I walked through the aisle of a stable called Danbury Farms. It had once been well known to everybody in this county who jumped, a place where young jumpers dreamed of riding.
However, the farm had fallen on hard times. The manager had moved to England to be with his girlfriend, and the farm had collapsed. As a result, the owners of the farm, Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Jones, were selling all of their top-flight jumpers dirt cheap, and my mom had agreed to buy me one.
My mom, who was calling me over to look at another horse, interrupted my thoughts. “Jessica, dear, come and look at this Arabian mare, Silvershadow.” I started to turn toward her, but another stall caught my eye. It looked empty at first glance, but when I walked over to have a second look, I saw that a little colt, his coat a fiery chestnut, almost red, occupied it.
I read the stall plate. “Piccadilly Dreams,” I said to him, “Quite a big name for such a little fellow, isn’t it?” Despite being a year old, according to the birth date on the stall plate, he was rather small.
He stretched his neck a little so he could put his head over the stall door, and I put my hand on his forehead, covering the small, white, lopsided circle that was there. Looking into his liquid brown eyes, I knew that this was my horse, my partner.
“Excuse me,” I said to a passing groom, “could you tell me about this little guy?”
“Sure,” he answered, putting down the water bucket he was carrying. “He’s half thoroughbred, half Arab, bred and born right here on Danbury Farms. His dad was that massive stallion we sold to Whiteberry Stables, remember him?”
I remembered seeing him unloaded while I was doing my job as a groom there. He was a fiery red terror. Whiteberry was just down the road from my house, and the owner, Lydia Carpenter, taught me to ride in exchange for work.
“His mom,” the groom continued, “was that pretty girl over there.” He pointed to Silvershadow, the mare my mom had wanted me to see, and I looked at her in a new light.
She was dusky black, with the dished face that was typical of Arabians, strong hindquarters, and an intelligent look in her large brown eyes. She would be a good jumper, I thought.
“May I go into his stall?” I asked.
“Sure,” the groom said again. “He got his dad’s color, but his mom’s temper, thank goodness, or he’d have been a holy terror.”
I opened the stall door carefully, so I didn’t scare him, then let him sniff my hand. After he could recognize me by smell, I crouched down and ran my hands over his legs, checking for straightness. Good. They were straight. Sloping shoulders? Check. Strong hindquarters? Check. Good attitude? Check. He had all the things he needed to be a champion jumper.
I stood up again, and looked right into my mom’s face. “Mom,” I said. “This is my horse.”
“No,” she answered. “He’s too young, untrained, and you won’t be able to ride him for a long time. No. I’m sorry but this is the way it’s meant to be. There will be other horses.”
I wish my mom wasn’t so superstitious. Sometimes, when she thinks something’s “meant to be,” there’s no way to change her mind.
There was nothing I could do. I walked away slowly, every step taking me further away from my horse.
All the way back home, I sat in stony silence. I was sorry to make such a big deal of it, but she was wrong.
As soon as the car stopped, I ran into the garage and grabbed my bike. I got on it and biked swiftly to the end of the road, to Whiteberry. Lydia was waiting for me. As soon as I had stopped, I said, “Lydia, I found the perfect horse, but my mom won’t let me buy him!”
While I was saying that, she said, “Jessica, I found the perfect horse for you!” I stopped talking.
“You go first,” I said.
“OK. You know that barn across town, Danbury?”
I nodded but didn’t say anything.
“Well, they just closed down and are selling all their horses real cheap. You know that massive terror of a stallion I bought, Piccadilly’s Devil? He was from there.
“Anyways, I went up there again to look at a mare of theirs, and I found out she had a colt! He’s one year old, which is a bit young, but I can help you train him. He’s also actually the son of my stallion! Isn’t that cool? Now, what did you say?”
I stared at her. “Well,” I said, “I found the same colt, but my mom won’t let me buy him. I’m sure he’s the horse for me!” While Lydia was speaking, my face had flushed with excitement that she thought Piccadilly was a good horse for me, too, and I had had to resist the urge to jump up and down. I needed a breather.
“Wait a sec,” I said, “I gotta run to the bathroom.”
When I got to the bathroom, I splashed my face with cold water, glad that Lydia had forked out the extra money for running water. In despair—I wasn’t going to get to buy my horse, after all— I stared at the pictures of Lydia jumping her horses. A spark of an idea formed in my mind. The question was, would it work? I ran back to where Lydia was standing. “I have an idea,” I told her.
“What?” she asked. I told her my idea.
“Yes!” she said. “Go for it!”
I biked home in the gathering darkness. When I got to the house, I went to bed, falling asleep instantly.
* * *
When I woke up the next morning, my mom was standing over me. “Come on,” she said, “get dressed and grab a donut, the box is on the counter. I had a dream about you and Piccadilly jumping a four-foot jump. We’re going to get your horse!”
Yes! I thought, so my plan had worked!
During the night, after my mom had fallen asleep, I had got out of bed, and drawn a picture of me jumping Piccadilly over a very large fence. Then, I had half woken up my mom, and held the picture in front of her. Since I had drawn on a piece of poster board, my drawing completely obscured her vision. Because she was only half-awake, her mind registered it as a dream. Because she’s so superstitious, she believed that it was “meant to be.” OK, so my plan was desperate-sounding, but it worked, didn’t it?