since the move would probably only scare him more. Instead she squatted down and held out her hand, crooning to him in a low voice. Fantasy lost his apprehension and bounced forward. He licked her palm and Katy stood back up. This time she draped the lead rope over his neck first. He stood but quivered. His neck muscles undulated underneath the line, but he soon figured out that it wasn't going to leave by his muscles rippling. Katy, who had been waiting patiently through all this, now approached his head with the halter in one hand and a carrot nub in the other. She pulled the noseband over his nose and quickly put the carrot bit there for reassurance.

Fantasy forgot all about the halter in his search for more treats, so Katy took advantage of the situation. While the foal nuzzled her pockets with his small rubbery lips, Katy reached over his neck and grabbed the other side of the halter. She slowly drew the piece to the horse's near side, or left side, and fastened the buckle quietly. As a reward for the colt's patience she reached into her pocket and produced a sugar cube. Fantasy gobbled it out of her hand and began sucking on it. Katy eased the lead line off his neck and started forward, feeding the line through her fingers as she called him. The foal eagerly started forward, but after only several steps he became aware of the piece swinging, though lightly, from his head. Worried now, Katy called him as he tried to twist his small, perfectly shaped head to see what was on him. When he couldn't glimpse anything, Fantasy began to shake his head so violently that Katy was afraid his still-frail body would topple onto the hard-packed dirt of the paddock.

Katy approached the agitated foal carefully, ready to bolt in case of disaster. Upon her advancement, though, Fantasy stopped his eruption and perked his ears forward. Katy laughed softly at the innocent look he planted upon his features and stroked his small, silky forelock. 'You're such a bad boy, Fantasy. Don't worry now, I won't let that mean old halter hurt you. Here, you deserve a treat ' that is, if you take one step forward for me.' She dug into her pocket and came up with another sugar cube. Then she took one step backwards, holding it out temptingly. The colt put his neck forth but no matter how far he stretched, he couldn't reach the treat. Finally he took one tentative step forward and then another, bringing his nose into Katy's palm to lip up the sugar. Katy praised him soundly and patted his neck.

Taking another sugar cube from her pocket, Katy back away again, hoping to get a faster response. Fantasy repeated his earlier procedure while Katy carefully tugged the lead rope. His head came up at the slight pull and his eyes began to take on a wild look. Alarmed, Katy was quick to sooth her foal. After several more unsuccessful tactics, she pulled out another piece of carrot. She held it temptingly in front of the baby's nose.

Fantasy's ears perked forward and his nostrils quivered with a barely audible nicker. He set one cautious foot before the other. Katy drew the piece away farther, still putting very slight pressure on the lead. Now the treat was more important and intriguing than the halter to Fantasy, and he all but forgot the nylon piece in his new quest. After going several strides, Katy let the foal lift the piece of carrot from her hand. She patted his shoulder and rubbed the areas under the halter straps. Her small foal began rubbing his head against her again, and this time Katy moved away but kept scratching his head. She began walking slowly forward. Fantasy looked slightly annoyed but followed anyway, intent on receiving a nice long ear rub. Katy obliged but kept walking. Finally she eased her hand away. Fantasy was satisfied with his massage now but kept following his young master around the paddock. Standing to the left side of the foal, Katy led Fantasy over sticks, grass, pebbles, dirt, and even over a small rivulet of water that had drained from higher ground. After a little while the foal was strutting next to Katy as if this was old news; he was a pro at this. Head held high, neck and tail arched ' he was the picture of perfection.

Content that her foal was under control and primitively disciplined for the halter for the time being, Katy led the colt to the gate where Tori waited. After petting him for a few moments and allowing several more tidbits, Katy slipped the halter from the small red head and released Fantasy to play. At first he merely ambled around, but then he caught sight of Snow White, a small albino filly, and another filly, this a tobiano that was yet unnamed. With a squeal and a mighty buck that sent his small, perfectly formed hooves flying high in the air, he galloped over the ground to join his filly friends.

Katy laughed and turned to Tori, who had Black Hawk, her jet-black yearling colt, on a lead line. The foal was standing still, although his head and ears were turned and perked after his playmates. Tori released him, and with a move similar to Fantasy's, Hawk raced off over the uneven ground.

Katy laughed at their antics and turned back to look at her close friend. 'They're turning out really well, aren't they?' she asked, indicating the foals with a sweep of her arm.

Tori nodded. 'They sure are. They've come a long ways since-you know. You'd hardly even know they were abused by looking at them.' She slipped back through the fence and Katy followed suit. After replacing the halters in the supply room, the two friends headed for Karen's office for further instruction.

'Come in!' was the woman's reply to the loud rap on her door. Katy twisted the knob and the two teens entered the roomy, homey office. Karen looked up. 'What can I do for you, girls?'

