Authors: Dandi Daley Mackall
Tags: #Retail, #Ages 8 & Up
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Winnie the Horse Gentler Web site at www.winniethehorsegentler.com.
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Copyright Â© 2002 by Dandi Daley Mackall. All rights reserved.
Cover photograph copyright Â© 2002 by Bob Langrish. All rights reserved.
Designed by Jacqueline L. NuÃ±ez
Edited by Ramona Cramer
Scripture quotations are taken from the
New Living Translation, copyright Â© 1996 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.
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ISBN 978-0-8423-5544-5, mass paper
To Uncle Dick and
Aunt Mary Louâ
Thanks for your gentle,
Table of Contents
Winnie Willis, known the world over as “Winnie the Horse Gentler,” breezes into the lead on her famous Arabian, the great Nickers. Three more jumps and the Grand National Championship title will be hers!
A hush falls over the crowd as horse and rider approach the fallen-log hurdle. They canter in straight. They're up and over! Now they circle left, the tallâokay, shortâdark-haired girl flowing as one with her white mare. Nickers strides for the bush hurdle. Winnie is the only rider ever to jump bareback in this event. The powerful horse gathers strength in her haunches. No hesitation. They charge! They leap. .Â .Â . Yes! A clean jump, and the crowd goes wild!
Lizzy's voice reached the pasture, jerking me back to reality.
I brought Nickers down to a trot and stroked her neck under her flowing white mane. “Good girl
Almost had it, didn't we?”
I eyed the big hedge, the last jump in my imaginary steeplechase, the open-country horse race over nature's hurdles. I wouldn't have tried Nickers over the hedge anyway. My Arabian is the best horse in the universe, but she's not a hunter. Hunters are horses born to jump anything they come up against. The five-foot hedge would have been pushing it for Nickers. But I had to wonder what it would feel like.
“Winnie!” Lizzy called again, stepping back from the fence as I rode into the paddockÂ and slid off Nickers. My sister collects lizards, admires bugs, and lately has developed a fondness for spiders. But she can't stand horses. It's her only fault.
“Richard Spidell called, Winnie. âWinifred should have been here to clean stalls hours ago!' he said. I told him school had only been out an hour and his watch must be broken because you were really only 15 minutes late and would he like me to give him the name of a super watchmaker, meaning our dad, of course. Can Dad fix watches? So he said he didn't have time to talk with
like I was one and he was the president or something. So I saidâ”
“Thanks, Lizzy.” I had to stop her or I really would be hours late. Lizzy talks faster than a trotter trots. She's 11, a year younger than me, but taller and minus my freckles.
Lizzy still wore her school clothes, a fall green shirt that matched her eyes and my eyes, and twill pants like most kids in my middle school wore. I still wore my school clothes, but only because they were the same as my riding clothesâjeans and a T-shirt.
“It stinks that you have to shovel manure for the Spidells again! And on a perfectly good Friday afternoon.” Lizzy handed me the soft-bristled brush and backed away again.
The Spidells own every big business in Ashland, OhioâPizza-Mart, A-Mart Department Store, Pet-Mart, and Stable-Mart, their sorry excuse for a horse stable.
Back when we lived in Wyoming, my mom had a real ranch, where we gentled horses. But after Mom died, Dad sold the ranch. Then we moved eastward, zigzagging across the
statesâIllinois, Indiana, and Iowaâand finally landing in Ashland, Ohio, where I hoped to spend my whole seventh-grade year. The first thing I'd done to help was get a job mucking stalls at Spidells' Stable-Mart.
Since then, though, I'd started my own horse gentling business, putting to good use everything Mom had taught me. And I'd quit my mucking job. But it was the first day of fall, and I hadn't had a new client since Labor Day. So, since most people put off horse training until spring, I'd gone back to mucking at Spidells'.
“It's not so bad, Lizzy.” I brushed Nickers' white coat against the grain, then smoothed it back down. “Winnie the Horse Gentler is still in business. I just don't want Dad to have to pay for Nickers' upkeep all winter.”
