C. L. Heckman
Text Copyright © 2016 C. L. Heckman
All Rights reserved
Cover Photography by Sarah C. Bennett
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, businesses places or incidents is purely coincidental or used fictitiously.
To our foal, Ivy:
When you left, you became a Pegasus.
Fly high, our little miracle.
I study the fuzzy black screen, trying to determine what we are looking at. Dr. Weffler’s arm is working the wand back and forth inside of Justice, silently studying the picture on her computer.
“Ah,” she says. “There it is.”
We all perk up, feeding off the positivity in her voice.
“A baby?” I ask.
“Is there a baby?” Zoey chimes in.
Dr. Weffler nods her head. “See that little peanut looking thing,” she points. “That’s the embryo. I would say it’s about a month along.”
Cindy and Doug embrace each other and bounce from excitement. Chase pats Justice on the forehead and lends her a tiny kiss on her nose. “Good job, girl.”
Dr. Weffler removes the ultrasound wand and, after a good cleaning, packs the equipment back in its case.
While washing her hands, she explains how to best care for our future momma.
“I would definitely change her diet during the pregnancy. You want to make sure she’s getting what she needs to make a healthy baby. I can print you out a guideline of the types of supplements we recommend.”
Doug nods his head.
“ Also, keep her on an exercise schedule. Don’t go crazy, but there’s no reason she can’t work. It’s actually better for mom, and baby, to keep in shape.”
Chase and Doug listen closely, while Zoey jots a few things down on a notepad.
Justice begins to paw at the ground with her front hoof.
“I guess someone is tired of waiting,” I smirk.
Chase walks over and unclips her halter from the cross-ties. Offering her a peppermint, she quickly scoops it into her mouth, and with a loud crunch, it disappears.
Chase walks her back to her stall and closes the door. “So,” he starts. “Do you know a horse’s gestation period?”
I shake my head. “No clue,” I respond.
“Eleven months,” Zoey pipes up. “She will have the baby late winter.”
Chase agrees with a smile. “That’s right. That means, if she lets us, we can ride her this entire season.”
Zoey stops shoveling manure and turns toward Chase. “Who can ride her?” she asks.
“Well,” he responds. “You.”
Justice let’s out a yawn while Chase carries the western saddle out of the tack room and sets it on the rack just outside the grooming stall.
“You ready, ‘ol girl?”
Her back hoof sits on its toe, a well-known resting position. Chase grabs the pad and brings it toward her. Uninterested, she allows her eyes to slowly close. Judging her response, he lays the pad on her back and steps back, expecting a kick.
“Lynn,” he instructs. “Get me the saddle.”
I do as he says and throw the western saddle up on my hip to carry it to him. The stirrups smack me in the shin as I walk, and the horn digs into my hip bone.
“Thanks,” he says with a playful wink.
I blush, and then move a safe distance from Justice. Chase slowly swings the saddle on to her back as Doug rounds the corner.
“Did ya swallow a crazy pill today?” He asks Chase. “That mare is barely pregnant and you’re
already trying to get on her back?”
Chase smiles and searches the barn for Zoey.
“Yup. Zoey needs a horse to ride at Nationals.”
Zoey rolls her eyes and continues pushing the wheelbarrow to the next stall. “Fat chance,” she mumbles under her breath.
Doug hands the girth to Chase from under her belly, and he loosely attaches it. Clicking the lunge line to the metal circle on her halter, and throwing a training bridle over his shoulder, he heads to the round pen.
“Close the gate behind him,” Doug yells from the barn.
I scurry up to the metal gate and latch it. Chase tightens the girth a little at a time, walking her a few steps in between. Once he’s content with it, he gives her some slack on the rope and asks her to walk on. Meandering across the round pen to the rail, her tail calmly swipes at a fly that lands on her hip.
“Trot,” Chase commands, followed with a click from his mouth.
Justice moves forward with little convincing. Her knees float through the air, landing miles from where they took off.
Doug joins me on the fence. “Seems calmer already,” he whispers. “Let’s see what happens when he puts his big ol’ foot in the stirrup.”
Chase shoots Doug the evil eye after getting wind of his comment. “Thanks for the confidence,” he snarls.
After warming Justice up, he brings her to the center and trades her halter for a training bridle. Doug enters the round pen to help. He laces the reins through two hooks on the saddle, and then ties them together on the seat.
“What’s that for?” I ask.
Doug walks to the fence and climbs between two bars to join me on the outside. “It’ll make her stay in frame while he works her. It gets her used to moving forward, but not hanging on the bit. Horse’s mouths should be supple and give in to pressure. This is how we start.”
Chase asks her to move onward. She’s hesitant at first as she chomps on the training snaffle in between her teeth. After some convincing, she moves forward, halting every so often when the pressure of the bit confuses her.
“She will get used to it,” Chase explains. “They all do.”
Chase reverses her direction and asks for a trot. She takes two steps, hits the bridle, and backs off. Her four feet plant into the sand, and she stretches her neck, pulling on the reins.
“Alright,” Doug says as he climbs back through the bars. “Let’s see if you can get on her back.”
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The aisle ways at SROS are buzzing with people, and the girls are anxiously awaiting the start of this year's show season. Impatiently awaiting news from the vet about whether Justice is in foal has been exhausting, and the fact that Rumble is the only horse in the barn ready for the ring has added to the stress. But, when the news finally arrives, things are about to change. With a new horse to ride, and a bid to Nationals, Zoey is finally back in the ring. She takes it slow, and for the first time is unsure of where she stands. Her insecurity is showing, and it's making everyone a little uneasy. Just when she begins to feel confident, a freak accident derails her plans. What will this mean for her future at SROS? While Zoey is trying to figure out her future, Lynn is still working on her leads with Rumble. Frustrated with her progress, she takes a break and decides to let Chase know how she really feels about their relationship. The random reveal shifts the focus away from Zoey for the moment, changing the barn's dynamic. However, their personal life gets tossed aside when another unexpected emergency takes over. Two middle-of-the-night phone calls -- filled with words every horse person is terrified to hear -- rip out the girls’ hearts. Can they make it through? Can they find the will to move forward when they want to give up? Or, will Doug and Cindy be forced to move on, closing the doors at SROS for good?