“When do I get to ride, Strider? I’ve been mucking stalls for a whole week now,”
Strider laughed, “Oh yeah, a whole week. You crack me up, Bethany. You have to earn the chance to ride. A week is not a long time.”
“It seems like a long time to me,” said Bethany as she dumped the pile of manure from the stable fork into the wheelbarrow.
Strider dumped a load from the stall he was cleaning and then turned to Bethany. “Bethany, riding a horse is a privilege. Especially, Antonia’s beautiful Arabians. You’re looking at this all wrong. Not many people get the chance at all. Your time will come.”
“Well, I hope I’m not a grey-haired old lady, before it does.”
Strider laughed again. “You go see your girl. There’s only one stall left. I’ll clean it.”
“Really?! Thank you, Strider!” Bethany dropped her fork and ran down the barn aisle.
“Bethany, you forgot something,” Strider called out.
Bethany didn’t hear Strider as she ran toward the far north pasture. She slowed to a walk about halfway there. Even as excited as she was, she couldn’t run that far at top speed. The trek was worth it though. The fiery, red filly lifted her head and locked eyes with Bethany from a safe distance at the top of a hill. Bethany had made the long journey on foot to the north pasture several times now to try to make friends with Fyrestorm. She had brought a halter with her on the first trip, thinking she would catch her, because Antonia said they had haltered her before to give her shots and a vet checkup, but other than that the two-year-old filly had not received any training.
The first walk to the pasture had not gone well. As soon as Fyrestorm saw the halter, she turned on her heel and took off out of sight over the far hill in what seemed an instant. Bethany didn’t bring the halter the next time, and the filly still ran, but just far enough away to keep an eye on the strange, auburn-haired girl. Bethany considered that a success, so she continued her halter-less visits, hoping the filly would begin to trust her.
On this occasion, Fyrestorm only ran a few steps, but still out of reach, and watched Bethany. Her heart felt as if it would burst from her chest as she watched the filly standing on a small hill; head held high, neck bowed, nostrils flared as her red mane flowed and her arched tail plumed out behind her. The beauty of the filly was breathtaking. Bethany wanted her for her own with all her heart, but she knew her mother couldn’t afford to buy her. Bethany was saving all her money from her new job, hoping it would be enough to one day make Fyrestorm her very own.
“Fyrestorm, please let me near you. I just want to pet you. No riding yet. That will come later,” called out Bethany.
As if in answer, Fyrestorm neighed, a shrill, wild sound, like music to Bethany’s ears and then she was out of sight in a flash.
Bethany watched in dismay at the spot where the red filly had been standing just a moment before. The fall grass on the hill was a peaked mix of green and gray, but all Bethany could see was the gray, because her heart ached for the filly. She had never felt such love and yearning for anything before in her life. Not that existed in reality anyway. Bethany spent most of her time up in her own head with make believe horses, some of them even had wings and she fantasized about riding a winged horse across the skies. She dreamed of freedom from the persecution and ridicule she suffered in real life. There was no sadness in her fantasies, just bravery, glory, and love.
Bethany was startled out of her reverie, by something pressing into her back. She let out a little yelp and jumped and then she heard hooves pounding the hard ground. She turned heart about to burst, because surely Fyrestorm had snuck up behind her. The horse that had darted just a few feet from her was a beautiful chestnut, but not Fyrestorm; it was her dam, Fyrelite. A beautiful red mare, but with just a star instead of a star and stripe, like her daughter.
Bethany was disappointed, but when the mare tentatively walked back up to her and nuzzled her, it warmed the girl’s heart. The broodmare was carrying a foal, due to be born in the spring, sired by Antonia’s black stallion, Spirit. Strider said only the best broodmares were bred to Spirit. Bethany began to pet the lovely mare. “Oh, Fyrelite, I wish you could explain to your daughter, that I love her and would never hurt her,” said Bethany while scratching the mare’s neck just under the base of her mane. Fyrelite loved the attention and curled her neck around, almost falling over she was in such ecstasy.
As Bethany, continued to scratch and rub on her neck, she saw Fyrestorm standing on the hill again out of the corner of her eye. The filly was watching their spectacle. Bethany smiled and realized she had been going about approaching the filly all wrong. She remembered reading somewhere online that horses are very curious and if you ignore them, they become even more intrigued. Her hands were getting tired and starting to cramp up a bit, but she was determined to get the chance to at least touch Fyrestorm.
It was working, her patience was paying off. The filly had ventured closer. ‘Maybe if she realized her mom likes me, she’ll start to trust me,’ Bethany thought. Fyrestorm walked a few steps closer and snorted. She was close now; Bethany could almost feel the breath of her snort. Her hands and arms were aching now, but if she could just draw the filly in a little closer.
And then it happened, she felt the filly’s muzzle in the center of her back. She stayed very still and held her breath a bit. She trembled with excitement, smiling from ear to ear. Just as she was about to risk turning to pet her beloved filly, Tyler came galloping up to the broodmares riding Flame, the younger resident stallion at Kuhaylah Arabians. The beautiful, sorrel, Arabian stallion arched his long neck and whinnied in delight at the site of the mares, but Tyler was an excellent equestrian, and he kept the great stallion under his control. Fyrestorm wheeled about and galloped off into the distance. Bethany had lost her chance.