Jumper - Michele Martin Bossley - E-Book

Jumper E-Book

Michele Martin Bossley

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Beschreibung

Reese loves horses and longs to be a competitive show Jumper.

When the leased horse she rides is sold, she is left riding the orneriest horse in the stable. She decides she must find a horse of her own. Her parents can't afford a trained horse, so she decides to buy a wild horse at auction.

Outbid, she discovers that many of the wild horses will be sold for slaughter. Determined to save the horses from a terrible fate, she finds herself in deeper than she expected—and fighting for her life.

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Jumper

Michele Martin Bossley

Orca Sports

Copyright © Michele Martin Bossley 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bossley, Michele Martin

Jumper / Michele Martin Bossley. (Orca sports)

Electronic MonographIssued also in print format.ISBN 9781551436227(pdf) -- ISBN 9781554696543 (epub)

I. Title. II. Series.

PS8553.O7394J84 2006 jC813’.54 C2006-903486-9

Summary: Reese is determined to save wild horses from the slaughterhouse.

First published in the United States: 2006Library of Congress Control Number: 2006927098

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover design: Doug McCaffryCover photography: Corbis

In Canada:Orca Book Publishers PO Box 5626, Station BVictoria, BC CanadaV8R 6S4

In the United States:Orca Book PublishersPO Box 468Custer, WA USA98240-0468

www.orcabook.com

09 08 07 06 • 5 4 3 2 1

For Gigi, who has asked me for years to write a book about horses and show jumping. Here it is, at last.

chapter one

“Oh, look, Grandpa! Isn’t he—”

“Beautiful. I know, I know,” Grandpa interrupted. “You’ve said that about every horse, Reese.”

“But they are. Every single one of them.” I leaned against the fence rail to get a better look. Even with the icy raindrops pattering on my face, I couldn’t take my eyes off the gelding in front of me. Sixteen hands tall, he took the next jump with a soaring grace that made me catch my breath. “He’s fantastic,” I whispered. “What I wouldn’t give to ride a horse like him.

Grandpa’s umbrella wasn’t doing a very good job. We were standing out in one of the worst downpours in the history of Spruce Meadows. Spruce Meadows is a famous show-jumping facility just south of Calgary, Alberta, where I live. They hold some of the biggest show-jumping competitions in the world there. My grandfather had gotten tickets for this tournament for my birthday, but it was our bad luck that the competition fell on the same day that southern Alberta was hit with a mammoth rainstorm. Water trickled down the back of my collar, my underwear was uncomfortably damp and my sneakers were soaked, but I didn’t care. All I could see was the horse rounding the course in front of me.

Grandpa sneezed, then blew his nose in a tissue. After mopping his face vigorously, he turned to me. “Had enough yet?”

“Oh, please, Grandpa,” I begged. “Can’t we stay just a little bit longer?”

Grandpa smiled at me, his blue eyes kind. “Well, I’m up to my knees in mud, but I guess I can’t get much wetter. A few more minutes won’t hurt.” He settled his felt cowboy hat a little more firmly over his iron-gray hair.

“Thanks!” I beamed at him. The gelding finished the course to a smattering of applause. Many people had given up and left already. Only those spectators in the covered stands were still dry and comfortable.

The next rider came out on a dancing, skittish mare. She pranced and weaved—I could see the rider was having some trouble controlling her. I watched intensely, trying to pick up the rider’s signals to her horse. A good rider’s signals are almost undetectable unless you know what to watch for.

The rain had turned the course into a slippery mess, and it was getting worse every second. I could hardly see through the sudden torrent that swept over the field. The mare galloped clumsily through the muck and launched herself toward the first jump. I held my breath as she gathered her forelegs neatly under her body and cleared the poles but landed heavily, hooves splashing in the soggy grass.

“Hey, Gus, couldn’t you find a better seat than this?” A man grinned at Grandpa and blew the steam away from his hot cup of coffee. He was around forty-five years old, with thick, dark hair and a rugged, still-handsome face.

“Sitting under a canopy in a cushy chair is for old guys, Jim,” Grandpa retorted good-naturedly.

“Rich old guys, you mean,” Jim answered. He laughed, but I saw a slight frown crease Grandpa’s face.

“Business is good, then,” Grandpa said. “Oh, yeah. Going great, in fact. Between the ranch and the corporate stuff in town, I keep busy all right. I’ll tell you, if it weren’t for trying to impress clients, I sure wouldn’t be out here in this weather. The only good reason for keeping horses is to make money, and jumping them over fences only pays if you’re chasing coyotes away from the chickens.”

I snapped to attention at that. “These competitions are worth big money, Mr. ...”

“Bellamy.”

“Mr. Bellamy,” I finished.

“Yes they are, Missy, but only to the rider who wins. The rest have the cost of keeping an expensive horse in feed, training and vet bills, not to mention travel expenses to competitions. Just so they can jump over a set of pretty poles? Hardly worth it.”

“Depends on who you’re talking to,” I said, stung by the nickname Missy. Who did this guy think he was, anyway? “I happen to think training horses as beautiful as these is worth a lot more than money,” I continued.

Jim Bellamy’s green eyes narrowed. I don’t think people disagreed with him to often. “You might change your mind about that someday, when your mommy and daddy don’t pay your bills for you.”

My face flamed. Bellamy turned to Grandpa. “See you around, Gus.” He strode off to the covered seats, his coffee still sending up wisps of steam.

“What a total jerk!” I burst out as soon as he was out of earshot. Grandpa glanced at me. “Well, he is! Who says he can call me Missy and criticize show jumping? Show jumping is amazing, and he can just stuff it!”

