Prince Ali – Chapter 4

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


The Sunday morning Chris left California was busy for the Howards. Caroline had several projects for the Parade Committee she worked on, and Walter went back to his office for several projects he needed to finish. Becky spent the day with Prince Ali. Over dinner that night, she asked her parents about Chris O’Neal. “Is he going to be Ali’s trainer?” she wanted to know.

“Yes, dear. We’ve decided to put Ali in training with Chris so he can show him at the Scottsdale Show next February,” Caroline explained.

“Oh, that’s exciting! I can hardly wait,” Becky exclaimed. Then she thought about it for a few minutes, and her heart sank. “Does that mean Ali has to go to Chris’s house?”

“Yes, it does,” Caroline answered. “We will all take him there the week after Christmas. That’s several months away.”

“Can I still see him every day?” Becky’s heart pounded.

Walter looked at his daughter. He could see the tears forming in her eyes. He wanted to be as gentle with the news as possible. “No, Becky. You won’t be able to see him every day. Chris needs time with him alone to get him ready, and Chris lives too far away for you to see Ali every day like you do now.”

“Daddy, he’s my best friend! What am I going to do without him?” The tears overflowed and streamed down Becky’s cheeks.

Caroline’s eyes met Walter’s. She looked at Becky. “Honey, he will be here until after Christmas. That’s still a long time. Why don’t you enjoy him and stop worrying for right now.”

“But, Mom, Ali is my best friend!” Becky choked out.

“Honey, we know that. But Ali needs to go to school sort of like you do. He needs to learn how to be a showhorse. Ali can’t learn that here at home. But we promise you that we’ll take you to every show he goes to so you can spend time with him there.

Becky excused herself from the table and rushed off to her room. She threw herself on the bed and cried herself to sleep.

For the next couple of months, Becky tried to ignore the fact Ali would be leaving home after Christmas. She spent as much time with him as her parents allowed. Finally, she asked her mom to show her where Chris lived on a map. Caroline pulled an Atlas out and showed Becky Boulder, Colorado, on the map.

“That doesn’t look so far, Mom,” Becky said as she studied the map. “We could practically walk there.”

Caroline chuckled under her breath. “Not really, Honey. We have to cross California, then Utah, then most of Colorado to get there. It will take us 14 to 16 hours to drive there with Ali in the trailer. I don’t think we can walk him over to Chris’s house.”

“Are we going to drive him there and leave?” Becky asked as tears formed again.

“No, Honey. We will get up early and drive him there, and then we will spend a couple of days in Colorado at Chris’s house. Chris has a son about your age. You can get to know Todd while we’re there.”

“Mom, Todd’s a boy! I don’t like boys. I’d rather be with girls. Are you and Dad going to stick me with a boy I don’t even know for a couple of days?” Becky asked with a grim expression.

“Well, I heard from Chris that Todd likes horses the same way you like horses, so you have something in common right off. I also heard from Chris that Todd is an excellent gamer. You are too. So you have two things in common. Why don’t you give him a chance? You might like him.”

Becky rolled her eyes. “If I have to….”

Caroline had a hard time suppressing her laugh. “Well, you do!”

Weeks flew by. Becky put off thinking about leaving Ali so far from home until the first day of December. Her dread grew as Christmas came closer and closer. Christmas gifts that year included new snow clothes for the trip to Colorado. Caroline kept in touch with Sharon O’Neal, so she knew there was plenty of snow at the ranch that year. Becky was puzzled by the new waterproof jacket, gloves, pants, and sweaters among her gifts at first. When she mentioned it, her mom explained, “There’s plenty of snow at Clearwater Creek Ranch this year. You’re going to need them, or you’ll freeze to death in Colorado.”

Becky remembered they were leaving with Ali in the morning. It brought fresh tears to her eyes. She didn’t want her parents thinking she didn’t like her gifts, so she wiped them away quickly. Then, she concentrated on the excitement of the trip. She finished her packing by 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. She spent the balance of the day in the barn with Prince Ali.

