Prince Ali – Chapter 18

By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses


Prince Ali stood quietly breathing in the fresh salty air and enjoying the early morning crispness. He stood tied to the side of his horse trailer while Becky and Caroline brushed him down on both sides. Ali yawned and stretched his neck when Becky reached his withers. “I don’t know what this ‘parade thing’ is,” he thought to himself, pushing his withers into the brush. “But it beats taking those cold baths at o’dark-thirty at the horse shows.” That morning Becky bathed him inside his barn with warm water. He enjoyed the luxury of a warm bath. Ali shivered involuntarily, remembering all the times his first class of the day was at eight in the morning. That meant he was in an outdoor wash-rack by 5:30 a.m., sometimes before the sun was up, getting his bath in freezing water from a hose.

Becky peeked her head around Ali’s neck and under his head. “Mom, are the O’Neals or the Hartleys coming today?”

“Honey, Chris and Sharon have that whole training facility in Colorado to run. We talked about it and decided it didn’t make sense for them to hop a plane to come out here for one parade when Chris has so many other horses in training. Ginny lives a hundred miles away, you know. She’s been here twice this week to coach you and Ali already. She has her ranch work to do today. I told them I would get them a copy of the video. I’m on the parade committee. I can do that.” Mom grinned at her.

The staging area was in the large Regional Occupation Program parking lot directly across from the famous San Juan Capistrano Mission. Caroline parked the rig in an area near the rear exit, next to the last building in the lot. It gave them room to take Ali out of the trailer and work on him between the building and the trailer for privacy. The building would also provide shade for Ali later in the day.

Becky was so excited about riding her Prince Ali down the parade route she hardly slept a wink the night before. Mom insisted she eat something for breakfast that morning. Becky was all business on the outside and nervous and jittery on the inside. Becky constantly chattered to Ali when she was excited. This morning it was non-stop. Caroline had seen it before many times. When Becky was on a roll, Ali would sometimes nod his head as if he were in agreement with her or shake his head as if he didn’t. He would turn around and stare at her like he couldn’t believe what she was saying, snorting at the same time. When Becky said something funny to him, he had a unique response. He blew through his closed lips and made a sound remarkably like a raspberry. Caroline swore that horse answered Becky back. Ali’s appearance in the parade would be the first time most of Becky’s school friends saw Ali under saddle. Walter and Caroline were happy they could show off their unusual “son” to their friends and neighbors at home for the first time.

Despite the tension and noise in the parking area, Ali stood still. He knew Becky was going to ride him. He loved riding with her and couldn’t wait to get started. His motor was humming. The energy from the people getting ready for the parade was different from anything he’d experienced. He could hear it all as other animals were tacked, hitched, saddled, decorated, and groomed. High School bands tuned their instruments on the grassy area next to the parking lot. Horses whinnied, mules brayed, goats bleated. He could hear wagons rolling on wooden wheels, and carriages come out of trailers and truck beds, leather squeaked, shod hooves rang out on the pavement, people chattered as they climbed up on floats. Drivers began shuttling their animal-powered vehicles through traffic to their starting places. People gave orders, moved animals and gear around, and climbed into their costumes. There was action, noise, and color everywhere you looked on this beautiful early spring morning. Ali could hear it all but couldn’t see it yet because the horse trailer blocked his view. His ears spun around like a helicopter taking in all the racket.

Becky applied lotion to Ali’s face and ears to enhance the black of his skin where the hair was thinner on his muzzle and around his eyes. It defined his facial features and added shine to the silver hairs on his face. Caroline finished brushing him down and sprayed his coat with a shine and conditioner polish. She smoothed his mane and took tangles out of his tail. Becky applied hoof-black polish to his hooves, so they gleamed like patent leather.

Working on one side of Ali, Caroline and Becky put his costume on. The outfit was elaborate and took some time to complete. Ali stood still as they worked. When the last piece of the costume was in place, Caroline adjusted the crystal medallion on the brow-band to the center of Ali’s forehead. She polished away any fingerprints on the jewel.

Caroline and Becky stood back and looked Prince Ali over, brushing loose hairs from the velvet and adjusting tassels. Ali looked gorgeous. This was the costume he wore at the United States and the Canadian National Championship shows last year. He brought home both trophies for the Arabian Native Costume Under-Saddle class.

