by Mindy Tyska
Zoey and her horse Oreo go to a horsey summer camp and realize its not all fun and games.
“Remember Honey, we’ll be back for you in two months” My mother babbled as our SUV crunched past the sign for Whispering Woods Riding Academy.
“I know Mother” I replied for the hundredth time. Last month my parents had enrolled me in the Whispering Woods Summer Camp and today was the first day. I was bubbling with excitement but I tried not to let it show through.
“Did you bring your toothbrush and toothpaste; how about Oreo’s oats and grooming bucket?” my Dad asked. The car jolted as we neared the Riding Academy.
“Yes Dad, we brought everything that we would possibly need.” I squished my face against the ice cold window as we neared the complex. Gasping with amazement I took in the golden wood of the stable and cabins, the sparkling windows, and crisp, clean exterior.
My dad let out a long, low whistle. “Sure is nice, I wish I was staying here for two months.” A clattering in the trailer behind us cut Dad off.
Oh, I forgot to mention that this summer camp isn’t just for girls; you could also bring your horse along too! Dad steered the car into a nearby parking space, and I vaulted out of the door before he had even stopped. My mother was right behind me.
“Zoey darling, could you unload Oreo? Tie him to that post over there, and then help your father unload the truck and trailer. I’m going down to the Office to sign you in.” With that last word she rushed off to register me.
Walking around the rear of the horse trailer, I undid the clasps and lowered the ramp to the ground. Slipping in next to Oreo I untied his neon blue lead rope from the ring, and backed him out. I grabbed his matching neon blue halter incase he had ideas of pulling free.
Oreo was my Appaloosa gelding that I got for my ninth birthday. He resembled a Dalmatian with his snow white coat, and big black spots all over his body. He had chocolate brown eyes that took in every detail in seconds. Oreo excelled at jumping and had a kind, and gentle nature.
Rubbing his spotted nose affectionately I led him over to the post my Mother had pointed out and tied him up with a quick-release knot. Giving the knot one final tug, I walked back over and helped unload the car with my father.
When the last bag had been unloaded my Father and I followed the signs to the Office so we could meet up with my Mother. My Father opened the Office door and I was blown away by what met me.
All around the room were hundreds, and hundreds of ribbons. Most were the blue first place ribbons, but there were also ribbons of other colors and shades. The furniture consisted of an oak desk, four plastic chairs, and a small side table with a coffee maker and water cooler on it. My mother was seated in one of the plastic chairs, chatting with the person seated behind the desk.
“Welcome! You must be the rest of the Santoni family!” The woman behind the desk called. “I’m Jane Richards, the director of Whispering Woods Summer Camp.” She rose to shake my father’s hand.
“Hello Ms. Richards, I’m David Santoni; Zoey’s father” my dad replied while returning the handshake.
“Welcome to Whispering Woods! So Zoey, how do you like it so far?” Ms. Richards asked.
“I love it! It’s the most wonderful place I’ve ever seen! I can’t wait to get started!”
“Just fantastic!” the director exclaimed. “Now Ms. and Mr. Santoni, you will be here to pick up your daughter on the scheduled date, correct?”
“Yes, we will be there at twelve o’clock with the van and horse trailer.” My mother replied.
“Perfect!” Ms. Richards sang. “As you know we offer many day activities, and nightly campfire gatherings. Zoey will be located in the Buckskin Cabin; she will be roomed with four other girls, all specially picked. If you have any questions or concerns after you have left today, just call us and we will get back to you ASAP! Zoey doesn’t have any medical conditions right?”
“No, not one medical condition” my dad answered proudly.
As the adults talked I zoned out and imagined what the next two months would bring. I couldn’t wait to try out the cross country course! Maybe Oreo and I could practice in the dressage arena too. Whispering Woods was also supposed to have twenty miles of wood and lake trails. Maybe we could go on one. I hope the food is yummy; do they serve pizza? I hope they do.
“And I understand that you have your horse in the stable, right?” Ms. Richards questioned.
I snapped out of my daydreams. “Oh crap!” I exclaimed as I bolted out the door.
“Zoey! We do not speak that way here! Young lady come back here!” Mom yelled.
“Sorry Mom!” I shouted over my shoulder. How could I be so stupid? I thought I was an experienced horsewoman! Growling in anger I picked up my pace. How could I leave my darling Oreo tied to a post, with no supervision?
Oh Oreo! My poor little Oreo! What if he got loose? I didn’t tie the quick-release knot that tight because I thought he would only be there for a while. What if he injured himself by accident?
Out of breath I raced down the gravel walk at break-neck speeds, fueled by all the What If’s I’d come up with. Hurtling around the corner of the Office building I was relieved to see that Oreo was indeed there, but not alone.
Catching my breath I walked up to the girl who was stroking his neck lovingly. She had wavy, shoulder length, dirty blonde hair. The girl wore a plain orange polo shirt with brown riding breeches.
