“HONK!” Jesus this New York traffic is ridiculous. I have been in the car for a hour and a half already, and I still have a hour left until I get to the barn. The most prestigious barn near me is two and a half hours away. I can’t complain though, the barn is amazing. Not only are the top ponies in America there but, we have the top juniors, grand prix, and Eq horses. Whispering Oaks is a top barn, and to prove it, MANY accomplished riders train there. Our trainers Nicole Tide and Travis Taylor are “known” throughout the ‘A’ circuit. Nicole champed at Pony Finals on her pony “Humpty Dumpty”, rode and placed at Maclay Finals, and placed at the USHJA Derby Finals. And Travis got Reserve at Pony Finals on a pony he was leasing “Oh My Gatsby”, and many more things. Personally I like Nicole better, I just click more with her and she treats me like her daughter. Travis will always be there for me but we don’t always get along.
“Lindsay, we will be there in five minutes.” “Okay, Thanks Jeff!” Jeff is my chauffer; I have known him since I was 5. Every Monday he drives me to Whispering Oaks, then on Thursdays he picks me back up to take me back home. I stay at the barn until Thursdays because I usually ride 10+ horses a day and it is way too hard to get up at 4 every morning to drive to the barn, so I stay with Nicole in her spare room. I’m her only student who does that. Everyone else live closer. One of my friends Noa lives five minutes away. Noa is amazing; she rides her pony named “BlackBerry”. I swear they were made for each other, Blackberry is a black welsh pony that is 13.1 hands tall. He has the cutest movement I have ever seen. And Noa loves him like he is her little brother, most days they are inseparable.
I shifted in my seat as we took a right turn onto a road called Whisper Way, hence the name of the barn. We drove a couple more feet through a grove of oak trees, and then I could see the white fences and rolling pastures. Ahead in the distance you could see the three barns. One for ponies, one more for the other horses, and another for the broodmares and foals. Every breeding season Nicole and Travis breed five of their top mares. They don’t breed for bloodlines though; they look at conformation, personality, and talent. They let the stud provide the beauty; they also pick a stud with talent. They just make sure the mare has some athletic ability.
The three barns are huge. I had never seen barns so big before. But Whispering Oaks is definitely something else. We drove for at least two more minutes before we turned into a little parking lot. There was a gorgeous fountain right in the middle, and off to the right was a pasture with two mares and their foals in it. When the foals are ready to be trained I have a feeling I will be helping Nicole out with that. Nicole trains all the greenies. Travis doesn’t have the time for that. He is a trainer at the barn, but he has another job as a lawyer, so Nicole does most of the stuff with the horses. I guess that’s another reason why I am closer to Nicole; because I am with her more.
When I got out of the car I said thanks to Jeff than walked over to the Golf Carts. You have to drive a golf cart around if you want to ever get to the barn. I’m the only one (aside from Nicole and Travis) who gets to drive one. The other girls have to walk into the office and have one of the guys drive them up there. I hoped into the golf cart and turned it on. I almost forgot to put the golf cart in drive before I started to go. I do that a lot…
On the way up to the main barn you see all the pastures because they are out front. But you also pass two round pens, an indoor ring that is used for pony courses because it’s pretty small and an outdoor schooling ring. That’s not all of them; there are also three more rings. One of them a jumper ring for the grand prix riders. That ring is amazing; it has liver pools, brick walls, and coops. Then there is the Eq ring. That ring has in-and-outs, hedges, wooden gates, and bending lines. Next is the pony ring, the ring I am mostly in. It has smaller jumps but they are pretty scary. Our ponies have to be used to scary jumps for Pony Finals. All of those rings are in the back behind the barns.
I pulled the golf cart into the parking area next to the feed room. I walked over to the huge chalk board. In the right hand corner it said we had a new student named Whitney. We don’t get very many new students, and when we do they are very good riders. And they are almost always nice; I can’t wait to meet her and her pony. Next I read what it said next to my name:
My pony’s name is Dreamy, and he is a dabble bay Welsh Pony. He is a large green and we have qualified for Pony Finals 5 times already this year. Last year I got him from the auction, and it is the best thing I have ever done.
