Author's Note: Wow, has it been a while or what? That pesky work and school things prevents much writing these days and my old laptop having gone through a windshield didn't help much either! Hope I still have some readers out there, and many thanks to those who continue to read and review! Here's a tidbit to keep you going, and I promise more of Glory's sassy self in the near future!
She could hear the thunder of his hooves underneath her, but the old gray gelding felt light as air as they switched leads, looking for the next jump. There, the red and white striped 3'6" vertical. Eva pointed Cozzy towards it and the old man happily agreed, springing himself smartly over the obstacle as easily as any younger mount. He may have been a whole fourteen years of age, but Cozzy wasn't about to be left behind.
Applying gentle pressure to her inside rein- that was really all the communication the talented gelding needed –Cozzy slowed down into the curve until Eva's deeper seat settled him into a walk. Maybe the show the last weekend was all Eva has needed to really get her head back into the game. It felt like everything just… clicked. Riding Cozzy seemed almost effortless, or more like the communication between them was so subtle you'd swear it was telepathic. If only everything could be this carefree.
While her training with Cozzy, Dante and the other horses Dan had her riding was going swimmingly, Eva still hadn't made the phone call to Scott. She knew- or rather figured that she knew –what her decision was now. The smart thing was to enter the Summer Classic, and indeed, all the paper work was sitting on the passenger seat of her truck, ready to be dropped in the post box outside of Tony's Grocery. But she just couldn't bring herself to pick up the phone. She couldn't afford both- Eva was already practicing frugality to the extreme just to pay for the costs of the show, in addition to boarding and Glory's training. There would be other races for Glory and she didn't want to over race the filly and stand the chance of burning her out. She felt she owed something to Cozzy though- the old man deserved a chance to shine.
"I guess this being an adult business isn't as easy as I thought," Eva sighed, reaching down to smooth Cozzy's pepper colored mane into place.
"Can we start warming up, Ev?" Jenny shouted from the arena gate, her black mare's reins clutched in her hand.
Oh, wow. Time really flew when you just saddled up for a quick spin around the arena. In no time at all it seemed like her class was here. "Yeah, sure thing!" she chimed. "You girls come on in and walk a couple laps with me."
Chattering with anticipation, Jenny and Midnight and Casey and the fuzzy golden Zeus mounted up and proceeded to warm up. But where was the last leg of the trio? Stopping her mount, Eva stood in her stirrups to look out at the stable. Surely Blair wasn't late…? That seemed so out of place for her. But just as she was about to turn and ask the other girls, a lone figure emerged from the barn, helmet in hand, headed towards the arena.
"What's up, B?" Eva inquired, trotting up to the rail. "Saddle up, we're almost ready to get started!"
Blair didn't even look up at Eva, her short dark hair falling in front of the rest of her face. What was this? Eva wondered. Blair wasn't as chatty as her saddle buddies, but far from anti-social. And was that a sniffle Eva heard?
"Macy's left hind is swollen. It's not too bad, but Dan says she should have some time off. Not the filly she used to be," came Blair's quiet reply.
What a bummer! Eva could very well sympathize with those days. It sucked not having your own horse. Everything was out of your control. You couldn't ride whenever you wanted, show when you wanted and heck, half the time you couldn't use your own tack. Some people got lucky, like Casey and Zeus. There weren't many people who could ride the smallest horse (or perhaps largest pony?) in the stable and bubbly little Casey was a perfect match for him. But for Blair, it was hard to find a horse to match her size and skill level. The blue roan Quarter Horse Neptune was just tall enough to accommodate her long legs, but she'd soon find herself dreadfully bored. Macy, the nineteen year old Hanoverian mare, had the experience from a long career as an accomplished hunter, but her joints weren't too forgiving these days. The vet gave her the okay to pop over small fences still and on warm days her movement still mirrored a champion, but some days the old bay just felt old.
Sympathy tugged at her heart strings. Eva wasn't about to let creaky joints ruin Blair's day. Swinging a leg over her saddle, she motioned Blair into the arena. "Cozzy still has some kick in his heels left. Why don't you ride him today?" Eva offered, handing her the reins.
Blair's eyes lit up at the prospect. Cozzy was by no means some legendary champion, but he wasn't an old goat either. In fact, he'd probably be the most exciting horse Blair had ridden since Diva. "Eva, I couldn't…" she started.
But Eva would hear none of it. "It's fine, trust me! You girls won't be jumping anything he hasn't seen before and it'll be a nice, low key day for him. And he's already warmed up- how can you refuse?"
Hesitantly, Blair took the proffered reins. She checked the stirrup length and the girth before hopping on, take a minute to get used to the feel of the 16.2 hand gelding. Being half Percheron, he had a bit more width and muscle to him than plain ol' Warmbloods, but it did nothing to hinder his movement. Eva was kind of excited, she had to admit. It'd be a good time to see how Cozzy moved for herself, and not to mention she knew just how Blair felt right now. It was a little something like Christmas morning and new shoes all together.
