Champion Horse

Champion Horse by Jane Smiley Read Free Book Online

Book: Champion Horse by Jane Smiley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Smiley
devil. She was on the chestnut and they went around the course fairly smoothly. The only thing I saw that was wrong was that every so often he shook his head as if he was mad about something. Sophia was scowling when she left the ring, even though they had a clean round and were within the time. Then that boy Andy came in on the Appaloosa. The Appy was a nice type – bay with a white blanket over his haunches and spots on both hips, and a black tail. He didn’t look like the other horses standing around – he was much flashier. The announcer said, ‘Now we have number three forty-five, Rascal, with Andrew Carmichael in the saddle.’
    Andy looked like he had all the time in the world. First they walked, then he shortened his reins, looked around, smiled, and picked up a trot. He settled in his saddle, and Rascal began to canter. It was a don’t-mind-if-I-do sort of canter, easy as you please, and Andy looked like he was enjoying himself completely, not nervous in any way. They cantered down over the first coop, then turned back towards the second jump, an oxer, and looped around towards a line of three jumps, an in-and-out and then a brush. Rascal folded his legs neatly, but he was pretty flat over the fences, as if he didn’t have to do much to accomplish his task. The last four jumps were a vertical, another oxer, another brush, and a gate. Rascal jumped all of them nicely and, you could say, exactly the same no matter what they were. The two of them came down to the trot just the way they had done everything else, easy as you please. And they, too, were within the time. When they left the ring, Daphne met him. They walked to the centre of the warm-up, and Andy did a funny thing – he pushed himself backwards off the saddle and slid down over Rascal’s tail. Rascal didn’t flick an ear. I laughed.
    After the jump-off, Andy was fourth and Sophia was fifth. I thought that surely Andy should get the prize for having the most fun of anyone in the class. When he was around, everyone else looked too serious and worried by comparison. I watched the three of them, Andy, Daphne and Rascal, walk back towards the barns.
    By the time I had watched the three-foot-three-inch hunters, I was almost dozing off, and then I remembered the tack tent. The tack tent was where they sold all sorts of things for horses and riders – boots and breeches and saddles and bridles, brushes, blankets, shirts, saddle soap, belts with horseshoe buckles, hairnets, leather halters and brass nameplates, horse bandages, and also books about riding. That’s what I thought I would go look at. Blue needed that, maybe. I got up and threw away my paper plate and my lemonade cup.
    The weather was now perfect – the pine trees around the show grounds were brilliant green in the sunshine, and their tops were swaying slightly with the ocean breezes. The air was fresh and smelled of all sorts of things – pine needles, horse manure, the ocean, some sort of sweet flower (Mom would have known but I didn’t). It was Thursday afternoon, and more horses were arriving for the weekend – glossy bays and chestnuts, a few greys and blacks. Not a single buckskin. We had had a buckskin, Dad’s favourite horse ever, Lester, but he’d sold him, just like he sold them all.
    The tack tent was not far from the barns, so I checked on Blue. He was working on his hay. He looked up, nickered once, and went back to it. I said, ‘Good boy.’
    I knew that the saddles and bridles and boots and breeches in the tack tent were none of my business, though I did let my hand run across the saddles just a bit.
    The books were in the back, on a table. There were only about ten of them, and three of them were stories, not how-to books. I picked up the next one, which was called The Cavalry Manual of Horsemanship and Horsemastership . It was the official manual of the United States Cavalry School at Fort Riley. Colonel Hawkins, Jane’s boss, who ran the barn, had gone to that cavalry

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