Nicole doesn’t like laziness so she makes us tack-up our own horses and ponies. I walked over to Dreamy’s stall and put on his Circuit Double Raised Padded Leather Halter. I ran my finger over the brass nameplate that read “Dream Land” and thought back to the day I first got him. Not knowing I was smiling, I kissed my pony’s cheek and led him out of the stall. I walked him over to the crossties and grabbed my tack box. Dreamy is always so clean so I just curried him and ran a soft brush over him. Then I brushed his mane and tail free of knots. If we walk out in the ring with our horses looking anything less than perfect we aren’t allowed to have a lesson and we have to muck out 3 stalls. I put on my Antares Saddle and finished tacking him up. He just stood there the entire time to I gave him two sugar cubes; his favorite treat next to apple pies from McDonalds. I put my hair in my hairnet and put on my AYR8 Charles Owen Helmet put on my spurs and hopped on.
When I walked into the ring I saw that Nicole was teaching a lesson to the midgets. We call them midgets cause they aren’t older than eight and they are adorable little pony riders. One of them named Hannah saw me and waved. On her first day here she was so nervous so I helped her out and now she is like my shadow but I love her. Nicole was having Kate go through a hard little pony course with tight lines and Kate was making it look like the lines flowed right up to her. She was a great rider for a seven year old, and she will definitely make an amazing rider when she is older.
“Good morning Lindsay-Lou. Why don’t you start warming Dreamy up then we’ll start working on some bending exercises. Did you remember to put on your draw reins?” Nicole said to me in a silly tone. “Hey, banana nut! I grabbed my draw reins, but would it be okay if I warmed up without them and put them on after?” I didn’t want to warm up with them on because I wanted him to be able to stretch. “Sure thing kiddo,” Nicole said.
Nicole and I have nicknames for each other. She calls me whatever comes to mind, usually Squirt, Lindsay-Lou, Kiddo, and stuff like that. I call her Nikki, Banana Nut, and mother dearest. She really is like my second mom, and I love her like one too. If something happened to her I think I would die, she really means a lot to me. She does a lot for me too. I mean look how far she has gotten me already! I have champed at Pony Finals, HITS, WEF, and Devon. I love Nicole as a mom and a trainer.
Warming Dreamy up is really relaxing. He has the smoothest stride I have ever felt and he is majorly calm. Now granted, he is not made. Not one single bit. He still falls off his leads, still is unbalanced, and he still doesn’t know where the comfy distances are. Usually when you get a pony from the auction they are green broke if they are even broke at all so you really have to work hard with them. Ponies from the PF auction have lots of potential to go very far.
When I was done warming Dreamy up and Nicole was done with her lesson I hopped down and put my draw reins on. I was using draw reins today because we have a show this weekend, and we wanted him to look framed up for the hack. He has a natural frame but not the way they like in the larges. “Are you ready Lindsay-Lou?” she asked me. “Yep!”
“Okay Lindsay, let’s take him around the ring at an extended trot. Really make him move out and give into your hand. But don’t let him get to fast. And make him move off your leg not your hand.” I started trotting around the ring but Dreamy was pulling on me so I gave a slight tap to the outside rein and he dropped down into my hand. That’s what I love about Dreamy, you ask him to do something and he does it right when you ask. He is the perfect pony for me and I love him so much. “Lindsay, he is getting heavy in the bit, get him off your hands.” Oh crap. PAY ATTENTION! I screamed at myself. You can’t mess these lessons up; we have a show this weekend. I tapped him again and added more leg. We had to look perfect for the rest of this lesson. “Canter, please.” I squeezed my legs against Dreamy’s barrel and he stepped up into the canter. I tapped him with my outside rein to get him to frame up. He was trying to concentrate on keeping his frame and a good pace so he started cutting corners. Whenever we went through the corners I opened my outside rein and he moved into it. He is such a good pony.
