The smell of newly cut wafted in through open windows. A grain bucket clanged against a stall door like a dull church bell. A black, velvety nose pressed against the bars of a stall and sweet-smelling grain dribbled from whiskered lips. A bay horse came down the aisle, her hooves tapping a tune on the rough cement. Stalls stretched away on either side and the air was full of the smell of sweet grain and newly polished leather and saddle soap. Awards and ribbons were hung on stall doors and on a big golden palomino’s stall door a plaque read: Individual Gold in Eventing—2000 Olympics. Heads of every horse color imaginable stuck out of stalls, but a few of the stalls were empty. One beautiful chestnut had a mane that flowed like water over her beautiful head. The white star on her forehead shone like silver as she haughtily tossed her forelock out of her eyes and turned to munch on hay. A colt whinnied for its mother; its mother answered it with a soft, low, comforting nicker that would have calmed the wildest colt.
In the corner of the grain room stood a green, shiny wheelbarrow with a pitchfork leaning against it. Grain buckets of all shapes and sizes were piled in a corner, each carefully labeled with the horse’s name. Mice scampered about and nibbled on spilled grain. A huge grain bin stood in the corner, its top padlocked against mice and horses. Several brightly colored new grain bags lay on top of it, waiting to be opened and dumped into the bin. There was a sink in the corner and in it grain scoops and dirty buckets were stacked in a towering pile. On the counter in the corner of the room there was a bag of mineral salt licks and next to that there was a bag of regular white salt licks. In another room saddles were stacked neatly on holders, and bridles of all shapes and sizes were hung on shiny metal hooks. Brushes and hoof picks were thrown in buckets and were sitting quietly on a dusty shelf. A leather crop lay on a wooden chair and a tack trunk stood quietly waiting to be opened. The floor was dirty and the now potbellied mice scampered around like naughty children. A soft, velvety nicker rang through the air, splitting the silence into a million pieces. Another soft, low nicker answered it and then there was silence again.
The arena at the end of the barn was huge. Its long sides stretched away for what seemed like miles. At one end an observation deck stuck out obstinately like a poorly fitting hat, and at the other end there were two huge wooden doors that led into the barn. A tiny black pony and its equally tiny rider cantered around and around, now and then gracefully taking the big, green cross-rail jump in the middle of the arena. The pony’s hooves drummed on the soft, sandy footing: ded-der-dum-ded-der-dum. Swallows flew overhead, their wings whiffing and buzzing like bees in the air as their tiny feet fought for a foothold on the rafters. The sand on the floor created a musty but sweet-smelling aroma and the sun streamed through the clear panels on the roof. The doors from the barn swung open and a girl leading a big, chestnut pony stepped into the arena. The girl looked at the tiny black pony and then slowly mounted. She began to trot around the ring, but paused at the jump. She walked her pony up to it, showing it to her from every angle. Then she steered her pony away from it and urged her into a canter. The canter was slow and graceful, like flowing water. The girl turned toward the jump. Her soft hands and legs guided the pony carefully over the jump. They took the jump together in perfect unison. They were like a rainbow after a storm; silent and perfect, yet beautiful.
There was a little door on the side of the arena that led out into the winter paddock and the lush, green fields out behind the barn. The fields stretched away for miles in either direction. Hay bales dotted the fields in the distance and beautiful horses grazed in the closer fields. Miles of board fence surrounded the fields. Beautiful, beautiful fields and horses! A chestnut colt romped in the far paddock, its sparkling mane and tail flying in the light spring breeze. A black mare rolled and shook off the dirt with a snort. A gelding pawed the air and whinnied to another horse in a neighboring paddock. In an outdoor arena a tall, blond girl lunged her beautiful bay thoroughbred. It was the beginning of another day at Pendragon Farm.