The Champion Rider


5. 5

Meanwhile down the road, Max and his father were sat in their small cottage kitchen eating their breakfast and listening to the radio that was playing softly in the corner. Max munched down on his marmite toast as Jim flicked through the morning paper, humming along to the radio quietly. “Did you hear that commotion outside in the early hours of this morning? Or was I imagining it?!” Max said to Jim between mouthfuls of toast. Jim lifted his gaze from the paper and looked over at Max… “Mm, I heard something but wasn’t sure if anyone was outside. It was probably just one of the horses making a fuss over something silly like a fox sneaking past the stalls; I doubt anyone was actually out there, especially that early. If you’ve checked all the horses are okay I wouldn’t worry.” Jim responded before grabbing a slice of toast and smothering it in sticky, sweet jam. 
“You’re probably right, I did a brief check over the horses a little while ago and they were all present and correct!” Max replied, grinning. “Anyway I better get moving, got a lot that needs doing today! I’ll catch up with you later.” He stood up and brushed the crumbs off his jodhpurs before walking out the door to tackle the day that lay ahead.

Max strode off towards the stables, pausing on the front lawn; he let out a shrill, short, sharp whistle. Two seconds later, two dogs came bounding round the corner their tongues lolling out the side of their mouths. The skidded to a halt at their master’s feet, panting, and looking up at him with big brown eyes. “Good boys. You would’ve alerted me if someone was around last night wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Come on let’s go, walk on.” He said softly, fondling with the dog’s soft ears distractively. The three of them set of at a brisk walk towards the stables, breathing in the fresh morning air and basking in the early morning sunshine. Within a few minutes they had reached the stable yard, unlatching the gate Max pushed it open and stood aside to allow the dogs to enter, before walking through behind them. As the trio went along, each horse poked their heads out from behind each of the stall door, whinnying their greetings to Max and the dogs. The last stall was tightly bolted shut, as Max got closer he could hear the horse inside shuffling around. Max clucked his tongue and the horse let out a loud nicker before starting to kick the bottom half of his door. “Steady boy. I’m coming, settle down.” Once he’d reached the door he swung it open, allowing the horse inside to thrust his head over the partition. Max chuckled at the cheeky horse as he stroked the horse’s velvet muzzle. “Easy boy, you’ll get your feed in a minute.” Max murmured before setting off down the stable corridor towards the feed room.   


Max was in the feed room when he heard the sound of horses approaching. Putting down the bucket of sugar beet he walked outside to see two women tying their horses up. It was only once they’d taken off their riding hats did he realise it was Tizzie and her mum, Amber. He gave them a little wave and made his way towards them, “Perfect timing! I was just feeding the horses, normally the yard staff would have the feeds all prepped but I’ve said they can come in an hour later for the rest of this week. Especially since we’ve been doing extra-long days recently, what with the preparations for the Horse of the Year show, which is rapidly approaching! They do deserve a little bit of a break every now and again.” Max laughed as he enveloped Amber in a hug and planted a kiss on each cheek. “You’re looking good Amber, you’ve hardly changed!” He turned and addressed Tizzie, who had been stood beside her mum watching the mini reunion, “Morning Tizzie, today you start proper work. I’ve done a couple of the horses’ feeds but you need to finish off the rest, give Jigsaw a groom and tack him up –he’s the skewbald in the last stall over there. Keep an eye on him though, he’s a cheeky boy! Then I’ll see you in the arena, I’ll get our head groom/yard manager to set up a little jumping course to tackle. After that you’ll need to cool Jigsaw down, wrap his legs and then I need you to do the same routine with Sampson – he’s the palomino three stalls up from Jigsaw. You’ll have no issues with him, he’s probably the most chilled out jumper in my stable.” Max continued as the three of them walked back towards the stables.
“Okay, I’ll go get sorted. I’ll see you later, have fun mum,” Tizzie said giving her mum a cheeky grin as she walked away.

Walking into the feed room Tizzie nearly tripped on the buckets that were lying all across the floor. Max clearly didn’t often do the feeds since the whole room was a nightmare with buckets everywhere and feed scoops scattered on the table. “Hmm, where do I even start?!” Tizzie muttered to herself as she started to sort through the feeding schedules that were displayed around the room. Finally, she had the buckets sorted and piled high in the wheelbarrow ready to deliver them to the stable full of hungry horses that were waiting for her. She walked off down the corridor and stopped in front of the first stall, poking his head over the door was the most beautiful skewbald she had ever seen. His brown patches were highlighted by his pristine white splodges. Entering his stable Tizzie placed his bucket on the floor before standing back and admired the horse’s confirmation and coat, she stood taking in the horse’s beauty before heading back out into the stable corridor and continued feeding the remainder of the horses who were now all stomping their hooves impatiently.
“Settle down guys, I’m coming.” Tizzie called out down the corridor. It didn’t take her long to finish up the feeding, so once all the horses were fed and watered she headed back across the yard to the tack room.