“Hey! How has he been?” Alex walked up to Dreamy and gave him a kiss. “He’s been great! Are you showing this weekend?” I really want her to show so we can hang out. “Yeah! I can’t wait. We should hang.” I think she read my mind, she is Alex, and has super powers. Alex, Kurstin, and I always hang out at shows and on the weekends. They are my best friends. “Most def. You, Kurstin, and I will have to have a party at the hotel, and then go out to dinner.” I said. “YES! Then we can have a sleepover. This show is going to be awesome… Who are you showing?” Alex sounded really interested. “Well, I know I am doing Dreamy in the greens, and I may be doing Kartoon in some EQ classes. Oh and I am doing Webster in the small juniors, and Ant in childrens jumpers! How about you?” I asked Alex. I love showing against her because we don’t really try to win when we show against each other. It’s actually kind of funny the way it works but it’s a lot of fun. “I’m doing the Junior Jumpers on Serval, the large greens on Cyriac, and larges on Willie. I think I am doing Pilot in some EQ classes, and I am doing the juniors on Ferrari. It’s going to be a really fun show I think. Hopefully you and I dominate the large greens!” Alex said sounding extremely excited. “Oh yeah! This is going to be awesome… Well, I have to go ride Classy, so I will see you later! Are you going to come over Thursday so we can study for our test?” Alex and I do homeschooling. Well actually its online school but it’s pretty challenging and if we don’t keep our grades up then our parents are going to make us go to actual school and it’s really hard to do public school and ride. “Yeah!” I jumped and Alex started laughing. “You know Lindsay, you think and awful lot!” Then she turned and left the barn aisle.
After I was done riding all the horses I decided to clean my tack. Since the show is coming up I want it to be somewhat clean so it’s easier for me to clean later in the week. Normally we have grooms do this stuff but on some days I like to do it. I walked down the fancy brick aisle to the humongous tack room. I opened the door and turned on the light. Tons of saddle plates gleamed when the lights shone on them and the bits on the bridles glistened. I walked over to my Antares saddle and grabbed it off the rack and walked over to grab Dreamy’s bridle. He has an Arc De Triomphe bridle and he uses a happy mouth D-ring. When I clean my bridle I tack it apart completely and clean it, then take a rag and clean my bit of until it has nothing on it. I’m a bit of a clean freak if you can’t tell, but I love my stuff to be perfect. Once I was done cleaning and oiling my bridle I put it back in the blue bridle bag and started on my saddle. I always do my saddle last. I just don’t like to do it for some reason. I took my rag and wiped it over. Then dipped it in the water and put some saddle soap on it. I scrubbed so hard I thought I was going to wear a hole in the leather. “Jesus Lindsay, are you trying to put a whole in your saddle?” Alex startled me, yet another time. “You know Alex; you should really stop sneaking around. I think you are trying to give me a heart attack so you can have Dreamy.” I teased her. “Oh yes, most definitely.” Alex teased me back with her evil face. “What are you doing in here anyways?” I asked her. “I was looking for you, I wanted to do something with you but I couldn’t find you and I saw the tack room light on so I came in here! But I think I am just going to clean my tack too!” Alex replied. “Okay!” I smiled.
“Oh, written in the stars, a million miles away. A message to the main, ohh. Seasons come and go an—“, My phone was ringing so I ran and grabbed it, I hate it when my phone rings. I just get so embarrassed for some reason… “Hello?” I spoke into my iPhone 4.”Lindsey, can you have Sloane tack up Feather and hack him around the pony ring? I have someone trying him soon and I don’t want him to be too fresh.” Nicole asked me. “Sure thing Nicole!” I hung up the phone and told Alex I would be back in 5 minutes. I went looking for Sloane and found her in the barn aisle wiping off her boots. “Sloane, Nicole wants you to tack up Feather and hack him around the pony ring. I guess someone is trying him later and she doesn’t want him to be too fresh.” I said. “Ohmygosh really?!” She looked so excited and she had some-what of a twinkle in her eye. I have never seen her this way before. She was a newbie here and she really wants to be a big shot once she settles in. She really has talent too. “Yeah! Good luck and have fun girl!” I replied back to her with a smile on my face. And with that I turned on my heel and stalked back to the tack room to finish cleaning my tack. Once I got in there Alex was deep into thought over something on her phone. “Alex? Are you okay?” I noticed when I said that my voice cracked. Alex just kept reading. “ALEX?! What is going on?” I asked her again. It was so quiet in here you could hear a pin drop. Then she finally snapped out of it and looked at me. Her face was pale and was that a tear in her eye? “Alex?” my statement came out sounding more like a question. “My parents just texted me, they sold Ferrari.” She said, her voice cracking even worse than mine did. “Oh Alex, I’m so sorry! Why would they do this to you? And right before Junior Hunter Finals?!” I couldn’t even concentrate; I was just looking around the tack room. I found myself staring at Ferrari’s bridle. Alex’s parents buy and sell horses often, but Ferrari and Alex are an amazing pair. I don’t know what they were thinking. “I don’t know… I just… I—“then she started crying. I know how much Alex loves her horses. I walked over and hugged her tight, leaning into her. “It’s okay Alex, I’m here for you.” Alex pulled away and sat down again. I pulled out my phone and texted Nicole: “Alex’s parents just texted her and told her they sold Ferrari. I think we may drive the golf cart over to Starbucks and sit for a while… Is that okay with you?” I clicked sent then went over and sat down with Alex. My phone vibrated about two minutes later. “Sure thing kiddo. I knew about it but I didn’t know they were going to tell her through a text message.” I locked my phone and stood up. “Come on Alex, we’re going to Starbucks for a while.” Alex stood up slowly. She looked a little wobbly but she regained herself, then we walked out of the tack room arm-in-arm.
