Morgan Had A Horse
Morgan Had A Horse
I jumped off the school bus that let me off right across from our driveway. I waited until the bus driver waved me across. Since the high school I attend lets out at 2:35pm, I get home before anyone else. My brother, Buzz, wouldn’t be home before 4:30pm. Buzz is not his real name. It’s Evan. Since we are only thirteen months apart, Mom said I should call him ‘Brother’. I was only a year old so when I tried to say it, it came out ‘Buzzer’ instead.
As I walked through the kitchen, my quick eye caught a note on the front of the refrigerator. It read:
Pax is turned out. Bring him in and feed. Be home later.
Just thinking about Pax made my brown eyes grow misty. Pax is a beautiful pure black horse. My dad is a vet specializing in farm animals. Pax had been abused and neglected by his owner. Many of nights, I sat up with Dad and helped him nurse Pax back to health. In the end we all loved Pax so much Dad adopted him.
As I walked out to the field, the wind was starting to pick up and the temperature was starting to drop. I saw a black spec in the distance.
“Come on, Pax” I called clicking my tongue.
I walked out further. My breath caught in my throat. Wrapped around Pax’s legs was what was left of a barbed wire fence. It is a horseman’s worst nightmare. And now it had happened to Pax, my beautiful Pax. I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed the wire with my bare hands and tried to break it free. I wrestled the wire back and forth, from side to side, but it held fast.
“I’ll be right back, Pax. Please hold still. Don’t move!”
By the look on Pax’s face, I knew he understood. When I returned with the wire cutters, I got down on my knees and snipped the wire. I stuck the wire cutters in my back pocket, attached the rope to Pax’s bridle and slowly led him out of the tangled mess.
Later that night, I heard a knock on my bedroom door. It was Dad. He came and sat on the edge of my bed.
“Your mom told me what happened,” he said. “You were wonderful today, honey.” He tenderly patted my bandaged hands.
“In fact, your performance today has convinced me you are finally ready for your own riding horse.”
Dad had said if I proved to him I was responsible enough when I turned sixteen I could have my own horse.
I decided I wanted to get a younger horse, maybe one or two years old. That way we could grow up together and I could also train it.
We went to the National Horse Association website and e-mailed some farms around the area to see if they had any young geldings for sale. Gelding is just another term for a male horse not used for breeding. We received a response from a farm called Spring Trails. Dad called and made an appointment to go out at look at the gelding a week from Saturday.
Dad had told me not to automatically assume we were going to buy him. He didn’t want me to be disappointed if we went home without a horse.
A pleasant lady named Cheryl greeted us. Cheryl led the gelding out of the stall so Dad could examine his legs and coat while I stroked his face. While Dad asked Cheryl some questions, I happened to glance out the door. Not too far away I saw a smaller horse tied up to a post. His mane was all tangled and matted. And he definitely needed a bath. His hooves were caked with mud. I walked out and noticed his front right ankle was a little swollen. I asked Dad if he would mind just looking at this horse’s leg.
“Sprain?” he asked Cheryl.
“Just a mild one,” she answered. “It won’t hold him back long.”
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Jesse James. He’ll be out causing trouble in a week or so. He likes to incite riots. A real trouble maker this one.”
Jesse James raised his head and looked at me with mournful brown eyes.
“How much?” I asked Cheryl on a sudden impulse.
“Are you serious? I have been trying to get rid of him for weeks, but nobody wants to buy him.”
“Just a minute,” Dad cut in. “Morgan, I know how much you want a horse, but not this one.”
“Look at him. Any smaller and he would be considered a pony. You want a horse you can ride and grow into.”
“I thought so, too. I just don’t want any horse. I want this one. He needs me.”
“Honey, I know how much you would like to, but you can’t help every friendless animal in this world.”
“I know I can’t, but this one I can. Dad, I want to buy this horse.”
Dad smiled and shook his head. “You really are something else.” He turned to the Cheryl. “You heard her. Once my daughter makes up her mind there’s no changing it.”
And with that Jesse James became mine.
The next morning I put on my bathing suit and set out to give Jesse James a bath. I brought him to the back of the house and tied him to one of the porch railings. Just spraying him with the hose, ten pound of dirt and filth must have come off him.
When I reached down and tried to lift his back foot, he kicked and I lost my hold. He broke the rope and ended up taking one whole side of the porch railing with him. Before I was able to get a hold of the rope and stop him, he had trampled through all my mom’s petunias and knocked over and broken two of her ceramic flowerpots. And this was only the beginning.
Mom had an old washer out on the back porch. One time, Jesse took off running and knocked over the entire washtub and sent water and clothes flying everywhere, soaking Mom in the process.
Jesse had figured out how to unlock the door to his stall. During the day he would get out and rip open the corn bag, eat as much as he wanted and then knock over the rest of the bag so shelled corn would end up all over the floor of the barn. We finally ended up getting padlock for Jesse’s door.
