Like A Whisper...

Alice loves horses. She helps out at her local yard. Her mother and father hate not being able to afford to buy their daughter a horse.
Alice doesn't like school, though she gets good grades. She's not popular, but she's not bullied.
What will happen when her perfectly normal life is turned upside down?

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4. Chapter 4


 It's five when I lead Hatter into the trailer. He's the last to go in. His usually bushy mane is neatly plaited and I have a full rug on him to keep the plaits from falling out. I close the divider and then lift the ramp with the help of Cathal, a groom who's coming today. He's new, so I'm going to show him how to do everything.

 I jump into the back and Cathal sits beside me. "Hi," he says, "Nervous?"

 "Yep. The highest course I've jumped is a metre course. The showjumping is a metre twenty."

 "You'll be fine. I've seen you ride before. You're really good."

 "Thanks," I laugh, "I've never seen you ride though."

 "I'll be warming up three of your horses. Whatever three you want me to. You'll see me ride then."

 "Oh. I didn't know you were warming them up."

 "You sound dissapointed?"

 "No, I just like warming my horses up myself. It gives you a better feel of what they're like that day."

 "Well, seeing as you're a much better rider than me, I'll be warming them up while you compete." There's a slight bitterness to his voice and I look at him.

 "I'm sure you're amazing. Mally wouldn't have brought you otherwise. And probably the only reason why you're not riding is because the horses don't know you. It took months before she let me ride at a show." Cathal smiles at me and I smile back. It's all true.

 It's only an hour long journey, but somehow I manage to fall asleep. I wake with my head on Cathal's shoulder and his head on mine. He's asleep too. Mally shouts back, telling us that we're nearly there, five more minutes. It's no use waking Cathal now so I just close my eyes and run over the dressage course in my head.

 The truck starts bouncing slightly and I can tell we're on grass. Mally swings the wheel and the truck does a smooth turn.

 "Cathal," I say, "Cathal wake up, we're here." He groans and lifts his head.

 "Wha'?"

 "We're here." I can barely control my grin. I stand up, stretching. Mally comes in.

 "What's taking you so long? We need to get the horses unloaded. You're riding Jack at seven, Lily at half past, Lavender at half eight, Dairymilk at ten and Hatter at twelve. Martha's at one and I'm riding at a quarter to two." There are literally thousands of riders here.

 Mally goes up to sign us in and get our competition numbers. There are already numerous riders warming up and in the ring. I lead Lavender out. She's the most laid back and will go into the trailer without a fuss. We always put her in first so the other horses will hopefully follow suit. As she steps off the ramp, she raises her head and sniffs before walking on again.

 For once, Hatter hasn't scratched out his mane. I quickly groom each horse and do their quarter markings. Each horse had something different.

 Cathal helps me take the bandages off the horses' legs. We give them dressage wraps and let them rest for a while. It's only six o'clock, so we have an hour to watch other riders before beginning to warm up. I walk over to the jumping arena. It's a ninety centimetre course. Most of the riders looks under sixteen. It's an easy course with no sharp turns.

 "Do you want to watch the cross country?" Cathal asks.

 "Yeah, sure." We walk to a hill where you can see most of the course. It's the course Wonder will be doing tomorrow, a one star. But there's more than one competition in it this week. There's a water jump close to us. We're at the fence. A rider comes up on a flashy chestnut horse.

 "Come on, girl." The rider gives her a tap with the whip and she lengthens her stride.

 "She's going too fast," I mutter. Cathal nods in agreement. The mare takes off too early and launches over the fence. The rider looks down and the mare canter on the wrong lead. The girl doesn't realise and kicks her on. At the jump o exit the water, the mare skids to a stop and her rider falls, hitting the fence on her way down.

 She scrambles up, and takes her mare's reigns. I like the way she doesn't slap her horse for it. She mounts up and turns her horse around to take the jump again. Again she kicks on in between the fences.

 "Slow down a small bit," I call. I know I shouldn't have, but she takes my advice and sits back slightly. Her mare clears the jump and the girl turns to smile at me before going on.

 We walk back to the truck at five to seven and I go to get changed after tacking up Jack. Cathal gives me a leg up and I pat Jack's black neck before tapping my heels against his sides. I have to warm him up without using my voice as we're not allowed to use our voice in the test.

 He's going really well and the white numnah and leg wraps make a lovely contrast against his black coat.

 "Could rider 46 - Alice Hayes on Jack Skellington please enter the dressage arena now. That's rider 46 - Alice Hayes on Jack Skellington to the dressage arena now please." The announcer called out.

 I ride out of the warm up arena and to the dressage one. Cathal gives my boots one last wipe and gves me a good luck smile. I take a deep breath and push Jack into a trot.

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