<tt>“So, you all ready?” Kalib asked his daughter, Kimber, as she sat at the foot of her bed, wrapped in a blanket as she stared vacantly at the wall on the other side of the room. “…Kimber?” He asked again when she still did not reply, and then proceeded to take the blanket by the corners and rip it away from her body.
”DAD!” Kimber screeched, diving half off her bed and snatching the corner of the blue tartan sheet before curling herself up in it again. “It’s like 20 degrees out there!” She complained, pulling her feet inside her fabric cocoon.
Kalib rolled his eyes, tugging on one of her braids. “Get your stuff together; you’re training down in the arena in 15.”
And with that, Kalib turned on his heels and waltzed out of the room, leaving Kimber alone in her room, Green Day playing quietly from the speakers at the head of her bed.
”I heard that!” Kalib’s booming voice echoed up the stairs and Kimber groaned, throwing herself down onto her bed and rolling over as to cover herself completely.
It was a week – a mere 7 days – until they were heading off to The Royal Zakharov Stables in Russia. Russia!
Kimber had been to Wales, Albania and Sweden during certain competitions and visits, but never Russia. Her Dad had though, he’d competed in a Dressage competition on Blackbird in Russia recently, and Kimber had been hoping that she too would be able to visit that beautiful country at some point.
At 13, Kimber would be competing in her first international show-jumping competition, on her beautiful, charismatic and nothing but obedient Mustang mare Lolly. Now, as a Mustang, Lolly was born in the wild, sold to a man who unfortunately died and was finally bought and retrained at BS. Despite being built to withstand the heat and the cold of the Nevada desert and originally having absolutely no ability to lift herself off the ground, Lolly had been improving in leaps and bounds over the past three years with Kimber.
Teamed up after Kimber began to out-grow her childhood pony, Jimmy, Lolly and Kimber formed the most loving bond between horse and rider, and began show jumping about a year into that. The two can now clear pushing 3’5’’ and their trust seems to be what holds their nerves when they tackle such obstacles.
Nevertheless, Kimber’s mother, Lucie, has never approved of the horses that her daughter was given to ride. First was a temperamental Welsh stallion, secondly was the wild-bred Mustang mare, and relatively recently is the 17.0hh Thoroughbred stallion. Despite having the most lovely temperaments, Lucie insists on fussing over Kimber’s wellbeing when riding such ’beasts’… as she would put it…
”Kimber!!” Kalib’s voice echoed up again and finally Kimber realized she actually had to get out of bed.
She clambered out of her bed, holding the duvet wrapped around her and jumped over to her wardrobe, from which she took out a pair of dark gray jodhpurs, a white shirt, a jacket, a fleece, and her coat.
Kimber changed quickly, grabbing a pair of socks and her boots as she rushed out the door, swung herself around the banister of the stairs and slid down them, her feet bumping with each step, but ignored the pain as she threw on her second boot and rushed out the door.
“Ka?” Lucie asked quietly from the kitchen, her head turning towards the front door.
“Yeah, Luce?” Kalib replied, not looking up from his breakfast.
“Yup. And she’s late.”
“I’m not late! I’m not late!” Kimber chanted as she rushed into the barn, swinging herself around the first, then second door and into the mare and gelding section of the barn, rushing past Lennie and George and Rús who gave disgruntled snorts that they didn’t get any treats. Past Ali, Baca, Juliette, and Mali until she came to Lolly who was standing idly at the back of her stall.
”What do you want?” Lolly asked rhetorically with a snort as Kimber threw herself into the stall and pulled out a brush, dusting the shavings and hay from her coat.
“I believe you’re being ridden today, Lolls,” Juliette burred from the adjacent stall and Lolly grunted.