"Alright ladies! Let's start with some ground work and see how much you remember from last week. Take a couple laps at a trot to work on your position while I place some cones."
"Letting someone else do the work on your prized steed, I see?" Dan inquired slyly, watching as Casey, Jenny and Blair led their respective mounts back to the barn to be untacked.
"Don't you worry," Eva retorted as she bent to pick up a cone. "I took him for a little spin first. I figured it'd be a good experience for Blair and a nice break for Cozzy too. He can't always be looking fabulous, sailing over a 3'9" course. I don't want to discourage everyone else at the barn."
Chuckling at her mock egotism, Dan helped her collect the cones and set them in the storage shed where they'd wait until next time. "So does your bravado tell me that you've made a decision?"
Eva nodded. "Entry form and check ready to be mailed, sitting on the seat of my truck."
She couldn't help but notice the small satisfied smile on Dan's face. "Well, you'd better start riding your own horse then!" He joked. "Although Blair did look really good out there. I daresay you'll have some competition here soon, if that girl can ever get a good horse under her. I never thought I'd miss that harebrained Thoroughbred, but antics or no, at least Blair had a horse to ride with Diva."
"Who knows?" Eva mused as the two walked towards the barn. "Maybe her Cozzy is hiding somewhere too."
"I don't know how many more muddy half Warmblood, half trained hunter prospects we have hiding in the woodwork around here! Maybe we ought to go checking people's back pastures, asking people how much they want for that Heinz 57 brown horse we think we might be able to turn into a champ," Dan joked. He had a point amidst his humor- Eva had been lucky to trip across a find like the gray gelding. Good show prospects usually cost a good bit more than the song and dance she'd paid for him.
Just as she was about to remark on her own luck with finding cheap horses- Glory had been practically given to her, after all –Eva's eyes happened to catch sight of the clock on the wall. "Shoot!" she exclaimed. "I'm going to be late for work!"
"Well off with you then!" Dan shooed. "Don't worry, I'll make sure the girls put the ponies away. I won't have you miss the Classic because you can't afford the gas to drive up there!"
Thanking her instructor profusely and waving a quick goodbye to her pupils, Eva snatched her purse from the barn office and hurried to her car. Blindly, she fumbled in the depths of her purse for her keys, only to come up with her cell phone and some chapstick. Throwing the latter back into the black hole, she checked her phone with one hand, while she continued to root for her keys with the other. There were, of course, several texts from Leigha reprimanding her for never checking her phone and asking if she wanted to go bowling with her, Mike and Jason. (Which conveniently had a little winky face next to the last name- Eva rolled her eyes) Along with a new voicemail from none other than the person she had been dreading talking to- Scott. Heaving a sigh, she held the phone up to her ear as she finally unlocked her door and slid inside to start the engine.
"Hey Eva, long time no chat, so I figured I'd ring you up about Oklahoma," the voice message started, making Eva's stomach do an involuntary flip flop. It was a lot harder saying no to Glory than it was saying yes to Cozzy. "I got all your money this morning, entry fees, shipping, boarding, the whole kit and caboodle. Your sugar daddy-I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh! However you pay your bills, girl, I'm not picky about my money –called and arranged it over the phone. At an ungodly hour too- you oughta buy your sweetie a watch! Anyways, we're all set to leave here in a week and a half. I'll probably give her a week's more rest and put her back into work next Wednesday…"
Eva hardly heard the rest of the message. Everything was paid for? But how? And since when did she have a "sugar daddy?" Oh no… it wasn't Jason trying to pay for her affections? He was a nice guy, really, but she just didn't have time for a boyfriend. If he thought he could buy his way into her time… but that didn't make any sense. Eva couldn't imagine him being a college student, working on his parent's dairy farm during the summer, could afford that. And it couldn't be Dan. Not only did Scott know his voice, Eva couldn't imagine him going so far as to support Glory's career in such a way. Scott had specified "sugar daddy-" what other guys did she know who'd go out on a limb like that?
No matter who it was, Eva couldn't decide if she was relieved or insulted that someone had fronted the money for her. On one hand, Glory got another chance to prove herself without Eva having to give up on the Classic. Of course, that was ideal and Eva couldn't complain about that. But then again, Cozzy and Glory were her horses and her responsibility. Did someone not think she could take care of her own and needed anonymous handouts? But then again, there was that thing about looking gift horses in the mouth…
Questions a plenty or no, Eva hadn't the time to sit and ponder as she reached for a spare set of work clothes she kept in the backseat of her old truck. (Which may or may not have been covered in a light dusting of horse hairs and alfalfa) Work waited for no such mystery and she'd already be five minutes late clocking in. Maybe she should just take a sage bit of advice and learn to take things as they come. And just as she was about to shut the truck door, she reached back in to grab an envelope before rushing into work. She couldn't really say no now.