Despite this not being his first competition, Beaumont’s resident hothead was sure making it seem like it was.
The 7 year old Thoroughbred had spent the morning prior trying desperately to break out of his temporary stable, adamant that he should at least be allowed to explore the new ground that he had set hoof on.
Being a travelling competitor, Bullet Biscuit had visited the British Isles once before during a competition at OVEC, but the fact that he hadn’t jumped, bucked, and bolted on Irish soil seemed to cause Bullet’s mind to let it be okay for him to act up, and Grant was the one who had to deal with it.
18 year old Grant Meryz’ trip to Ireland had been less than fun, namely caused by said Thoroughbred. He had been chasing the stallion up and down the fence line after unloading for half an hour – not allowing even the BS team to help simply because ‘he could do it himself’. Putting him to sleep had been an issue as well, time-difference hadn’t settled well with the Americans and Bullet was no exception – staying awake well into the night, calling to Blackie and Sky, who had come with him across the Atlantic.
It was 7 the next morning when Grant was awoken by Theyn. She had tossed a saddle straight into his side and he jumped awake with a gasp.
“Get up, we’ve gotta get the horses up and working, our classes are in 2 days.” She said, her voice thick with Eastern European accent and he wondered whether she’d been here before in all her travels. Theyn strode out, her tail flicking up happily in a way he hadn’t seen before, I wonder if she misses it…? He asked himself, noticing the sun streaming through the window of his room and slowly roused himself.
The morning was strange, hazy and horribly tiring – for him, 7am was more like midnight, and he felt hot, sticky and the same as when you wander home at 3pm and sleep into the night but wake hours before dawn.
“Grant!” Theyn yelled from the other room and he stumbled across the room, pulling on a pair of dark jeans and a shirt, reaching for his hat and scarf, jumping into his boots and out the door. Theyn was sitting at the wooden table, flicking through a newspaper, sipping a cup of tea that smelt less like tealeaves and more like moss. “Ready?”
“Uh, yeah,” Grant mumbled, half awake.
“Snap out of it!” She breathed, snapping her fingers, not looking up at him. “We’re heading down for training in twenty minutes, get some breakfast and coffee – you look like you need it.”
“Sure…” Grant grunted, wandering to the counter and picking up a steaming cup of what he assumed was coffee. He took a tentative sip, and was instantly aware that Theyn’s big brown eyes were locked onto him, her tail lashing from side to side – he didn’t know her well enough to know what that meant.
“It’s not poisoned or anything,” she hissed, almost viciously, one ear pressed back, the other forward.
I never said it was…
Grant grabbed some buttered toast and the coffee and headed out of their temporary quarters and down towards the stables.
Theyn sat at the table, reading through the newspaper effortlessly, barely taking anything in. Being back in Europe was something that no one else would really understand but her. She had been away from her native turf for the past eighteen years, and even though she was still hundreds of miles from anything that could be considered ‘home’, this was close enough.
The smell of the metallic rain from outside made her ears prick up a little more and she chuckled to herself as she stood, finished her tea and walked out into the sun.
Sounds of neighs and hooves met her quivering ears and she smiled, walking straight towards the familiar scent of Sky, brushing back his forelock as she approached his door.
“Good morning, boy,” She whispered to him, pressing their foreheads together affectionately and breathing out, feeling his heart thumping rhythmically through the skin and veins in his neck.
Morning, Theyn, he replied, burring quietly and stepping back to let her in, come on in.
She chuckled, picking up a brush with her tail as she passed the side of the stable and then took it in her hand as she walked to his side. “If only the others were all as easy to keep clean,”
I do my best. I bet Grant would trade any day, Bullet’s been messing with his water bucket and rolling all night long. He just fell asleep.
Tell me about it! Sky whickered, closing his eyes as she brushed the dust off his red coat.
Both Theyn and Sky’s ears pricked up, their eyes widened, looking down the line of stables to see a copper bay Thoroughbred bolting out of his stall, a black and red-haired youth hanging onto a leather halter with a long black lead rein.
“Get him back into his stall!” Theyn snapped, rolling her eyes and turning back to Sky as though the commotion behind her wasn’t happening.
Sky’s eyes closed for a few seconds, but snapped open suddenly as he lost his patience and let out a piercing neigh.
Bullet stopped in his tracks and Grant slammed into the stallion’s shoulder as he tried and failed to heave him back to his stall. He tossed his head and whinnied back, but swept around as Grant tugged him through his door again.
