Fiction story first published in Equine Market January 1993

I was only sixteen the first time I went to clean stalls for Grandma. I hurried across the pasture field because my feet were damp and I was beginning to feel the chill. The knee-high harvest gold grass covered with tiny drops of dew gave the appearance of perspiration as it penetrated my tennis shoes.

"Why do I have to clean stalls for Grandma?" I muttered to myself. "All I ever see is spider webs in the barn and a big pot of pinto beans cooking on the stove. Besides Mary Beth and I made plans weeks ago to go horseback riding."

"I'd go Amanda but I don't want to risk giving this cold to Grandma," I remember my mother saying in a scratchy voice. "You know Grandma doesn't have time to clean stalls and ride too."

"Well, couldn't you just call and tell her you'll be there soon as your cold is better?" I asked. "She couldn't catch your cold over the phone."

"You know Grandma wouldn't let the stalls go," my mother said. "That's why I make it a point to go everyday."

Purplish violet morning glory vines were coiled around the barbed wire fence. Their blossoms spread a tantalizing scent similar to lilacs as I separated the wire enough to crawl through. I stared at the house, faded silvery-gray from years of bright sunlight pounding against the logs.

"Hello Amanda," Grandma called from the front porch. "I'm so glad you could come today. I'll be right out soon as I put more water in the beans."

I hurried to the barn; the first thing I noticed when I entered was a dark brown spider clinging to the door. He wove a triangle web with enormous speed then waited patiently for his prey.

I was digging vigorously in Royalty's stall when Grandma got to the barn. Her cantankerous red rooster was chasing a speckled hen across the yard. I ignored the commotion and proceeded with the cleaning. Royalty stood in the corner of his stall munching on alfalfa. He looked up briefly then continued chomping on the hay lying in front of him.

"Your mother said you planned to go horseback riding today," Grandma said. "Did she ever tell you that I was once a rodeo queen? Royalty's the grandson of the horse that I won my first trophy on."

"No, she never told me anything other than you loved to ride," I said getting very interested. "Could you teach me to ride well enough to enter the horse show this year?"

"If you're willing to come over at least three times a week but you'll have to get rid of those tennis shoes for awhile. You'll need to get a pair of boots." Grandma answered. "Show horses aren't like the gentle ones you've been riding at the stable. They're trained to respond when cued and they don't ignore a novice riders mistakes."

"I'll come everyday," I said. "I'll clean the stalls while I'm here. If you're going to teach me to ride that's the least that I can do."

"Thank you Amanda," Grandma said. "Are you sure you want to clean the stalls? You still have Sundown's and Princess's stalls to clean and cleaning for three horses is quite a bit of work."

"I don't mind," I answered. "I can't wait to get started with the lessons."

"I trained Royalty from the time he was a colt," Grandma said. "If you can ride well enough by the time to enter the show I'll let you ride him. It would be a pleasure seeing him win a trophy like all his ancestors have."

The next morning I was at the barn cleaning stalls around seven o'clock. I worked hard and took the lessons seriously. I must say I realized why Grandma enjoyed riding. We had six months before show time and I was determined to make Grandma proud of me.

I was on pins and needles when I entered the western pleasure class at the paint horse show. Royalty didn't let me down and he performed like the pro that he was. His ability combined with Grandma's knowledge of riding was why I won the first place trophy. I presented it to Grandma as soon as the show was over.

Princess was due to foal in a few weeks. Grandma was amused by my excitement wondering if the foal would be a paint. I was there the day the foal came and it was a beautiful tabiano with the markings all in the right places.

Seven months later on my birthday Grandma called to say she had a very special present for me. I just knew she had bought me a riding outfit and couldn't wait to see it. Much to my surprise Grandma stood beside the little filly that had a huge red bow tied to its mane.

"You'll need to pick out a name to go on the registration papers," Grandma said. "This is your birthday present Amanda."

For a few minutes I was speechless. Once I was over the initial shock of getting my own horse I blurted out I'm naming her Rachel after you. If Grandma thought anything about my bestowing the honor of her name to the filly she never did let it be known.

Today I'm married and have two little girls that I started teaching to ride soon as they were big enough to sit on a horse. I still ride in the shows and I hope to have as many trophy's to sit in the shelves as Grandma does someday.

I no longer wonder why Grandma loves riding at her age. I think it helps keep her young and I still go by everyday to clean stalls so she can indulge in that pleasure.

Copyright © 1993  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.