Once we got to Starbucks we just sat there and talked. Alex was pretty upset, I mean who wouldn’t be? Her parents just texted her and told her that they sold her horse. Of course she has more, but Alex isn’t like the type of snobby girls’ who just say “oh well”. She actually cares and gets upset. We have been at Starbucks for like 30 minutes now. “Alex, how about we go back to the barn and tonight we can ichat with Noa and have an ichat sleepover?” We do those about once a week with Noa, and we are all best friends, but right now Noa is in Wellington, Florida with Gigi Florence. Gigi is a top trainer there. Noa is there because her parents want her to be a seasoned rider with different trainers on her hands. Gigi and Nicole know each other and are pretty good friends. Noa stays in Florida 6 months through-out the year. Alex perked up and once again she had that little gleam in her eye and her lips curled up into a noticeable grin. “OMG yes!” Alex looked and sounded excited. I pulled out my cell phone and texted Noa to let her know everything.
After a while Noa texted me back and was upset because of the whole situation but was excited for the ichat party. “Okay Alex, we’re going to have out sleepover tonight with Noa. But right now we are going to go ride Ant and Serval. Okay?” I asked Alex. She looked at me and smiled. “Sure thing. You’re such a great friend.” Then she walked over and pulled me into a hug. “Pshh, no I’m not. I’m a lame excuse at a best friend.” Then she punched me. “Let’s go!” Alex yelled. So we skipped down the barn aisle and every time we passed a horse they bobbed their head at us. I got to Ant’s stall and Alex was at Serval’s stall which was just across the aisle. Alex slipped Serval’s leather halter over his ears and clipped the throat latch on and attached his white cotton lead rope, and I did the same with Ant. Ant really isn’t an Ant, he is a giant 17.1 hand black Selle Français. And Serval is a16.1 hand bay Belgian Warmblood. Really though, Alex and I look like the ants when we are riding them. We both are only 4’11, so we’re SHRIMPS. Alex and I are always racing to get to the crossties. It’s sort of like our thing. I was trying to get Ant to walk faster but he just trailed on along like a slug and Serval was taking big long fast steps like Alex was asking him too. “Gosh darn you Ant!” I said shaking my fist. Alex looked over at me with a smirk on her face as she was hooking up the cross-ties to Serval’s halter. “You know Lindsey; you need a faster horse than that slug there to win jumpers.” Alex said jokingly to me. And I shot her a look, “Yeah well, well… I got nuthin’.”
Alex just laughed at me. Although I got there later than her I tacked up faster than her. I brushed him off and picked his hooves. Then I put my white Fleecworks pad on him and plopped my Antares saddle down on his back. I have to stand on a stool to get the saddle on him. Nicole likes to laugh at me and Alex because of that. I think it’s pretty funny too, but I like being this tall! Then I can ride any size pony AND I can ride any size horse. Next I slipped his standing martingale on him and put it through the girth. Since Ant was a pretty chill horse I put the girth up as high as I could get it. Most of the time he doesn’t care but today he swished his tale at me. I could tell today he was going to give me a hard time. I walked over to my tack trunk and put my hairnet, then my helmet after that. I slipped on my spurs and grabbed my crop. I usually just school them in spurs but I could tell that today I would need that extra umpff. Most the time he was pretty good, but today, well I don’t know but it seems like he is going to be a little jerk. I walked back over to Ant and noticed that Alex did put her spurs on and she didn’t grab her crop. I bet Serval was going to be perff today as usual. I love Serval, and every once in a while Alex and I would switch horses.