The bolt was shoved across and Grant cursed a few times before letting out an anguished yelp as Bullet dropped to his knees and practically crushed the boy beneath him.
Theyn and Bullet rode out at the same time on what could not have been horses that were more different.
Sky and Theyn were practically the same being, completely in harmony, both very calm and collected.
Bullet and Grant, however, could, as said, not have been a more different paring. Bullet was dancing and prancing about, tossing his head, flicking his tail and bucking every third stride; Grant struggled to hold on, pulling desperately at the reins and working with all his might not to lose his seat.
They trotted down a long stretch of path towards the indoor arena, which they entered at different times since Bullet had decided it would be more fun to try and jump into the mare’s field and, when told he couldn’t, took off down the path for another two-hundred yards at breakneck speed.
A small course of eight jumps had been set up, they varied in height, combination and style and a large selection of horses and riders were taking them over or pacing strides as practice.
Sky squealed, jumping forward and Theyn had a hard time pulling him up before he launched himself at a 5ft oxer.
“Sh-hhh,” she hushed, turning him to the edge of the arena and pushed him into a canter, joining a line of bay horses.
Bullet squealed in a sort of reply and bucked once before taking off after his father, nearly bumping into his quarters in excitement.
“Keep him back!” Theyn growled and Bullet responded immediately, dropped back a few lengths and fell into a steady, rhythmical canter.
“Number 5.” Theyn called out, and everyone’s heads turned as they saw the cat-eared and tailed woman turn her scarlet stallion towards a small orange and white single jump. The others in the arena parted as Sky dropped into a trot and then up to a canter for the last two strides before clearing it with ease.
The rest of the riders exchanged confused looks, but someone else quickly took up the idea of calling out for jumps rather than blindly riding towards it, never sure whether someone else might cut in front of them.
“Number 5!” Someone else called in a British accent, and a very pale cream horse with a female rider took the single directly after Theyn.
“Number 1!” A very tall bay horse leapt over the dark blue single and another person called “Number 8!” as small gray mare jumped over the oxer at the other end of the arena.
A pair of voices rang out “Number 4!” at almost the same time, a very tall gray mare and a copper bay stallion started heading for the same jump.
The mare was steady, very powerful and had her ears set on the jump, but seemed blind to the smaller stallion that was thundering straight towards her flank.
Bullet’s stallion tendencies took over faster than Grant was able to pull him away. The Thoroughbred took off at a near gallop, and only at the last moment did he swerve and leap towards the jump, narrowly clearing it before being grabbed at the bridle by Theyn and Sky and pulled out of the arena.
“What are you doing?!”
Grant froze, hanging onto Bullet’s mane as the two horses trotted side by side a little way out of the arena and then to a small grassy verge where both riders dismounted.
“What were you thinking, Grant?” Theyn grunted, watching the boy closely. “You have to be careful! I don’t care what this horse is like,” she shook Bullet’s bridle almost harshly; “you can’t let him get the better of you!”
The days passed quickly, full of intensive training out in the arena for both riders and horses, and as the day of their competition arrived, both felt thoroughly prepared, but utterly terrified of actually getting out there on the course. Theyn, however, as usual, refused to show the weakness and the fear, and took her competition in her stride, but Grant had actually avoided the Derby all together, and spent the time warming Bullet up in the grounds.
“Grant, it’s your event,”
He jumped, startled, and Bullet’s body tensed as they swung around to see Theyn standing against the edge of the door.
“Oh, right,” He mumbled, feeling nerves build in his stomach and put a lump in his throat. Bullet took a few strides forward, but spooked to the side and let out a small squeal.
“Relax, Grant,” Theyn said unusually softly, “you’ve gotta keep calm, Bullet’s crazy as it is,” she chuckled and that reassured Grant a little, and Bullet too, who’s body loosened a little and took a slow, striding step forward. “Keep your hands light, your seat back and legs very soft on him, the boy doesn’t need any more encouragement.” She hushed up at him, petting Bullet’s shoulder. “Break a leg, kid,”
They rode out into the arena in silence, a smattering of polite applause followed the announcement of his name, but apart from that, he and Bullet were all alone.
Bullet’s body was tensed and ready to spring at any moment, and as Grant pushed him on, the stallion bucked, flicking out his leg in what may or may not have been spitefulness.
“Please be good,” he whispered, driving Bullet on for a few strides before turning towards the first jump.
The stallion lurched forward, striding wide and strong up to it before hurling himself over the top.
Art & Beaumont Stables ©: =Baringa-of-the-Wind
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