WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Ginny Hartley, “Aunt Ginny” to Becky, was a dear friend of Caroline Howard. They grew up together in the barn showing Arabian horses. Ginny had 14 National Championship Trophies of her own. She and her husband Mike lived in the High Desert community of Pinon Hills. They ran a training and breeding ranch on 70 acres of land on the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. The high desert plateau separated the suburban communities of the Los Angeles basin from the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
After high school, Mike Hartley, the second son of his Montana-born parents, went to college at Cal Poly in Pomona, California. He studied for an Agricultural Degree to take back home to Montana and help his parents run their Dude Ranch. As it turned out, Pete, his older brother, took over the Dude Ranch. His younger brother, Scott, took over all the computerized reservations and advertising. They didn’t need Mike, and there would have been conflicts between him and Pete, so Mike stayed in California. He met Ginny at school. They married, found the 70-acre parcel, bought a well-used travel trailer, and moved onto the land. They built the ranch themselves. Ginny was a well-respected Arabian horse trainer twenty-five years later, while Mike was a nationally known Reining and Cutting horse trainer. They divided the ranch. Ginny had about 25% for the Arabians. Mike had the other 75% for his Paints and Quarters and all those cows he needed for their training.
Caroline and Ginny remained close friends after college. Ginny was on that shortlist of trainers for Prince Ali in the beginning. She’d come to the Howard’s place and seen Ali as a baby. Ginny advised Caroline to go with Chris O’Neal because he had a stronger reputation. For Ginny, it gave her time to take care of some business by cell phone on the 100-mile drive to San Juan Capistrano and a chance to get off the ranch for a day every week. “I miss the color green,” she laughed. “I need to see grass and flowers.”
Ginny loved Becky. They worked well together. The coaching sessions never ended in tears, always laughter. Becky was a talented rider. Ginny found her weak spots, and they worked on them. Becky got better and better every week. She practiced the exercises Ginny left her with and showed improvement at every session. Ginny encouraged her.
Occasionally, Ginny brought Clyde with her. He was a truck-riding dog. He loved going with Mike or Ginny. Clyde was a hundred pound, shiny black Laborador Retriever who loved horses and Ginny’s son, Brody. He also loved birds, cats, and cows. What he didn’t like were rodents that got into the feed room stealing feed from “his” horses. Becky always found a treat for him, so he liked her too. Clyde liked Ali very much. When Becky got off Ali and turned him out in the arena for a few minutes of relaxation, Clyde and Ali played soccer with Ali’s giant soccer ball or played games of “chase the dog” or “chase the horse” for a while.
A few weeks after Prince Ali’s fifth birthday, Ginny and Clyde drove down for a coaching session with Becky. After greetings, Caroline had some work to do on the Swallows Day Parade for the volunteer organization that set it up. She was in her office going over some of the schedules when her phone rang. It was the chairman of the volunteer group for the parade.
“I got some bad news today,” she told Caroline.
“What happened, Toni?” Caroline asked, perplexed
“Our Grand Marshall just bowed out. Rex Taylor’s new movie moved production up, so he needs to fly to Europe this weekend. Rex’s wife said he wouldn’t be back for three months. He can’t be our Grand Marshall this year. We haven’t got anyone lined up who can step in, especially on such short notice,” the chairman told her. “Do you have any ideas? The Grand Marshall is always a celebrity or one of the town’s prominent citizens. We’ve already used up all of our prominent citizens, and no one wants to do a repeat.”
“Have you talked to the rest of the committee about it?” Caroline asked
“Yes, I have. I’ve only had one suggestion. It’s really out there, if you know what I mean. We can’t find another celebrity who will be around on that date. We can’t find anyone in town to fill in. So I’m going to throw this at you. The suggestion was that Prince Ali could fill that position. He’s a resident of San Juan Capistrano. He’s a celebrity in his own right. How would you feel about that? I know the idea grew on me when I thought about it. Some of the volunteers were excited about it. They saw him on TV when he filled in for Lightning at the Mavericks games.”
Caroline sat back in her chair. Her head whirled with thoughts and ideas. She didn’t know what to think. Toni finally spoke up on the phone, “Hey, Caroline, are you still there?”
Caroline cleared her throat, “Yes, I’m here. I was thinking that through. The Grand Marshall does other things than just riding in the parade. They are usually one of the judges for the beard-growing contest. They also attend the President’s Ball on Wednesday before the parade. The Grand Marshall always attends the Opening Ceremony with the Mayor on the first day of Swallows Week. They are always with the Mayor and City Council members during the award ceremony after the parade. How would we manage all that with a horse?” she wondered out loud.
“We thought about some of that too. We could have you bring Ali to the Mayor’s office for the Opening Ceremony. He could stand just outside, so he’s in the pictures with the rest of the group,” the chairman suggested. “We can cue the news photographers in for that, so they set up ahead of time.”
“You forget about the guns,” Caroline said. “You know they take their guns into the Mayor’s office to threaten him to open the event, and they shoot off those guns with blank rounds the minute they get outside the building. It’s all part of the fun for us humans, but I’m not sure about including a horse in that. Someone might get trampled.”
Toni paused. “You might be right. Maybe we should leave him out of the Opening Ceremonies. Even the human GrandMarshals doesn’t have much to do but stand there. But we talked about the President’s Ball. It’s always at the El Adobe Restaurant in the banquet hall on the lower level. That’s right next to the garden area outside in the back of the restaurant. We always use that area too because we have so many people there that night. There is a nice-sized gate into the patio area. The trash collectors use it when they pick up the trash from the restaurant. It’s big enough for a horse to walk through.”
“What would we do with him all night while we’re having dinner?” Carolina asked.
“You’re right. I didn’t think of that. But, my brother is the head chef at the El Adobe. He told me he has some fantastic recipes for horse treats, some apple treats, and some kind of carrot treat he bakes like cookies. He’d love to do them up for Prince Ali. He’s a football fan, you know. He watched your horse at the Mavericks games. He’d love to meet him in person.”
Caroline laughed. “Toni, you must have known about this for a couple of days now. Why didn’t you tell me before? I’m getting the idea you and your team are working hard to figure out how to get my horse in your parade.” She chuckled to herself.
Toni admitted it. “Well, yes, we’ve known for four days. But you can’t imagine how many volunteers would love to have Prince Ali step in as Grand Marshall. He’s the most famous horse we know. He’s so beautiful. As you suggested, I’m guessing we’d have to leave him out of the beard-growing contest and the Opening Ceremony. But we all think he’d be a great draw for our parade. We’re ready to start advertising and letting the press know. All you have to do is say the word.”
Caroline smiled. “Toni, I can’t give you the answer until I talk to my family. I will do that the minute Walter gets home from work. I will call you and let you know one way or the other tonight. I will call his trainer right now to discuss it as well.”
Caroline smiled as she glanced over at the trophy cases filled with awards Prince Ali won over the past four years. It never occurred to her their horse would be considered a celebrity in their hometown. She assumed no one outside of the Arabian horse industry heard much about him. She picked up the phone and called Sharon O’Neal. They chatted a few minutes, and Caroline told her why she called. Sharon promised to have Chris call her back. How would Chris feel about flying to California to ride a horse in a parade? She felt a little foolish for asking.