La Duquesa -Chapter 4

LA DUQUESA – Wonder Horse Book Two
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Authors of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses


Maryann quickly fell into a routine. She carried work clothes and an after-school snack in her backpack and left a pair of work shoes in a plastic bag in the car. She ran from her last class of the day to meet Uncle Roy or Aunt Adele and could hardly wait to get to the ranch to start working. She especially loved grooming horses. She curried and brushed and picked hooves. She checked water buckets, dumped and cleaned messy ones, refilled them, and rehung them where needed. She checked feeders for cleanliness. Ginny showed her how to saddle-soap tack, so she stripped down bridles, cleaned them thoroughly, reassembled them, and rehung them in the tack room. She polished saddles until they gleamed. She was thorough, organized, and happy. Brody worked with her when he wasn’t helping Uncle Mike on the other side of the ranch. Ginny couldn’t believe how nice her tack room looked in just one month. The floor was always swept and clean, tack organized, brushes and combs cleaned and put away.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, Maryann had a riding lesson on Bobbie. It was not so much a lesson for Ginny as it was to remind her of what she already knew. Within the first month, Maryann and Bobbie were a competitive team. They were as good as any of the other girls Ginny taught, some of whom had been coming to the ranch for lessons for several years.

Bobbie hadn’t shown for years. Ginny used him as her lesson horse for new riders because he was so calm and well trained. He also had a knack for knowing when a new rider was losing their balance, and he would stop and give them time to adjust before proceeding. After watching Bobbie and Maryann for a month, Ginny thought it was time to get them in the show ring together. She decided to change up the format of the Wednesday lesson to give her students some different things to think about besides correct leads and posting on the right diagonal.

Ginny gathered her five students in the barn and told them what she had in mind. Rather than individual lessons, they would have a group lesson to practice show ring skills. “I’d like you to gather at the in-gate as a group and then, one at a time, enter the arena like you’re going before a judge. Come in brilliant, at a perfect hunter trot, and smile like you are having the time of your life. This is your only chance to make a good first impression on the judge. I will stand in the middle of the arena and observe you like a judge will. I will call for change of direction and change of gaits. We’re getting you ready for an accredited All Arabian show in a month. Let’s pretend we’re doing it today.”

Maryann, Susie, Heidi, Melissa, and Kathy finished getting their horses ready to ride, then mounted and rode to the arena gate. Brody opened it for them, and they filed in, one by one, at their best hunter trot. Ginny corrected mistakes as they occurred, suggested ways to remain in the open, not bunched in a group, change gait, and change direction. At the end of the “class” Ginny had them line up down the center of the arena and wait quietly for the judge’s decisions like they would in a show class. She talked to each girl, giving her suggestions for improving her performance. She was pleased with all five of them.

“That’s it for today, ladies. Great class, all of you. You can go take care of your horses now.” Ginny announced.

The girls filed out of the arena and went back to the barn to untack their horses. The clique ignored Maryann completely. They whispered among themselves in the barn aisle, but Maryann overheard some of the conversation. “She’s not showing, and she doesn’t even have show- clothes to wear.” “SHE doesn’t have a horse either.” “What’s she doing here anyway?” “Yeah. Her MOMMY can’t afford to send her to a show. Why is Ginny wasting her time on HER?”

Maryann took care of Bobbie, curried and brushed him down, picked his feet, and walked him back to his stall. She hugged him, thanked him for a good ride, and gave him pieces of apple she’d brought with her as a treat. Her face burned with embarrassment from the comments she’d overheard. Tears welled in her eyes. She spoke to no one. When she cleaned and returned Ginny’s tack to the tack room, she walked out of the barn to begin her chores.

Brody caught up with her a few minutes later and noticed right off that she wasn’t her usual cheerful self. “Hey, what’s up with you today?” he asked.

Maryann turned her head and quickly wiped a tear from her eye before speaking. “It’s…it’s nothing, really,” she answered and continued scrubbing the water bucket in her hands.

Brody walked up to her and took the bucket. “This is not like you. Really! Tell me what’s wrong,” he asked quietly.

Maryann reluctantly told Brody what she’d overheard in the barn. She begged him not to say anything about it. Brody leaned back against the pipe rail in the stall and looked at her. “Are you kidding me? Did you see yourself out there? I did! You were the best rider in that arena, and you’re riding Aunt Ginny’s 22-year-old gelding, making them look like a bunch of rank amateurs. I don’t care how much money their parents have. They shouldn’t be talking about you or anyone else like that. Those girls need a lesson, but it’s not a riding lesson.”

Maryann thanked Brody for his concern and took the bucket back to finish scrubbing. “Just don’t make a big deal out of it, will ya? That would only make things worse.” She continued with her chores and didn’t say another word about it.

On the other hand, Brody was incensed about how the other girls talked about Maryann. Who did they think they were anyway? Over dinner that night, he told Ginny all about his conversation with Maryann that day. Ginny’s jaw clenched when Brody repeated some of the comments Maryann overhead in the barn. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that. I WILL, however, take care of it, and it won’t happen again, or they will need to find another trainer. I won’t stand for bullying on this ranch.”

The next day all four of the girls came over to ride; Ginny called them together in the barn. “I heard what you girls said about Maryann after our last lesson. Let me tell you a few things. Maryann has been riding for one month, not two years, not two and a half years, not three years or more like you girls. She outrode every one of you! She didn’t use the wrong diagonal twice like you did, Melissa. Heidi, she didn’t take six strides to change from trot to canter as you did, and you did that three times. She didn’t stop her horse for the halt like a reining horse sliding the way you did every time, Susie. Kathy, she didn’t deliberately cut you off the way you did her. She managed her horse with dignity and class. You should all be ashamed of yourselves! This is supposed to be fun. It’s not fun if you attack each other. There will be no further bullying on my ranch, or the bully will have to go elsewhere. Is that clear to all of you?”

All four girls were studying the toes of their riding boots when Ginny finished. Each of them was embarrassed and ashamed. Heidi was the first to speak up. “Ginny, I’m so sorry. It won’t happen again.” The other three joined in apologizing.

“Well, I’m happy to put that behind us,” Ginny said and smiled at the group. “Now, I have something to ask of you. You girls are right about a few things. Maryann’s mother can’t afford new clothes for her to show in, so I’m looking for some you don’t use or have outgrown so we can help outfit her for the show next month. Are you willing to help?”

All of them had clothes they didn’t use, had outgrown, or spares they were willing to loan. In five minutes, Maryann had a complete outfit pledged. Ginny was so pleased. She asked them to keep this to themselves until she had a chance to talk to Maryann and her mother. She wanted it to be a surprise. All the girls agreed. They couldn’t wait to get on with their lesson and requested they use the same format as last time. They needed practice riding with each other to get ready for the big show, and they wanted Maryann in the arena with them.

Victoria Hardesty has owned, bred and shown Arabian Horses for more than 30 years. She and her husband operated their own training facility serving many young people that loved and showed their own horses. She is the author of numerous articles in horse magazines, was the editor of two Arabian Horse Club newsletters, one of which was given the Communications Award of the Year by the Arabian Horse Association at their national convention. An avid reader from childhood, she read every horse story she could get her hands on.