Somewhat of a mystery story about teenage girls competing horses, while being stalked
| FOXHUNT : Rainie
“Run. Keep going. Rush. Keep up. Those phrases keeping running in my head as we duck between tree trunks, as we keep crashing through palm fronds and over fallen logs. You can’t stop, or take a break or else you’d be left behind. We had to keep running to keep up with the dogs; running to keep up with the other riders. You don’t stop or else you won’t be found for a very, very long time. Shasta kept his feet underneath him, steady and quick to keep up with the rest but not become so exhausted that he’d lose focus. I look to my left, and see Kat, as Shadow pounds next to me. We take a log, running in sync, keeping the same pace. Faster and faster we push. Harder and harder we hit. It’s pure adrenaline. It’s pure power. It doesn’t get much better than that. The dogs are under our feet, nipping and chasing the fox that is eluding us just beyond the tree line. We are completely indifferent to the world around us, and we only think about what’s in front of us. The sun shows up over the trees, just rising out of the east. We hear the call and bank off, knowing what’s going to happen only too well. As soon as the hunt master calls on the horn, we know the fox is going to be brought down. The hounds are at his neck when we go around the corner, and I have to look down, away from the death of this poor fox. I am too delicate to look at them; they don’t look the same with broken necks and bloody spots. This isn’t the same as those hunting trips, and you see the poor thing mutilated and ripped apart by dogs. I never can look, so Kat rides Shadow right in between us. She cares enough to keep me away from the bleeding animals.”
“It was over soon, and we headed in. The dogs were on our heels, running up with us while keeping a good distance. Each stride was long and lanky, keeping up with the hunt master in front of us. Shasta’s floppy ears bounced along in rhythm with the walk, and he gave a gentle tug with his jaw. He wanted to run again, after two hours of running. This was my horse. The ride had been amazing, but you’d think he’d be spent. Shasta always ran up front, it was just his thing. He loved the hunt more than anything. His speed and heart was unmatched by any horse on the field that day, we had to hold back his huge gallop to keep him from passing the hunt master. It was pure adrenaline. We took four foot logs at that kind of speed, and took coops perfectly. Nobody was going to top my horse, he was too amazing and had too much just flat out heart to be replaced. He played with the bit, trying to run again, prancing just a little bit. When we finally got to the trailer, he relaxed, and allowed me to tie him.”
“I sprayed my horse down with the freezing cold hose, keeping the water running over his neck and back. He puffed slightly gently, putting his nose down right into the middle of my stomach. He pushed gently, and rubbed his nose on my shirt. He wanted his nose rubbed, and I kinked the hose for a second, and cupped my hands around his chin and rubbed him under the nostrils with my thumbs. He sighed through his nose, and closed his eyes. In a couple minutes, he fell asleep in my hands.”
“Eventually, we have to go home, so as we load up into the trailer, Shasta and I turn around, and take one last look at the place, taking a picture in my mind of this amazing landscape. I take the trailer ride home in silence, and when we drive into the barn yard, Hailee and Becca are waiting for me, eating their dinner with mine on the bench next to them. We greet, and I tell them about everything. After I finished my food, I go in after my cookie. I realize almost too late that it had two, half moon shaped bite marks in the sides. I scowl and split the cookie in half, and give it to my sisters, who give high fives and swallow the whole thing.
That was an entry I wrote in my diary, right before the accident. This was the last foxhunt we’d ever had. This was the last dinner we’d ever had as sisters. It hurts way too much to rehash, and just reading that paper was enough to bring me to tears, remembering my horse and the family I used to have. I shoved the paper, creased and folded into a million ways, back into the folder, and pushed it back under the bed. The folder was my Memory folder. It had a stack of pictures, several DVD’s, some papers that I wrote, and a lock of Shasta’s mane. It was all I had left of them.