Walking into the deceptively spacious tack room, Tizzie marvelled at the array of equipment hanging from the walls. There were saddles resting delicately on their racks, rugs folded in neat little piles and bridles hanging from hooks. Under the benches at the back of the room several clear boxes were stored, taking a peek inside Tizzie noted that all spare parts were stored in the first one, sprays and creams were stored in the second one and in the last was where the spare fly rugs and fly masks were stored. They’d soon need those since it would soon be summer and the horses would need the protection. Tizzie was wondering how she would know which gear was for Jigsaw and Sampson when she spotted there was actually name plates above each horse’s section in the room. Grabbing Jigsaw’s jumping saddle off the rack she slung it over her arm, picked up his bridle and made her way back towards his loose box. Once she’d reached his stall she flung the saddle and bridle over the door, unbolted it and walked in. Jigsaw looked up and took a step towards her as she closed the door behind her and produced a juicy carrot, offering it out to him. He snuffled the carrot gently out of her hand, tickling her palm with his whiskers as she stroked his pretty patchy face. “There’s a good boy. You’re so handsome aren’t you?” Tizzie cooed at him as she lifted the saddle up off the door and onto Jigsaw’s back, adjusting the numnah underneath to make sure it wasn’t rucked up. Gently easing the girth around his belly so as not to startle him, she slowly tightened it and did up the buckles. The majority horses puffed out their bellies when the girth was being done up so Tizzie would leave Jigsaw to deflate before she tightened it up once more, in the meantime she put his bridle on. She kept expecting him to turn around and bite her or kick her - as Max seemed to hint he would – but Jigsaw was as good as gold, the only time he turned around was to nuzzle Tizzie’s arm as if he was asking for more carrots. “Sorry boy, no more for now but if you behave for me I’ll give you as many carrots as you want,” She laughed, giving him a slappy pat on his neck.
Finally all of Jigsaw’s tack had been checked, tightened and re-checked, so Tizzie grabbed Jigsaw’s reins and lead him outside towards the wooden mounting block. It would be easier than hauling herself into the saddle from the ground and a lot gentler on the horse’s back. Landing lightly on Jigsaw’s back, Tizzie asked the gelding to walk on. As she felt him move beneath her she could already sense his willingness and as she urged him into a trot she could also feel what power he possessed in his body. Deep within Tizzie’s stomach she was beginning to feel a familiar feeling, it was like a thousand butterflies were fluttering around and around in her tummy – the feeling was a heady mix of excitement, anticipation and nervousness.

It was just a short distance from the stables to the outdoor school, but it was a good warm up for Jigsaw and it gave Tizzie a little bit of time to start building a bond with him. As she made her way towards the school she could see the rest of the staff arriving. Each of them was dressed in their navy jodhpurs and purple polo shirts with the inscription TM in swirly writing on the pocket. Max had said there was a standard uniform, but Tizzie was still waiting for hers to arrive. Although she wasn’t overly enthusiastic about having to wear a uniform, she secretly was quite glad it was a purple polo shirt since it was her favourite colour and it really complemented her long blonde hair and skin tone.
They were almost at the school now and Tizzie could see someone balancing jump poles in their cups. “Excuse me. Can you open the gate for me please?” Tizzie called out to the man stood in the middle of the school. He moved the last jump in place, looked up and began to walk towards the gate. As he came closer she could see he was the grumpy man from the other day who was shouting at a groom unloading a trunk. Hopefully he was in a better mood today, she was already nervous about taking a new horse over the jump course that had been constructed in the school without having a grumpy man on her back! Reluctantly he swung the gate open, but only just wide enough for her to get Jigsaw through. “Hmm, so he isn’t in a better mood today then!” Tizzie murmured quietly as the man went back to arranging jump poles. Being careful to avoid the man, Tizzie begun to trot Jigsaw over some small jumps to get him focused, after going over the jumps twice Tizzie looked up. She realised the man had gone, thankfully. Now she was able to really focus on collecting Jigsaw up and after a lap of the school she urged him into a smooth canter, aiming him towards the line of cross poles that were down the centre of the school. He was a very responsive ride and never put a hoof wrong the whole time Tizzie spent schooling him. After an hour, she made her way out of the school and back to the stables. She’d need to cool Jigsaw down, untack him and then rug him up before she went off to do it all again with Sampson.

Meanwhile Max was giving Amber a tour of the farm, it was such a huge place that even after an hour they were only half way around. Luckily after they had popped in to say hello to Jim, Max suggested they grab their horses and ride around the farm instead of walking round. “So how are things over at your place? I hear you’ve bred some foals that have excellent bloodlines!” Max asked Amber as their horses plodded on down the track.
“Things are actually pretty good considering the winter we’ve not long come out of! But yes you’ve heard right, we’ve brought ourselves a stallion with some very good bloodlines and bred him with a few of our mares. I was extremely shocked when I saw him come up at the price he was, so of course I jumped at the chance to buy him!” Amber replied.

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