Tori looked up from where she had been studying some pictures on the walls. 'Do you have anything else for us to do? We need something to do until we have to leave a little while from now.'

Karen propped her chin in her hands and pondered the question. 'Isn't it getting dark?' she looked outside and confirmed her own question. Then she shrugged. 'Your choice. Anyway, just about everything's done ' mucking, feeding, riding, grooming ' so I guess there's ' oh, wait! I know what you can do! Prepare stalls for the foals and somehow get them into them without a lot of to do. I know it's late and dark, but with the floodlights on you shouldn't have much trouble. Think you can handle it?'

The two girls looked at each other and nodded. 'Sure we can. We just worked for a long time with Fantasy and Hawk on halters,' Tori offered. 'We'll see if we can get Snow White and the other foal to follow them into the other stalls.'

Karen nodded. 'Sounds like a plan. Just be careful.'

Katy and Tori dashed from the office and raced each other to the supply hut, where they ran into Aaron. 'Hi, Aaron. Aren't you working on the barns anymore?'

The older boy shook his head. 'Nope. Too dark. They're going to be stopping work any time now, and I thought I'd get a little practice in with Elf.'

'Elf?' Katy questioned. Then it dawned on her. 'Is that what you named your pretty little filly?'

Aaron nodded. 'That's right. Her full name is now officially Elfin Charm.'

Tori sighed, clasping her hands together and placing them over her heart dramatically. 'That is such a pretty name, Aaron! It fits her perfectly!'

The other teen nodded. 'It does fit her. The 'elfin' part refers to her small, dainty stature, and she's one heck of a charmer. She's so-er, um, shall we say- delightful?'

Tori giggled. 'Aaron, are you afraid to admit you think she's cute?'

Aaron shrugged sheepishly and did something Katy had never seen him do before: he blushed. Katy almost missed it because of the dim light in the room, but it was there, all right. 'That's not usually something seventeen year old guys go around saying, but yeah, I think she's cute.'

Katy nodded in affirmation. 'She is cute. And she's perfectly formed, too, I quite agree. Are you going to register her, Aaron?'

'I sure am. Wouldn't miss it. I'm going to take her to shows when she's older.' He picked up the halter he had laid down when they entered and headed for the door. Tori and Katy quickly selected their own halters again and followed. They met Nicole on her way in as they came out. After hearing a quick explanation of their mission, Nicole hurriedly got her own halter and headed out with them to fetch Snow White.

Upon her whistle, Fantasy came racing at a full gallop toward Katy. The other looked on in amazement when the foal slid to a stop in front of their friend and nuzzled her for treats. Like an old hand, the bright bay colt allowed the halter to be slipped onto his head. Katy stood with him in hand and turned to look at her friends. 'Aren't you going to get the others?' she asked, wondering why they were watching her.

The small group dispersed as the three other teens headed over the uneven ground toward the foals, who were ambling in the direction of Fantasy. Black Hawk broke into a trot and reached his young master, Tori, quickly and allowed the halter to be slipped onto his head with a minimum of fuss. The pair joined Katy and Fantasy to wait for Aaron and Elf, Nicole and Snow White.

Nicole slowly approached her filly from the side, heading for the baby's shoulder. Snow White snorted in apprehension at the sight of the strange contraption in Nicole's hand but held her ground. Nicole stroked the satiny shoulder and worked the halter up around the filly's throat. Snow White bolted at the feel of the nylon and skittered away about twenty feet. Aaron had almost gotten Elf to accept the halter when Snow White upset the process. Elf scrambled away as the other foal almost slammed into her side. Aaron sighed and flung his hands into the air. 'Let's just see if they'll follow Fantasy and Hawk out. It's getting dark and we don't have a lot of time left.'

Nicole hunched her shoulders sheepishly. 'Sorry, Aaron. I couldn't help it. She got away.'

Aaron sighed. 'That's okay, Nicole. I know you didn't have control over it. Let's just get them in, okay?'

He and Nicole herded the two fillies behind the colts, who were led out the gate. It soon became apparent that the foals were too exhausted to make any sudden moves, but Aaron and Nicole kept their guard on the pair of fillies just the same. Elf walked right into her spacious stall and settled down to eat. It took a little more work to convince Snow White that there was nothing to harm her in her stall, but when the filly caught sight of her dinner, no more force was needed. She bolted toward it and began gobbling. All the foals had eaten as if every meal was their last since they had arrived. None of them were yet completely over the shock of the sudden change in atmosphere.