Towaco, my friend Hawk's Appaloosa, whinnied from the field, wondering what was taking Nickers so long.
“I couldn't keep charging Hawk gentling fees for Towaco,” I explained. “And the boarding fees won't carry us to spring.”
Victoria Hawkins, a.k.a. “Hawk,” had been my first client. Towaco had come along fast, settling down almost on his own once I got him out of Stable-Mart, the sterile horse factory where horses mean about as much as anchovy pizza at Pizza-Mart or plastic umbrellas at A-Mart.
I turned Nickers out into the pasture. She kicked up her heels and galloped to Towaco. She still took my breath away.
“Besides, I have a plan.” I hadn't even totally formed it in my mind.
“A plan? Winnie? It's not going to get you in trouble, is it?”
“Down, Lizzy.” She followed me toward the house. A flock of geese honked overhead. “IÂ guess it's more like a mission.” My secret mission explained why jumping had been on my mind all week, why I'd been practicing over low hurdles with Nickers. “Richard and Summer Spidell are working the most beautiful, deep chestnut hunter, Lizzy. Wait 'til you see her! It's like God created that horse to fly! But the Spidells are ruining her.” I took a deep breath. “I have to help that beautiful mare before it's too late.”
“Wi-n-n-ie?” Lizzy's voice sounded so much like our mom's when she'd known I was up to something that my breath stuck in my windpipe. “Like Summer is just going to hand that horse over to you? I don't think so!”
Summer Spidell and I had gotten into it even before school started. And Richard, Summer's 16-year-old brother, considered himself my boss since I worked for his dad. They're what Mom called “horse possessors.” Instead of loving horses, they possess them for profit or pride.
“Lizzy, you should see what they're doing to that mare!” A picture of Richard on the hunter flashed into my mind. I could see every outline of the mare's muscles, rippled like a bronzed statue of a war hero's steed.
When I was a little kid, I'd had my memory tested with 19 other guinea-pig kids. I was the only one who came out with the label “photographic memory.” I remember being surprisedânot that my mind could take pictures and store them in absolute detail, but that it didn't happen to everybody.
If I could have controlled the “camera” in myÂ head, I'd have taken a shot of the hunter running free in the pasture. Instead my mental picture showed Richard smacking Bold Beauty for refusing the high jump.
I shook my head to empty out the image. “Lizzy, that horse came to Stable-Mart because she'd refused a couple of high jumps. She was edgy, but not scared of everything like she isÂ now.”
“Just be careful, Winnie. Don't get fired .Â .Â . again. Dad would freak.”
Lizzy was right about the Dad freakingÂ part. It hadn't been easy getting Dad to trust me with my horse business. Getting fired wouldn't exactly help my image. Besides, Dad and horses didn't mix. I'd never seen him ride. When we had the ranch, if Mom took a spill, she'd keep it from Dad so he wouldn't worry. Mom used to say she knew how much Dad loved her because he put up with her passion for horses.
I had to admit our dad was doing the best he could with two girls to raise on his own, especially since nobody ever claimed Winnie Willis was easy.
In Wyoming, I'd helped Mom with the horses,Â soaking up the way she got their trust and kept it. Dad used to travel into Laramie six days a week to boss people around in an insurance company. When Mom was killed in a car accident, Dad and I lost the only thing we had in common. It was taking time to get each other's trust and keep it.
“Don't worry, Lizzy. I'm just making friends with Bold Beauty in between her horrible practices with Richard.”
“Bold Beauty? You named her already?”
Lizzy had never hung around with Mom and me when we gentled horses. But she knew our secretâthat we tried not to name a horse we couldn't keep. It was hard enough giving them back to their owners. Still, since we needed to call them something, we'd make up names that described them. Mom would have liked the name Bold Beauty.
We reached the maple where Lizzy fed her lizards. She squatted and touched the ground. Larry, her fence lizard, crawled up her arm. Made me shiver.
“I better get going, too,” Lizzy said. “Mr. and Mrs. Barker are going out on their Friday night date. Isn't that too cute! Mr. Barker rocks! I'll bet he brings her flowers.”