“I got a new horse,” I told Sue when she drove in. I’d heard her coming from down the road; her rattle-trap Oldsmobile had a distinctive I’m probably going to fall apart or explode really soon sound that shattered the morning quiet. Sue was an exercise rider, the grizzled leather-faced unbrushed-hair kind of exercise rider, who had finished her days’ work and was returning to crash in the barn apartment while I was still mixing morning feed.
“I heard him last night,” she said grimly, stepping out of the car and revealing herself fully clad in hat, safety vest, and fringed leather chaps which, ironically, did nothing to cover up the holes in her jeans. Her underwear had unexpected butterflies fluttering across the fabric. She bent down, revealing vast flocks of winged insects, and riffled around under the driver’s seat, finally emerging with a battered box of Marlboros.
“He kept me awake half the night.”
“Oh,” I smiled uncertainly. “He was quiet when I got here…”
“Wore hisself out,” she said, lighting a cigarette. “Well, ‘night.”
I went back into the barn as she shut herself into the barn apartment for the rest of the morning. The bay Thoroughbred gazed at me guilelessly. I couldn’t believe he’d been noisy enough to keep anybody up all night. He’d been a perfect angel for all of my waking hours. From the second he’d stepped off the rusty trailer, fresh as a daisy after his long bumpy ride through the Ocala National Forest, to the moment he buried his face in a pile of orchard grass hay in his new stall, he’d been exactly as he was this moment: the strong and silent type.
Tall, dark, and handsome, I thought with pleasure, burying concerns that he’d kept Sue awake, and went back to mixing feed. To my mind, his leggy athleticism compared most favorably with the chunky Warmbloods who occupied this little private barn I managed. He was taller than the Dutch Warmblood, Lucky, who had been on a long-ago World Equestrian Games show-jumping team, and the Holsteiner gelding Bankrobber, who had been some sort of Green Hunter Champion, and had an infinitely prettier head than Geronimo, the big grey show jumper with a noggin like a misshapen cinder block.
And cheaper than all of them, I crowed in my head. Manners, brain, body, he’s got it all. I’ll show them a jumper.
I dumped his grain first, and ignored him when he pinned his ears and shook his head at me on the way out of the stall. Lots of horses do that. Perfectly normal.