Katy led Fantasy into his stall and released him. The bay colt rolled in the fresh shavings and then guzzled a bunch of water. When his young master giggled at his antics, the foal turned his dripping muzzle to look at her. Streams of water drizzled down his nose and pooled onto the shavings before disappearing into the dirt floor. Katy laughed and turned to the tack room, which was situated right next to her charge's stall. She gathered up her newly purchased grooming tools and entered the stall again. First she pulled out a very soft brush and began stroking the foal's shoulder. Fantasy lifted his muzzle briefly from the hay pile on the floor to look at the tool but soon dismissed it and returned to his feasting. Katy brushed the initial dirt and dried grass from his body, neck and legs but couldn't get the deep-down dirt. She knew it would be a while before the foal would be tolerant enough to accept a bath, but couldn't help wanting to clean away the grime.

Since Fantasy didn't seem to mind the brushing, Katy pulled out a soft rubber currycomb and began rubbing it in circles to clear away dirt and other residue. Flecks of dead skin and hair flaked away from the small horse's body along with a torrent of dirt. Fantasy obviously favored rolling on one side of his small red body, because the marks and deep layers of dust on one side made it evident.

After another several minutes of fussing over the colt, Katy gathered up her grooming tools and shut the stall door, latching it securely behind her. Nicole met her coming out of the adjoining stall, which housed Snow White. 'Now what?' Katy's twin asked.

Katy shrugged. 'I don't know. I didn't ride for very long today, and Mom and Dad aren't picking us up until nine. Want to ride?'

Nicole nodded. 'Are you going to ride Cleopatra?'

'Sure. Why?'

'I thought since Twilight likes her so much, her being her daughter and all, that I'd take Twilight out and work with her a little in the indoor arena.'

'Good idea. I'll hurry and tack up so I won't keep you waiting.' Katy rushed off to the tack room for her grooming tools again and a halter and hurried out again several stalls down to the dappled gray mare's stall. 'Hi, Cleo,' she crooned, pulling a piece of carrot from her pocket. 'Ready to go for a ride?'

The tall horse nickered and lipped up the morsel. Katy fastened the halter around the mare's head and led her out into the crossties. She gave Cleopatra a quick but thorough grooming and headed into the tack room once more for her saddle and bridle. For a moment she enjoyed the name plate on the back of the saddle that proclaimed 'Katy Evans' but then remembered her promise and gathered up the rest of her riding items.

After securing the saddle over the saddle blanket and saddle pad, Katy zipped up her fringed western chaps and settled her riding helmet onto her head. She fastened the Velcro strips on her kidskin riding gloves and pulled the bridle over the mare's head. Nicole led the way through the path that connected the barns and the riding arena. They led the horses into the brightly lit arena and halted. The ring's floor was covered in shredded black rubber to keep the dust level down. It had gotten installed only the last month but was already a favorite among the riders.

Katy swung aboard her horse and settled into the saddle. She checked the girth from her mount and pulled the stirrups down. Since she was the only one using the saddle, the stirrups were always the right length. Katy untwisted the reins and slid her feet in their paddock boots into the metal stirrups. Before beginning her workout she glanced over at her sister. Nicole had the mare's bridle on and had lugged out a saddle and pad, too. She was rubbing the mare's back with the pad to familiarize the horse with its feel. Twilight did not move. She had already had a good deal of training in her past, but no one knew how much. Besides they didn't want to take any chances. After all, the mare had been running wild for three and a half years.

With a slight nudge Cleopatra began walking. Her rider steered her out to the rail and picked up a posting trot. The mare's strides flowed out one after the other without hesitation or variation. Katy began sitting the trot and felt as though she were sitting on a canter. There was almost no jostling whatsoever in the mare's stride. After circling the ring about ten times, Katy drew her mount to a walk so she could observe her sister at work.

Nicole settled the pad on Twilight's back and grasped the reins. She began walking slowly, keeping a watchful eye on the mare. Twilight stopped after a few steps to inspect the object on her back. Nicole fed the reins through her hand so the horse could swivel her neck. Then she suddenly pulled the mare's head back around. She pulled the pad off the horse's back and led her at a trot over to the fence where her halter was. Nicole quickly replaced the bridle with the halter and returned to her place in the middle of the arena.

'What was that all about?' Katy asked, wondering about her sister's motives.

'I didn't want her to be in a bridle if she bucked or took off or got out of control. She might hurt her mouth or step on the reins or something.' This explained, Nicole resumed her exercise and led her mare several steps forward. This time she allowed the horse to turn her head all the way around. With no incident, she led the mare around the ring one time with Katy standing in the middle observing.

Beaming, Nicole decided to move the mare into a trot. She figured that if nothing went wrong at the walk, what could happen with the trot. She clicked her tongue to the mare and began jogging. Twilight followed suit but very quickly became acutely aware of the shifting pad on her back. She couldn't turn her head very well while she was trotting, so she stopped in her tracks. With a mighty buck that sent the pad flying through the air where it hit right in front of Cleopatra's feet, Twilight jerked the lead line from Nicole's hand by skittering backwards and bolted for the riding arena's half open gate. 


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