“Ready to go Alex?” I asked her. “Uhm, yeah, one sec.” she said. I walked over and grabbed Ant’s bridle and bridled him. His snaffle was gleaming in the sunlight. “Good boy Ant” I murmured. “Okay! I’m ready” Alex said. I took his halter off from around his neck and walked him forward. Once we got out of the barn I jumped up on the mounting block and hopped on. Ant started walking before I had my feet in my stirrups. “ANT, stop.” I gritted through my teeth. He just kept walking on forward. Who needs stirrups I thought? “ANT!” I yelled at him now. I sat up and pulled him into a circle and made him stop. Once he stopped I made him back up 2 steps. “Now you knock it off or I will make Alex get on you.” I threatened him. Alex walked over now on Serval and she smiled at me. “Is he giving you heck today?” Alex questioned me. “Yes, did you see him? He wouldn’t even stand still to let me on.” I said and my voice ended up sounding high pitched. “I hope you can ride a buck today.” Alex laughed.
I walked Ant on into the ring and walked him at an upbeat walk and asked him to frame up. I kept my leg on him and played with my outside rein. Most horses I ride drop down right away but with Ant it takes a little while longer. After about two laps at the trot he started to drop down on the bit. I said good boy and pet him, but I made him keep trotting. I snuck a glance at Alex and boy was that a bad idea. I envy her equitation. She was trotting Serval around at an extended trot and had him drop his head down low, but not too low. He was being absolutely perfect. I looked a little closer at Alex and saw that she was pushing a little harder with her inside leg and really bending Serval even though his head was down. I felt a sting of jealousy rage through me. “Why can’t I ride like that?” I thought. I focused more on Ant and I got him to look somewhat like Serval. He was being exceptionally good for what I though—I felt a huge surge from underneath of me and Ant through his back legs out and up into a buck. I sat it fine, but then he took off. I sat up and kept my cool. This kind of this happens all the time with him. I massaged the outside rein and gently pulled it back and let it go, pulled back then let go. He finally came back to me, but instead of pulling him back to the trot I made him keep cantering at a collected pace. Now that he got all of those jitters out I think we should be fine. I cantered him around the arena to the left for 5 minutes. Then I went up the quarter line and when I found an opening to do a half circle and switch directions with the lead change I switched directions. I simply stepped out and bumped my inside rein. Ant swapped his lead with a little swish of his tail. “Ant, you really have some spunk don’t you?”I said with a funny soft tone. He snorted in return. I looked over across the ring and noticed Alex was sitting there watching me. I pulled up Ant and walked over to her. “How long have you been watching me?” I asked with a snarky British accent. “Oh, just since he bucked and took off” Alex laughed. “Good job sitting that buck. It was huge!” She added. “Really, it didn’t feel huge. I think he should be good for the rest of the hack. Do you want to school each other over some jumps?” I asked her. “Sure! You go first.” she smiled. I squeezed Ant into the canter and circled him once before pointing him at a single on the quarter line set up at 2’9. Ant wobbled a little so I balanced him with my legs and outside hand. He straightened and I found the distance. It was going to ride up a little long so I sat back and added half a step more. He took off and tucked his legs up to his chin even though he just walked over it. When we landed I turned him to a 3 stride to a 1. When Ant saw it he backed off and tried to fade to the right. I put my right leg on him hard and pulled my left rein back straight a little and he straightened out. He jumped a little long to the in of the 3 but we made up for it. I sat back and added a little leg. 3, 2, and 1 I counted down in my head. I lifted my hand and let Ant come up to me. He cleared the 3’ oxer easily. I turned inside of an end jump and went for a single oxer. These would be the death of me some day. I got Ant straight and saw my distance right away. It was going to come up perfectly. I just flowed up to it and he jumped the green and white 3’6 vertical. I slowed him to the walk and pet him.