Now, usually, Lolly would have been thrilled to be being ridden, but for the past few months, she’d been in intensive training for a competition in Russia… apparently. Honestly, she had no knowledge of what on earth was happening, but she had heard enough from Blackbird the times she passed him – the big Friesian would not ever shut up about Russia! Apparently, he had a rather interesting time there, but Lolly never cared enough to listen. She put on her ‘obedient, caring’ act around the humans, but around the other horses, she really did not give a shit.
“Back in a sec, Lolls,” Kimber said, rushing out of the door.
“In a rush, isn’t she?” Mali asked quietly.
“Apparently we’re training again,” Lolly sighed, suddenly buckling her knees and falling down into the shavings. “Wake me at midday.”
“C’mon, Lolls!” Baca whinnied, thrusting her pink muzzle over the front of her door. “Get up!”
“Stop sounding like my mother!”
After ten minutes of Kimber pulling, pushing, lifting, giving up, pushing, prodding, sitting on and finally yanking Lolly upwards, she got her tacked up, mounted her inside and cantered the mare down to the entrance, out into the hall and out the front door, just in time to see Frankie standing unhappily beside the gate for the main outdoor arena.
“I don’t have 15 minutes to spare, Kimber!” He scolded as Lolly obediently cantered into the arena, jumping forward as the gate was slammed shut behind her. “And if I see you mounted up before you’re outside again I’ll cancel this trip, do you understand?” His voice was deep, stern and demanding; Kimber felt a lump of shame in her throat and she sucked in a breath to keep her eyes from watering – having Frankie yell at her always made her want to cry – she didn’t know why.
“Again!” Frankie yelled, walking up to the double bar, pushing it up to 1.30m. “Come on!” His voice rung out and Jez barked, her ears spinning around, tail swishing in excitement as Lolly took a sharp turn at the end of the arena, her head thrown up as she was angled towards the jump again. ”Steady!” Frankie grunted as Lolly pulled ahead faster and Kimber fought for her reins.
“Gah!” Kimber yelped as Lolly took the jump a stride too soon and threw herself over it, her hind legs knocking the bar completely out of its cups.
“What was that?!” Frankie moaned, throwing his arms up; Jez’s tail swished and she scrunched up her nose.
For God’s sake, keep her together!
“She took off!” Kimber gasped, pulling Lolly up. “It wasn’t my fault!”
“Stop making excuses!” Frankie snapped, walking up towards Lolly who was dancing about like a Thoroughbred and took her roughly by the ear.
Lolly instantly stopped moving, her eyes rolling a little and her neck tensed up.
“Look. Is she fighting me? Is she taking off? Is she messing me about?!”
Kimber scrunched up her face. “I’m sorry!”
“I don’t want an ‘I’m sorry’! I want to see you riding this mare properly!” He stared at her for a few more seconds. “Go and take her over the cavaletti.” And he dismissed her with a shake of his hand.
“She needs to stop complaining and actually work…” Frankie grumbled, sitting down on and upturned bucket. Jez padded up beside him, nudging his knee with her nose.
Don’t be too hard on her, Frankie.
Frankie sighed. “Sometimes I wish you spoke, Jez.”
The little fox sighed, and resigned to lying on the red earth, her ears and eyes tracking Lolly and Kimber as they rounded the bucket at the edge of the arena and came up towards the jump again.
Come on, Lolly. Kimber urged her mare as the Mustang drove forward at a powerful canter. Please don’t bolt off with me…
Humph. Lolly thought to herself, sensing Kimber’s reluctance and hesitation, as well as her fingers being knotted tightly into her mane – almost painfully. May as well…
And she cleared it perfectly.
“All packed?” Lucie’s voice chimed up the stairs just as Kimber hauled her something-near-150lb bag out of her room and dragged it towards the stairs.
“Just about…” She groaned, feeling the sheer weight of it as she pulled it down the stairs.
“Holy—” Lucie began, but stopped herself as Kimber struggled down further and finally smashed down onto he wooden floor of the hallway.
“Got enough?” Kalib chuckled, holding a rucksack over one shoulder, his suitcase neatly at his side.