“Hello” I called, still panting. “What’s your name?”
“Hey! My name is Brooke; Brooke Knape. Are you part of the Summer Camp?” Brooke asked.
“I sure am!” Realizing I hadn’t introduced myself I exclaimed “I’m Zoey Santoni, and I see you’ve met Oreo.”
“Oh, this is your horse? I’m sorry if I intruded, but I was walking to the Mess Hall and I saw the cutest horse I have ever seen and I just had to come and pet him! Do you show on him?”
“Not usually, but whenever I get the chance I like to. We mostly show in the Hunter and Jumper classes. His show name is “Milk’s Favorite Cookie.”
“That is so cute!” Brooke shouted. “I have a horse too, but she’s not as colorful as yours. She’s a black Dutch Warmblood, her name is Black Tide, but I call her Blackie”
“I’d love to see her. Can you show me the way to the barn?”
“Sure! It’s this way, come on!” I untied Oreo and was practically dragged toward the barn.
The stables were a large wooden compound with huge stalls, aisles, and doors. Each stall consisted of two water buckets, a food bucket, cross-ties, and a ring for a hay net. Every stall had four feet high wooden kick boards with vertical bars that connected with the ceiling, and a sliding door. This way the horses could get the fresh air they needed.
“Your stall is right over here!” Brooke said. Oreo’s stall looked exactly the same as all the others. I led him in and was surprised to find the water buckets were full and the hay net was filled. Unclipping the lead rope from his halter, I let him loose in his new home and closed the door behind me.
Brooke had walked across the aisle, and was standing in front of another stall. I walked up and took a peek inside; near the back of the stall stood a big, black mare. The mare had a medium sized star on her forehead and two white socks on her front feet.
“Wow, she’s beautiful.” I gasped in admiration. “Hey Blackie” I whispered to the mare.
“Thank you. My father bought her for me a couple of years ago. She came all the way from Canada. The day I got her was the best day of my life.”
“I know what you mean. I feel the same way about Oreo. Do you know any of the other girls enlisted in the Summer Camp?” I asked Brooke.
“Uh-huh, most of them came a couple of days ago. You were the last one to arrive. We can go see their horses if you want.” Brooke started walking down the aisle pointing out names, breeds, owners, and qualities.
“Here’s Savanna Wood, but everyone calls her Savanna” Brooke pointed to a fiery red chestnut mare. “She’s Sara Rosenburg’s American Saddlebred. They are the best at dressage, right now they are competing at the Intermediate level.” Brooke continued further down the barn.
“This horse here is Fire Blitz; I just call him Blitz though.” Brooke stood in front of an elegant bay gelding. His mane was as dark as night, and he had a small, refined head. “Jasmine Henrich owns him. Blitz is an Akal-Teke horse and absolutely excel’s at jumping. Some say they have never knocked a rail down in their lives. Do I believe it? Yes I do.”
“And this is Rumbling Thunder; or Thunder” Brooke pointed to an empty stall. “Well that’s where he usually is. Maya Sayco, his owner, must be exercising him in the arena. Do you want to go see?”
“I have to get back to my parents. I’ll catch up with you later, OK?”
“Sure! I’ll be here or in the Mess Hall. Bye!”
“Bye Brooke!” I turned around and jogged back to the Office. I met up with my parents on their way to the car.
“There you are Zoey! We almost left without seeing you! Ms. Richards sent someone down to put your things in your cabin. We have to go now, or else we won’t be back in time for dinner. Bye Honey! Have fun!”
I waved good-bye to my parents; once they left I walked down to the barn and slipped into Oreo’s stall. I found all of my tack and grooming supplies in front of his stall and I selected a dandy brush and started to groom.
Hearing footsteps outside of the stall I turned and came face to face with another girl. She had blonde hair, crystal clear blue eyes, and nasty looking, twisted smile on her face. This was going to be good.
“Hello, my name is Sara Rosenberg. You must be new here. What’s your name?”
“Hi Sara, I’m Zoey Santoni. I just came today.” I stated as I shifted from foot to foot. I had a bad feeling about this girl.
“Well I have a lot of training to do” Sara exclaimed, obviously ignoring the fact it was around six o’clock and no one trained this late in the day. “Oh and a reminder, dogs aren’t allowed in the stables.”
“Excuse me?” I said puzzled. Dogs weren’t allowed? I don’t have a dog. Where did she get dogs from?
“You heard me, dogs aren’t allowed in the stables. We’ll have to ask your Dalmatian to leave.” Sara gestured toward Oreo and then walked off snickering.
I fumed behind her back, opening and closing my mouth like a fish; trying to think of a good comeback even though she had walked away. “Don’t worry Oreo, it’s not your fault you’re spotted. It was the way you were born.” Oreo nickered at me and then returned to his hay net.