“He was fantastic!” I said to Alex. “Yeah, he looked great! And so did you. I think I am going to do that same course.” She blinked. She set off at a trot and got him to pick up the canter in 2 strides. Serval immediately dropped his head down in a frame and cantered really quiet for Alex. She turned the corner to the single and right away I saw the distance for them and so did she. Alex sat up and rode up to it. Serval cleared it with several inches to spare. Then she pointed him to the 3 to 1. Serval saw it and got his own pace without Alex asking him too. Alex got the same distance I did and Serval jump gorgeous. She was going to be a little deep to the out of the 3 so she pulled a little to keep it balanced. When she got to it she didn’t lean like a lot of riders do. She simply let Serval jump up to her. They landed and Serval cantered the one stride and then tucked up to his eyeballs. When Alex landed she pet him and turned to the single oxer. The distance for them was going to be slightly long. She put her leg on and got him up to the distance without making Serval swim. Once she landed she let him walk and then she hugged him. Overall, that course was amazing.
“Let’s cool them out. They were really really good today.” Alex said smiling. She was obviously very happy with her course. I smiled back and said “omg deff, they were amazing.” We walked out of the ring and headed to the back pasture where we would cool them out. “I think we are ready for this show, I mean the horses are being amazing and so are the ponies. And I am going to talk to my parents and see if I am still showing Ferrari in the junior hunters. If I am I want to make it an amazing last show. Know what I mean?” Alex asked me, making Serval walk over a little puddle of water. “Yes definitely. That makes tons of sense. And if you can show him, you will do amazing on him. He loves you Alex. He has been great for you recently. And I know you are going to be sad that he is gone, but you know that quote—don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened? Well you have to go by that. You have to know that you and Ferrari happened for a reason and him getting sold happened for a reason. Maybe there is another good thing around the corner. Look at it as a good thing. Of course you’re going to miss him, but still it can also be a good thing.” I said taking a deep breath. Alex just looked over at me and smiled. We kept walking around the white fence line. I looked out across the pasture at the amazing barns and the rolling hills. The white fences just made everything tie together. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to ride here. Then I looked down at Ant and he had his ears forward and was walking with a spring to his stride. I reached down and pet his sweaty neck. “You were a good boy Ant.” I grinned. I love this horse so much. I looked over at Alex one more time and saw that she had tears streaming down her face. I pulled Ant up, “Hey, why are you crying?” I questioned her. “Well what you said, it’s so true, but I don’t want it to be over yet. I never want it to be over. I love him so much. I just can’t picture my life without him.” Alex sighed. “Yeah, I know. It’s going to hurt for a while, but you just have to be happy. You can’t always live in the past; you have to keep moving forward.” I said matter-of-factly. “Yeah, I guess. But it is going to take a while to get over.” Alex sighed. “Of course it is! I mean you love that horse! But think about it, you’ll get to see him at shows!” I smiled. I looked over at Alex and saw her lips curl up into a small grin. We walked over to the gate and opened it. Once we walked out we shut the gate and walked towards the barn. I saw Nicole over by the barn entrance talking to a very tall man. When we walked over I heard her talking. “Yes Mr. Henning he is a top pony and will make you lots if that is what you’re interested in.” Nicole said side-stepping Poncho her collie. “OH MY GOD!” Alex whisper screamed to me. “What?” I spat. “That is Mr. Henning. You know, he owns all the pony finals winners, all the Devon winners, and like every top horse!” Her voice was hushed but loud at the same time. Nicole saw us walking over. “Please introduce us. Please introduce us.”I thought. “Mr. Henning, this is Alex King and Lindsey Sail. They are two of my top students.” I blushed and so did Alex. “I can’t believe she just said we were the two top students!” “Ah yes. I have heard of these two. They did exceptionally well at pony finals. Am I right?” Mr. Henning asked. “Yes, Lindsey champed in the Large Greens on her pony Dreamy or Dreams come true. And Alex champed in the Larges on her pony Cyriac.” Nicole boasted our championships to Mr. Henning. “Ah I see. Very good indeed.” Mr. Henning said. He kind of has an odd accent. He looked me and Alex up and down. “I think I am going to have them show two of my large greens for me.” Mr. Henning announced. My heart dropped from my chest to my toes and all the blood rushed to my head. Alex sort of sputtered and she lost her balance a little in the saddle.