La Duquesa -Chapter 9 – Readers and Writers Book Club

La Duquesa -Chapter 9

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


Rose showed up to take Maryann home soon after she had her first ride on La Duquesa so Ginny didn’t have much time to think or to talk with her. “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing,” Ginny thought. She didn’t say much to either Brody or Mike over dinner. She cleaned the kitchen afterward and went in for a long soak in the tub. That’s where she did her best thinking.

First, that five-hundred-dollar horse was no five-hundred-dollar horse. Ginny knew that. All you had to do was take one look at her today. She was still a bit thin, but not bad. She needed muscle tone, but that came with proper exercise. Other than that, La Duquesa was one gorgeous mare. She had an elegance in her way of moving, even walking to the arena for turnout. She held her head proudly as any duchess would. She was gentle and kind and did what was asked of her without argument. She was easily the best horse to deal with Ginny had ever encountered. La Duquesa had class!

Then there was the whole Maryann thing. How Maryann turned the mare around from being scared to death of everyone to the gentle lady she was today was remarkable. But she also knew Maryann’s mother could never afford to keep a horse for her daughter. She remembered Brody telling her a little about Maryann’s background. Rose had talked to Maryann a little about her father. He was killed in an auto accident just before Rose found out she was pregnant. They married against his parent’s wishes, and he was their only child. They were very wealthy and wanted him to marry someone more of their status. They disowned Rose the night her husband died. Rose hadn’t had contact with them since. Rose gave up her own education and came west. She was taken in by her father’s sister and her husband. They survived on Adele and Roy’s social security pension and what Rose earned at the local hardware store. There wasn’t much wiggle room in their budget and certainly not enough to care for a horse and a horse-show crazy teenager.

Fortunately for Ginny, she could afford the horse. She could also support the expense of showing the horse. She knew the best person in the world to do that was Maryann, and she made up her mind that was what she would do.

The next time Maryann came to the ranch, Ginny took her aside. “You will have to learn a new discipline now,” she told her. “You’ve done really well with Bobbie in the Hunter Pleasure classes and the Western Pleasure classes. But La Duquesa is not a hunter or western horse. How do you feel about learning how to ride a Country Pleasure horse in the shows?”

Maryann brightened up. “Do you mean it, Aunt Ginny? Really? Can I ride La Duquesa in the shows?”

Ginny smiled, “Yes, absolutely, but you must use the flat saddle. You can’t ride bareback.”

They went to the barn and took La Duquesa out of her stall. Ginny showed Maryann how to tack her up for an English class with the flat saddle and double bridle. “There are two bits used. One is a curb bit; that’s the straight solid bar here,” Ginny explained. “And you use a snaffle bit, the one with the break in the center like you’ve been using on Bobbie, only it is a little smaller too.”

Maryann examined the bridle before Ginny showed her how to put it on. “This is the same setup we use for Prince Ali,” she told her. “He is an English Pleasure horse because he lifts his knees higher so his front legs break over level. La Duquesa doesn’t reach level with her front legs, so she’s a Country Pleasure horse.”

Maryann soaked up the instruction like a sponge. She closed her eyes and remembered watching Prince Ali in the turnout. In profile, when he lifted his front leg to move forward, his foreleg was parallel with the ground or a little higher than that. With La Duquesa, she didn’t raise the foreleg quite as high but much higher than Bobbie did as a hunter. Her foreleg was not quite parallel to the ground. She understood the difference.

Correctly saddled and bridled, Ginny led La Duquesa to the arena. She mounted her and showed Maryann where the horse needed to hold her head and neck. She was much more upright than Bobby was at either hunter or western riding. Ginny showed her how to hold both sets of reins in her hands and how to use the snaffle bit to guide the mare. “You only use the curb bit to check your mare and slow her down,” she told her. “I know this is confusing, but I’m here to watch and help.” She put in a couple of laps, talking to Maryann constantly about what she was doing as she rode.

Maryann mounted, stroked Quesa’s neck, and asked her to trot. Maryann copied Ginny’s posture and how she held her hands. Her legs naturally fell in just the right place for close contact with La Duquesa’s sides. Ginny watched them from the center of the arena. They moved together as if they were one. It was beautiful to watch. Maryann self-corrected when needed and continued. Ginny saw blue ribbons all over that ride. She was pleased.

The lesson continued with Ginny standing in the center of the arena, watching. There wasn’t anything else for her to do. Maryann and La Duquesa looked like a pair who’d been together for years. Ginny didn’t see Maryann cueing the horse to change direction or gait. They did serpentines down the length of the arena with Maryann’s legs as the only guide for the horse. Maryann had La Duquesa do small circles to the left and the right. She did figure eights. La Duquesa’s flying lead changes were perfect at the center of the pattern.

Ginny called the lesson a little earlier than she would typically have. La Duquesa was out of shape. As she built back up, she needed the work, but in shorter doses. Ginny explained that to Maryann. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take her on short trail rides with Brody too. All show horses need something other than the inside of an arena to look at.”

Maryann was bubbling over when Rose picked her up that night. “Oh, mom, you should have been there! La Duquesa is wonderful to ride. I love her!” Rose began to worry. She didn’t have the money to support a horse and the expense of horse shows. It was apparent her little girl wanted that with all her heart. What was she going to do? She’d have to think about it.

Maryann called Becky after dinner. They talked regularly since Prince Ali went home. Maryann wanted updates on how he was doing and how Becky was doing after their tragic separation. Becky reported Prince Ali was completely healed, and his hair had grown enough to cover the scars of the mountain lion attack. “When are you going to ride him again?” Maryann asked.

“My doctor just gave me another two weeks off. He said I am healing well, but he wants me to wait a little longer. I’ve never fallen off Ali! I can’t stand this. We are getting closer and closer to the Youth Nationals, and I can’t ride him to get him in shape, either. I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Becky told her.

“How about I talk Aunt Ginny into bringing me to your place so I can ride him for you?” Maryann suggested. “I’m riding Country Pleasure now, so I’m sure I could ride him. Would that help?”

“You’d do that for me?” Becky asked. “Wow, that would be wonderful! At least we could get him in better shape. Maybe you could come here a couple of times a week. That way, you can still ride Quesa and get her ready.”

“I didn’t think about getting Quesa ready for the Youth Nationals,” Maryann admitted. That was an out-of-the-blue suggestion to her. “Do you think I could ride at that competition?”

“Why not?” Becky said. “According to what Aunt Ginny told my mom, you are ready for that. You just needed a good horse. And it sounds like you found her. Going to that show with you would be so much fun!”

“Oh, really? Then maybe we should talk to our moms and Aunt Ginny. Let’s cross our fingers and hope this works,” Maryann said in surprise.

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.