The teal velvet of the costume contrasted with the silver of Ali’s coat. The blanket covered Ali from withers to tail and hung just below his belly at the sides. The bottom edge of the blanket was scalloped. Long tassels hung from three places on each scallop. Hand-set Swarovski crystals in a floral pattern covered the blanket and the back of the abba, or cape, Becky wore. A geometric pattern followed the edges of the blanket and the abba in silver thread embroidery. They sparkled in the sunlight. The deep teal and silver tassels nearly dragged the ground along the bottom edge of the blanket. The tassels on the breast collar came to his knees. They swayed and glittered in the slight breeze. Shorter tassels on the reins and the headpiece hung down on either side of his neck.

“Well, it’s time to get you in your outfit,” Caroline told Becky. Ali was ready to get moving. He sifted his weight from leg to leg impatiently.

Caroline helped Becky step into the teal lamé jumpsuit, zipped it up, and tightened the sash at her waist. She fastened the abba around Becky’s neck and adjusted it to show off the gorgeous rondel floral pattern in crystals on the back. She helped Becky put on the turban and tucked her blonde ponytail underneath it. She attached a sheer veil over the lower part of Becky’s face. Becky slid her feet into silver slippers, pulled on her silver riding gloves, prepared to mount Ali.

“You pay attention to your horse and keep your eyes and ears open, hear me?” Caroline said seriously.

“Yes, Mom. You know Ali will take care of me.”

Ali nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, Mom, you know I always watch out for Becky.”

“I know that. But you also need to take care of Ali. He’s never done a parade before. Don’t be afraid to grab hold of the reins and stop him if he acts like he’s going to spook. Then just talk to him until he calms down.”

“Yes, Mom, I’ll be careful,” she answered, looking away and rolling her eyes.

“Just when did I ever spook while Becky was riding? I don’t spook anyway!” Ali snorted, hurt by the suggestion.

“Okay, then. Now, up you go,” Caroline boosted Becky into the saddle.

Caroline walked around the horse and rider one more time, adjusting little things. She had to admit these two were stunning. They were going to get a lot of attention on the parade route.

“Time to head off to the staging area. Do you remember your place in the parade?”

“Yeah, we should be about in the middle of the parade. I know we are right behind the Capistrano Valley High School band. Has Dad found you a place to sit yet?”

Caroline checked her watch. “He’s there now. We’ll be on the front porch of the El Adobe restaurant.”

Caroline walked beside Becky and Ali through the trailer parking area toward the parade Staging Area. People stopped what they were doing to watch. Caroline and Becky heard bits of comments from people as they passed.

“Is that the Howard’s famous Arabian horse? We heard he was going to be the Grand Marshall in the parade.” one lady whispered to her friend. “He’s beautiful! And they’re letting a kid ride him?”

“Yeah, just look at that costume.” her friend replied. “That’s amazing! I heard that young lady has a lot of experience with that horse.”

“He’s sure better looking than ol’ Rex Taylor,” someone shouted. His friends laughed. “Say, Melba, maybe you can get that horse to kiss you like you wanted to lay one on Rex. He looks a lot younger anyway!” More laughter followed. Becky just sat up straight and kept Ali moving forward, smiling under the veil. She knew they were quite a sight and enjoyed the attention. This was going to be a fun day!

Heads turned as Ali passed. Ali also knew he was looking good. His necked arched, his ears pricked forward, his nostrils flared, and he strutted like a peacock. The tassels on the reins, headpiece, breast collar, and blanket swayed with his movements. Because of the crowds and all the activity, Becky kept Ali to a slow walk. For Ali, that was difficult. All he wanted to do was trot on. The soft morning sunlight sparkled on his silver coat and the jewels on the costume. He was picture-perfect.

“Hey, how about we have lunch at the El Adobe after the parade. I know how much you love their tacos. We can take Ali back to the trailer and haul him home after the parade. We can meet your Dad at the El Adobe when we get back. He’ll hold a table for us.”

“Good idea, Mom!” Becky’s stomach growled at the thought of tacos. She was too excited to want breakfast that morning, but now she was glad Mom made her eat something.

She saw people and animals milling around the Staging Area. “We’re here at our place now. We’ll be okay if you want to join Dad. Ali’s feeling perfect this morning. He’s solid as a rock,” Becky stroked his neck, “aren’t you, boy?” Ali nodded his head.

“Well, I was going to stick with you two until the parade starts, but if you are sure you’ll be okay, I think I will go join your Dad. I’m ready to sit down for a while. It’s been a long morning.”

Caroline patted Ali’s neck affectionately. “You be a good boy for me, you hear?” She hurried off to join Walter, not knowing how good Ali would have to be in a very short while.

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.