Dad said I had to do something about Jesse. He gave me two options: either sell him or start training him right away. I decided to start Jesse in training. After all, I had practically begged Dad to let me buy him. I decided to train him at Hidden Hills where there were more suitable facilities.
I have been taking riding lessons at Hidden Hills since I was eight years old. Whether it was riding or helping out with the chores as long as I could be around horses, I didn’t care. Raymond McCarey owns the stables. Mr. McCarey is a retired professional horse trainer/racer. He is very nice about letting the kids ride his horses.
My favorite horse is the thoroughbred mare named Belle. She was named after Mr. McCarey’s late wife. Mr. McCarey had taken Belle to the Kentucky Derby and won the Triple Crown.
I talked to Mr. McCarey the next day and he said he would let me keep Jesse at the stables for a small monthly fee.
“Would you be willing to help me train him?”
“He’s your horse, Morgan. You should be the one to train him. David can help you.” David is Mr. McCarey’s grandson and the same age as me.
“Help who do what?” David came into the stables leading a bay.
“Will you help me train Jesse?” I asked
“Are you sure he’s trainable?” David had heard the horror stories.
“Of course he is trainable. He just spirited.”
“Well, all right.” David still didn’t seem too sure.
“I’ll prove it to you,” I replied.
“I’m…I…I’m going to run him in the derby.”
Jesse James had earned more than his name. He didn’t just make trouble he looked for it. Nothing seemed to please him more than nipping at the stable hands. Unless it was kicking the exercise boys. He chased other yearlings when I let him out in the pasture then reared and kicked and snorted bad-temperedly when it was time to be stabled for the night.
Jesse had bunched up and kicked out when I had turned my back on him. David saw the opening, shoved me aside and onto the ground and took the hoof in the ribs. Without a second thought, I moved into the box and took hold of the reins and tried to control Jesse. A thousand pounds of horse fought against me. David was back on his feet. He took the reins from me and jerked them just enough to bring Jesse’s head down.
I slowly raised my foot and put it in the stirrup and put my knee in David’s hands for a leg up. I bellied over in the saddled and laid still as Jesse shied. I knew just what could happen if the colt wasn’t controlled. A wrong move on anyone’s part and I could find myself under several hundred pounds of agitated horse.
Slowly, I eased myself up until I sat and slid my feet into the stirrups. This new sensation had Jesse tossing his head, dancing back and kicking out.
“I think he would like to bounce me off the ceiling.” I gave a shaky laugh.
Gradually, the restless movements started to still. Each day, he would move around less. I only rode him a couple of steps a day. My day consisted of getting up, exercising Jesse before school, going to school, training with Jesse after school, going home, eating supper, doing my homework and going to bed. And it would be that way until the derby was over.
After many months of endless training, Jesse was doing the commands I had been giving him a lot more smoothly than before. He came when I tugged on the rope and stopped when I pulled back. I could lead him around the ring in both directions and he seemed to be trotting a little more now.
On the day of the derby, I woke up early and dressed in my professional riding outfit.
David and I washed and groomed Jesse until his coat shone. David made sure there were no knots in his tail. They gave me my number and a blanket with the same number to put under Jesse’s saddle. I also got four red ankle warmers for him. The derby was the last event of the day.
As I directed Jesse into his slot, I suddenly felt quite calm and even a little confident. This was exciting.
“And in slot number six is Jesse James, ridden by Morgan Kocher.” I heard over the loud speaker. And then a gun sounded and I said, “Git up! And Jesse shot out. The race had begun.
I knew I had to keep my head. Within seconds, all the horses merged into one speeding line, with legs flying. Reds, whites, golds and greens were a just a blur of color. The sound from all the pounding hoofs was deafening. Dust clouds rose off the track as the horses started to break apart from each other for the second turn.
Jesse began to close in distance. He was trying for third place. He was gaining. He had moved into second place now. Only one more horse to pass. He was the champion from last year. He was going to be a hard one to beat. Jesse moved like a stone skimming through the water. Whether we won or not, Jesse was going to give this horse a run for his money. They were neck and neck. Only seconds before the finish line, Jesse had a sudden burst of energy and pasted the leader like he was standing still. We had won! Jesse had won his first derby! I slowly eased him back into a slow canter.
Everyone came running out of the stands to congratulate me.
About a week or so after winning the derby everything returned to normal.
“Oh, Morgan, I’m glad you’re still here,” Mr. McCarey came hurriedly into the stable where I was just hanging Flash’ s feedbag. “You know I have been trying to retire for ten years now, but something always keeps holding me here. Well, no more. The majority if the horses here are used for giving riding lessons and have the trainers to take care of them. That is all, but one. Belle. I was wondering if you would be willing to take her…as your own?”
“You mean it? Belle’s mine?”
“If you want her.”
“Of course, I’ll take her. I want her more than anything.”
“You have made this old man’s heart very happy. I can leave now knowing Belle will get the love, attention and care she deserves.“
I have always dreamed of having my own riding horse and now I don’t have to dream anymore because dreams really can come true.