Giving Oreo a last pat I exited the stall, returned the brush and set off to see what the rest of the day had in store for me.
“Yes! Thank you! You see that? It’s the Buckskin Cabin!” I shouted to no one in particular. It took me about half an hour to find it; well I didn’t really find it.
After the Sara ordeal, I excited the barn and looked around for signs pointing to the Buckskin Cabin. Finding none, I walked up and down, left and right, searching for it. After years and years of searching I found a young girl who looked like she knew what she was doing.
“Would you by any chance know where the Buckskin Cabin is?” I asked her politely.
“Of course! Just follow that trail over there and it will be on your left” she replied.
Turns out I walked by the trial about five times; go figure! Lugging my packs down the trail I finally reached the Buckskin Cabin. I clambered up the couple of steps leading to the door and entered with a flourish.
There were five beds lined up against the wall; two on one side, two on the other, and one against the back of the cabin. The décor was quiet traditional with a small table, a desk, a bookshelf, and a low coffee table. In the back of the cabin there was a door that I expected led to the bathroom.
Three of the beds were taken, so I chose the one against the back wall. I steadily unpacked my things. I hung my clothes in my closet, placed my toothpaste and toothbrush on the bathroom counter, set my alarm clock and other accessories on the bedside table and filled the bookshelf with my books and magazines.
Eventually all the girls roomed in my cabin began to arrive. I was satisfied to know that Brooke was one of them. There were also two girls I didn’t know, and Sara Rosenberg. I had hoped to avoid her for the rest of the summer, but I guess that was going to be impossible now.
“Everyone gather ‘round! I want everyone to introduce each other to the rest of the cabin!” called Brooke. Slowly we stopped what we were doing and gathered in a rough circle. “Now then, I want everyone to say their name, their horses name and breed, and your favorite color. I’ll go first. My name is Brooke Knape, I have a Dutch Warmblood named Black Tide, and my favorite color is teal.”
“Hello! My name is Jasmine Henrich, I have an Akal-Teke named Fire Blitz, and my favorite color is scarlet” said a tall girl with ash brown hair. She had dark green eyes and bangs that almost covered them. Her smile wasn’t twisted like Sara’s, but didn’t look completely genuine.
“My name is Maya Sayco. I have a Swedish Warmblood named Rumbling Thunder. My favorite color is royal purple.” When she was done speaking Maya stuck her nose back into her book. Maya had reddish-blonde hair, a splattering of freckles over her face, and arms and light green eyes. Her smile was small, but not forced.
“My name is Sara Rosenberg; I have a gorgeous American Saddlebred whom I call Savanna Wood, and my favorite color, is of course hot pink!” As Sara spoke she waved her arms around and acted totally stupid. The other girls didn’t really seem to care; in fact Jasmine encouraged her behavior with fits of giggles. I couldn’t believe how immature Sara is.
Everyone looked expectantly at me so I gave my presentation. “My name is Zoey Santoni. I own an Appaloosa gelding named Oreo, and my favorite color is neon blue.”
“Oh, that thing in the barn is an Appaloosa gelding?! I thought it was a Dalmatian because of all its spots!” Sara exclaimed. I boiled with anger and my green eyes blazed with hatred. How could she say something like that!
Brooke picking up on my mood tried to control me. “Now I’m sure Sara didn’t mean it-“
“Oh, I meant it all right” Sara growled.
“I think Oreo’s really cute. I just love his spots!” Brooke coaxed. “He’s the cutest horse I’ve ever seen!”
I tucked a strand of dark brown hair behind my ear and thought over my plan of attack. I could go for the neck, but maybe the arms would be better in this case…..
“Zoey? Earth to Zoey! Did you hear me? I love Oreo’s spots! I think he’s really cute! Sara is just trying to mess with you. Don’t let her get away with it.” Brooke kept on trying to calm me until she knew there was no hope.
“I hope you’re not planning on jumping four foot fences on a dog. Isn’t that animal cruelty or something? I don’t even think they make bridles or saddles that small!” Sara continued on with her constant ranting. Jasmine encouraged her by laughing and glaring at me.
Maya seemed to have disappeared. When I looked for her, I found her huddled under the covers of her bed. Poor girl, but I can worry about her later. I turned my attention back to Sara; and strategized my plan of attack. I knew just how this would work!
Most people can compare me to a volcano. Usually I’m calm and quiet, but when something upsets me or angers me; I explode. My explosion usually doesn’t last that long, but it results in lots of things broken, and maybe a couple broken bones of the person I attacked.
“Hey Zoey, do you know what Oreo stands for? Well I’ll tell you! Obsessively stupid, really retarded, every bit as dumb as he was thought to be, and obviously not worth calling a horse.” Sara teased proudly. I had taken her a long time to come up with that one, and I had to admit it was good; perfect even. Yes, it was the perfect thing to make me explode; and boy did I explode!