Grandpa suppressed a grin with difficulty. “Jim Bellamy has a ranch down the road a ways from mine. I’ve known him for years. He’s always said what he wants and the heck with what everybody else thinks.”

“Really?” I said coldly. “Well, maybe someone should remind him that there is such a thing as manners.”

“Maybe someone should,” Grandpa agreed. He paused in thought. “Maybe you just did.”

“Not enough,” I said grumpily. The rain was still coming down in torrents. The next horse and rider were consulting with some Spruce Meadows officials. I wondered if they might call off the rest of the competition, but it didn’t matter much anymore. I was wet and cold, and the rest of the show was ruined for me. I glanced at Grandpa’s mud-covered boots. “Come on, Grandpa. Let’s go home.”

chapter two

“No, NO! Push him forward! Put pressure on your outside leg as you round the turn. Straighten his head, Reese!” Laurel, my coach, yelled across the ring as Dublin approached the fence too close to one side and refused the jump. He stopped so abruptly I nearly lost my balance in the saddle. “You need to give him the right aids,” Laurel called from her seat on an old chuck wagon in the center of the arena. “Squeeze with your legs on the stride before the jump. The timing has to be split-second!”

I wiped the sweat from my forehead with the back of my wrist and readjusted my helmet, tucking wisps of my brown hair back inside. “Okay. We’ll try it again.” I reached forward and patted Dublin’s smooth neck. “Come on, Dub. You can do it,” I encouraged. Dublin snorted, shifting the bit in his mouth.

I was at my Saturday riding lesson, putting Dublin over the jumps in the indoor ring. The arena’s dirt floor, covered in a thick layer of sand mixed with ground-up rubber tire chips, made the air smell dusty-sweet and muffled the sound in the open space. Three of the other girls in my class were waiting for their turn at the jumps.

I circled Dublin and headed for our last fence. I leaned forward, urging him on as I counted his strides. When we were less than three away from the jump, I loosened the reins and rose in the saddle, shifting my weight to help Dublin with the takeoff. I squeezed hard with my legs and felt his body bunch, then stretch, beneath me as we soared through space. It was the most glorious, floating feeling, but the earth rushed to meet us too quickly, and Dublin’s front hooves hit the dirt with a thud. I jolted a bit in the saddle and had to gather the reins quickly or I would have lost control of the horse.

I let Dublin canter for a few paces before I started to slow him down, bringing him around to where Laurel was standing.

She frowned. “That landing needs work,” she said.

“I know. I didn’t have time to get ready. He was so quick.”

“I think we should do some flatwork. You and Dublin are a bit off on your rhythm, and I think that’s what is causing the problem.” Laurel put her hands on both hips and studied me. “I think you could use some fine-tuning. Sometimes making small adjustments makes a big difference. We’ll work on that next time. Cool him down, then go ahead and untack. I think Dublin’s done for the day.”

I nodded and swung down from the saddle. I took hold of the reins and walked Dublin around the outside edge of the ring a few times before I led him to the big double doors at the far end of the arena. I paused to watch the other girls as I slid one door open. Kayla Richards was heading for the first jump on her horse, Twilight, with a gait so smooth they looked like they were cantering in slow motion.

I swallowed and turned away. Riding was so much harder than it looked. It wasn’t fair. People thought that you just climbed up into the saddle and away you went, but there was a lot more to it than that.

I led Dublin into the short passageway from the arena to the stable and over to his stall, which was one of the closest ones to the arena doors. I could still hear Laurel yelling faintly, but it seemed to me she sounded a lot more positive than she had with me.

I sighed. Tethering Dublin loosely to the gatepost by his reins, I grabbed a bucket of brushes from the nearby supply room.

“You really are a stubborn old goat,” I told him. He tossed his head at the disapproval in my voice, but I didn’t care. “Why can’t you just behave?” I lifted the flap of the saddle, unbuckled the girth and scooted around him to unbuckle the other side, sliding the saddle from his sweaty back. I stored it in one of the stable’s lockers and hung the saddle pads up to dry.

“You’re a darn nuisance, even if you are good-looking.” I kept talking as I grabbed the currycomb and began to brush the sweat from his back in swift, firm circles. He whickered in what I thought sounded like a pleased way. “But looks aren’t everything,” I answered sternly. I took a soft brush and leaned into his flank, brushing the dust from his coat. Dublin was a bay, which means he was a deep brown all over, with darker legs. He had white socks on all his feet and a white blaze on his forehead. His mane and tail were black. Dublin nosed at the pockets of my coat as I worked my way forward, bending down to brush away the sweat where the girth had been tightened.

“There’s no carrots in there, big guy,” I told him. “You’ll just have to wait.”

Dublin responded by blowing his nose into the folds of my jacket. “Hey!” I stepped back as he snorted again. “All right, Mr. Greedy. Just one for now.” I reached into the bag I always brought for my riding equipment and pulled out the carrots. I broke one up and let Dublin take it from my hand, stroking the side of his face as he nosed my palm. He crunched it quickly and looked immediately for more, but I had the hoof pick and I pulled up on his right front foot. He grudgingly lifted his foot so I could scrape out all the dirt and crud that accumulates during a ride. When it was clean, I let him go and grabbed his hind foot. I tugged, but Dublin refused to budge. “Oh, come on,” I said. Tug. Tug.

“Fine,” I huffed. I reached into the bag of carrots and let him have another one. He let me lift his hind foot, and I cleaned it as quickly as I could, but when I went on to the next hind leg, we went through the same performance again. Tug. Tug.

“You know, you could be sold,” I said, my hands on my hips.

“But not to you.” Kayla led Twilight through the big double doors just in time to hear my comment.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I swung around. I nearly added “rich girl” to the end of that sentence, but decided against it. I didn’t want to fight with her.