I looked to the clock, seeing the time, and realized I had to go. Several of us are going a movie, and then going to practice for the Wellington Event Riders. We have an event team, one of the many differences since Shasta left. It was myself, Kaitlyn, Anna Lee, Indie, and Kat. This was a competitive club, basically, and all you had to do was compete in regional eventing competitions. The thing was, only one of us was going to make it to States. Each of us thought it was going to be herself and her horse, each for a different reason. Kaitlyn had been riding the longest, and had a very good horse for it. Sonny was a huge Thoroughbred that could absolutely fly. Anna Lee had Lakota who could do about anything. She didn’t really want to get into States, because she was just doing it for the training. Indie needed to make it into States, or so she said. Her horse that she rode often had been sold during the time when Shasta left. Her mom said that if she made States, she’d be bought a horse. Kat was least likely to make it to States. She wasn’t a bad rider; no actually she was quite good. She was in the top ten best riders out of two hundred in the barn. It’s just that the other girls were in the top five. I wanted so badly to get into States. If you’re in that show, you get your picture and name in the magazine “The Chronicles of the Horse.” You also win a six thousand dollar cash purse. I didn’t really need the money at that time, but I was still sore about money and wanted it. I needed to make a choice. Lyra and Jeremy were completely able to do whatever jump that the judge decided to stick in front of us, but we had to decide which one I was going to take with me into the finals. I hadn’t chosen yet, but I had to make the choice in the next week or else my instructor would choose for me. It was a hard choice.
I was still in my pajamas, and it was around nine. The movie started at ten and ended at twelve. It was a close drive to the barn, where AnnLee, Indie and I would lesson. Then in the next hour, Kaitlyn, Kat and I would lesson. I had to ride both of my horses, and Mrs. Caroll was going to tell me which one I should take to WER. Directly after that, I was going to take Dash out on a trail ride with Kat. My life was perfect, in retrospect. I didn’t let anybody see beyond that. Nobody could know what was actually happening. I slipped into my jeans. Those were my favorite jeans, ones that were really worn in the butt from being ridden in, not from machines. They fit snug but with enough moving room, and were short enough for my legs to be covered without bunching. I threw on my Guy Harvey shirt, and did my face. Every morning I did that, plastered eyeliner, shadow, and mascara on to make my eyes look bigger, and not swollen like I had been crying. I applied face makeup to cover my dark circles from nights where the nightmares from my sisters and my horse would wake me up, keeping me from ever actually sleeping. My lipstick covered the deep, bloody marks that were left when I woke up at night, my teeth digging in to keep from screaming out loud. The girls on my Event Team knew what had happened, how I had first lost my adopted brother, my horse and then both my sisters. They knew what kind of pain I was in, and to keep from upsetting me, they just kind of avoided the topic. They didn’t understand my pain, and nobody probably ever would, except maybe my parents. But I had to continue. I brushed my hair, focusing to keep tears from falling, and then straightened it to keep it flat. I slipped my trademark converse on, and then went to my mother. She asked me if I was okay, and if I really felt up to going. I told her I had to go, to train. She agreed and let me, knowing that when I was with my friends, the fog lifted away from me.
I sat inside, on the green couch that was pushed up against the base of the window, looking at the tree house that Hailee and Rebecca used to play in. It still had the Christmas lights up that they had used to see in the middle of the night. I choked back the tears, as I had become so tired of crying. Crying was considerable weakness, as it meant you were scared or not strong enough to handle what was happening. I waited until the convertible royal blue mustang pulled up and I hopped into the back. That’s how it always was. It was always AnnLee driving, Kat at shot gun, myself on the left, Kaitlyn in the middle, and Indie on the right. We drove to the movie theater, with the convertible roof down, blasting rap music. It was pretty funny, because five totally white girls were driving around with super loud gangster music playing, with our made up faces and Guy Harvey tee shirts. We waved at strangers, and smiled really big at everybody we saw. This was why I loved my girls. I can forget about everything when I’m with them. Eventually we made it to the movie theater. AnnLee had gotten lost on US 1, and had driven around in U-Turn circles looking for the exit.
