Saturday, February 1, 2014

Stable Hands, Stable Hearts by Chad Strong

17-year old Scott is all set to win his first Hi-Point trophy at the last horse show of the year.  But when he thinks he spots the girl of his dreams, will his feelings for her distract him from winning?

The announcer called something over the loudspeaker, startling Scott back to the present. His heart still pounding, he noticed his shallow breathing and moist palms and knew they were not show-ring jitters. 
The class was Western Equitation.  Scott settled Dakota into a walk along the rail well behind the horse in front of him.  He breathed deep and slow, trying to relax -- he didn’t need his nerves upsetting Dakota.  But he had to know if it was Jenny. He hadn’t seen her since last summer, nearly a year ago.  Why hadn’t he heard from her in the past three weeks?  The last she’d said her family was moving nearer her dad’s new job so she might not be able to write much.
He signaled his horse to perform the judge’s requested gait changes, reverses, and other maneuvers, trying not to blow the class.   If it wasn’t her, he could be allowing himself to be distracted by a complete stranger.
Finally the judge instructed them to all line up, facing him, in the center of the arena. Scott swung Dakota in alongside the other competitors.  The judge asked them to back their horses.  Scott remembered to keep a smile on his face.
A few moments later, the announcer’s voice came over the PA:
“In First Place, Novice Western Equitation, Number 14, Scott Archer, Riding Dakota Raider!”
His eyes searching the trailer area, it wasn’t until Scott heard his own name that he snapped back to the ring.  His heart swelled in his chest and he patted Dakota’s neck as he squeezed him forward to receive their blue ribbon.  “Way to go, buddy,” he said.
Thanking the girl who passed him their ribbon, he exited the ring and rode toward the trailers.  Weaving through the crowd of spectators, competitors, and horses, he halted Dakota with a quick intake of breath.  It was his Jenny!  And she was looking right at him!
But standing with his back to Scott and his hand on Jenny’s shoulder was a guy he’d never mistake – Derek.  Derek pivoted to see what Jenny was looking at and scowled.  Was this why she’d stopped writing?  Because she’d come back to be with Derek and didn’t want to tell him?