“Not half!” Kimber replied with a grin, looking out of the open door as she saw Lolly and Blackbird being loaded up into the helicopter.
“How much does that thing cost, Dad,” she queried. Since they lived in the mountains, a helicopter was one of the only ways to get to and from the stables – and customizing such a machine to take 2 fully-grown horses down and out of the mountains wasn’t exactly going to be cheap…
“More than you’ll ever see in front of you,” Kalib chuckled, watching as his big black stallion was loaded up and the Mustang, looking tiny beside him, followed, her head held high as she whinnied in excitement. “Ready to go then?” He asked and Kimber locked her arms around her mother’s neck.
“I’ll see you soon, Mom,”
“Love you,” Lucie said, stroking her daughter’s cheek, “be safe.”
“So this is The Royal Zakharov Stables…” Kalib said, daunted by the sheer amount of people around him, as well as the beautiful landscape, architecture and atmosphere around him.
“Interesting…” Kimber said, yawning – time difference didn’t exactly work with her…
“This way, Sir.” A man with a thick Russian accent said, gesturing one direction down a path. “V.I.Ps are meeting in the mansion.”
Kalib instantly puffed out his chest and, from the inside of his jacket, pulled out a little card shield on a small piece of blue rope. On it, in gold emboss it said: ‘V.I.P The Karelian Masters Spring Event 2011’.
“Oh, stop showing off!” Kimber groaned, and then reached into her pocket and produced a similar shield.
The inside of the mansion, as the outside, was spectacular. It was adorned with what seemed like 19th century architecture with old-style drapes and framed paintings of long-deceased horses and riders, paired up in competition in some, others were a lone mare or stallion in front of the estate.
“Glorious…” Kalib mused out loud, looking around the extent of the room, and his eyes slowly drew to a halt on a framed photograph of a marvelous dark brown, yet gold, stallion.
“That is Szhigat' gimn.” One of the waiters said at long last. “Or, more commonly known as Sazha. He’s a Zakharov Sport Horse.”
“Uh-hu.” Kalib said, absently, still staring at the beautiful horse in the photo.
“Lovely, isn’t he?” A male voice sounded behind him and Kalib literally jumped around, and then suddenly brushed his bangs out of his face and shook the hand of the handsome yet rather old man standing in front of him. “Alexander Krymov, nice to meet you.”
Kalib nodded furiously, his heart thundering. “Thank you so much for inviting us!” He blurted out, and Alexander chuckled. “I wish you all the best in the competition.”
And that was when Kimber first saw her father blush.
Kimber’s hands were clammy as she pulled on her white riding gloves and gave Lolly one last stroke before being helped up onto her by one of the grooms.
“Thanks,” she said quietly, her nerves eating away at her from the inside out.
Kimber honestly felt like throwing up, her stomach, empty from skipping breakfast, writhed and curled around itself as rushes of adrenalin coursed its way through her body.
“Miss Beaumont?” Someone asked as Kimber trotted Lolly towards the crosspoll that was one of the starting jumps and she turned her mare around quickly as a man in a stiff black suit looked at her with a measured gaze. “Competitor number,” he looked down at his papers, “four-oh-two?”
“This way please.”
And with that she patted Lolly one last time on the shoulder before being shown the entrance to the course.
She’d walked it earlier, and had been reciting the order in her head ever since: ‘#1 = white panels, #2 = blue and white double, #3 white and red single’ and so on, yet her mind seemed to have been wiped blank as she stared out onto the grassy arena.
“Your round starts when the bell rings. Good luck.” He said before briskly walking off, leaving Kimber with a dancing Lolly at the starting gate.
A groom came up beside her and took Lolly’s reins, soothing her with kind Russian words.
“She is lovely,” he said, his words nearly impossible to understand, and Kimber replied with a smile. “Good luck,” he said, and the starting bell rang—