We walked to the box office, and bought five tickets to see some romance movie with Sandra Bullock in it. She was Indie’s favorite actress so of course you had to go see the movie opening weekend. We got our popcorn and drinks, and sat down in the theater. We just kind of chilled out for ten minutes, making fun of the previews and talking about which ones we were going to see next. It’s always a great time with them. When the movie started, we all got real quiet. We stayed that way, in rapt attention until the credits. All in all, it was a cute movie. It wasn’t going to make my top ten, but it definitely wasn’t in my low ten either. By that time, everybody loaded back into the car and we drove all the way back to the barn. We tacked up our horses, and rode well. Lyra was in the first lesson.
I bought Lyra as a finished horse, but then added dressage into her training. She was ten at the time, and a beautiful, bay colored thoroughbred. She was quick as a whip and could jump anything you put in front of her without railing out or even thinking about grazing it. She didn’t understand the meaning of the word “refusal,” and she took the turns like nothing. The only horse equal to her standard was Jeremy. He was younger by several years, and therefore greener. He was not a finished horse by any standards, but after a year, yes, I do believe it’s been a year, he’s become a star eventer. His color was glossy but not as bright as Lyra. Lyra was probably the better choice, although Jeremy had been scoring better. The second lesson that Jeremy and I did was also good. It’s hard to tell which lesson was a better ride. Jeremy and Lyra took the four foot oxers as if nothing was underneath them, because in fact, we had jumped much higher. We had to create jumps that worked on the same caliber as these horses. Since the team was created, a cross country course was built out in an old abandoned paddock down the road. We had the most random jumps, but we would ride down the road anyway to tackle things such as picnic tables, wheelbarrows, truck beds, in and out flower pot beds, miniature huts, and normal upright fences. We didn’t do that on that particular day, though. We rode and rode, then finally we were done, and we took a really slack trail ride. It was almost seven, and we had been cleaning tack for hours, talking about everything and nothing. Kat and I snuck out of the room while the others were having a sponge war, and put our western tack up onto our horses.
Dash was a young paint with black patches that look like he’d been black to begin with and paint-balled with white. He was a reining horse, though I only show him every once in awhile, since I’m really busy elsewhere. He’s usually my trail horse, or the horse that I ride if I just want to chill out and do something normal for a change. He’s also the horse that Becca picked out when we were window shopping for horses on line. She had wanted to make a wish list, so I helped her pick out horses. Dash really was the only one Hailee and she actually agreed on. After the accident, we looked at all these horses that the girls had picked out, and agreed on him. In some opinions, that made him my favorite to have. I wouldn’t sell him for any money in the world, because that felt like putting a price on the memory of my sisters. Also, he looked a lot like Shasta, only with black instead of bay. I was caught up in a train of thoughts when Kat came and knocked on the stall door.
“You ready yet Rainie?” she asked.
I looked toward my horse, with a halter and a saddle pad on his back. “Nope,” I said, and then slung my saddle up off the ground, easing it gently down his onto his back. I secured the latigo, remembering the rhyme they taught me in horse camp eight years ago. “Cowboys have to make this knot to keep them off the ground. Loop your cinch up really tight, then pull the strap back around. Pull the top up through the ring, then down back underneath, cause if you do that one part right, you won’t taste the ground.”
“Now you are,” she said, as I slid the bit into his mouth.
“Now I am.”
We mounted, and rode forever it seemed. Dash is different than my Thoroughbreds; he’s like riding waves on the sea, fluid and soft. We walked, trotted, cantered, and hand galloped down the paths to our secret place. When we got there, we stopped. This was where we talked. I didn’t have much to say, though. I hadn’t told her the story about my sisters yet. And I didn’t necessarily want to. I had to tell her eventually, she was one of my best friends. But telling her would be one of the most painful things. Nobody really had received the details, because every time I tried to say something, I would cry, get sick, and not be able to talk. It was just impossible to get the words out. I had to try, though, and so I turned to look at Kat. Her brown hip length hair had fallen out of its ponytail along the way, and was hanging around her body. Her eyes were taking me in, waiting for me to say what I needed to say.
“Kat,” I started, “did I tell you about how Becca and Hailee died?”