“Mom, are you sure Ali will be okay in the trailer by himself?” Becky asked as Walter pulled out of their driveway at 5:00 a.m. the following day.

“Yes, I’m sure. Remember, we’ve taken Ali on several rides in the trailer to get him used to the idea. He’ll be fine. We’ll stop to check his feed and water. We’re going to cross a lot of desert in California and Nevada before we get to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We need to stop to eat too, and we’ll need gas for the truck. You can check in on him every time we stop, okay?”

Becky snuggled down on the back seat of the truck and fell asleep for a couple of hours. She woke at the first rest stop Walter pulled into. Becky hopped out of the truck and hurried to the escape door on the side of the trailer. She pulled it open and hopped in. Prince Ali whinnied at her. She checked his water bucket, which was still nearly full, and his haynet, which was almost empty. “Mom, Dad, we need some more hay in here,” she shouted.

Walter brought another flake of hay from the truck bed and helped Becky re-fill the haynet. Then, all three of them had a short restroom break before resuming the trip.

Walter exited the highway and drove the truck through the gate at Clearwater Creek Ranch at 8:30 p.m. that night. It was freezing cold and snowing. Caroline called Sharon from the highway so she and Chris could show Walter where to park the rig near the barn to offload Prince Ali. Chris used a flashlight to point Walter in the right direction. Once Walter switched off the engine, Becky hopped out of the truck and back into the trailer through the escape door. She hugged her horse and told him he was at his new school. Chris O’Neal would be his teacher. She told him she wanted him to learn a lot to show in Scottsdale in a month and a half. She promised him she would be there to see him then.

Walter and Chris opened the rear door of the trailer and stepped inside. “Wow, he’s grown quite a bit since September!” Chris remarked. “He sure looks good. Let’s get him out of here. I have a heavier blanket ready for him. He’ll need it in this weather.”

Becky stood back and watched the two men unload Prince Ali and walk him into the barn aisle where Sharon stood holding the heavier blanket. She and Chris pulled it on Ali over the lighter-weight blanket he wore at home in San Juan Capistrano. Chris then walked Ali to a fresh stall in the barn and latched the door when he came out, holding Ali’s halter and lead rope in his hand.

“How did he do on the trip? Did he eat and drink well?” Chris asked.

“Yes, he did great with the trip. He ate and drank water all the way here,” Walter told him. “He was good in the trailer.”

“Well, let’s get you inside, then,” Chris said. “We’ll help with your bags. Sharon has two guest rooms all ready for you. Are you hungry?”

“No, we stopped for dinner before we got to Denver. We’re good, just tired. I’m looking forward to sleeping,” Walter laughed.

The six of them grabbed the bags from the trailer’s tack room, where Walter stashed them in Grand Junction. Caroline told him about the snow forecast, so they moved the luggage out of the truck bed then. The snowfall at Clearwater Creek Ranch was light, with an accumulation of only six inches. Everyone took off their shoes and boots in the mud-room before hauling the baggage into the O’Neal’s home.

Chris lead the way through the expansive kitchen/dining room and the great room to the stairway along the far wall. “Your rooms are up here,” he said as he hoisted one bag on his shoulder and began the climb. He turned left down a corridor on the second floor and stopped at the first door. “This room is for Becky,” he said as he opened the door. The charming room had a dormer window facing east and an attached bathroom, double bed, and dresser. Todd set down one of Becky’s suitcases. “My room is next door. Just knock if you need anything,” he told Becky as the rest of the group moved further down the corridor. Chris opened the door of the second guest room and set the bag he was carrying down inside. “This is your room for the next couple of days,” he told Walter and Caroline. “The bathroom is that first door,” he pointed, “and the second door is the closet. Make yourselves at home. Sharon usually has the coffee ready by 6:30 in the morning. But you can sleep in after that drive if you want. I have to get things started in the barn by 7:00 a.m. Goodnight.” Chris stepped out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him. He walked back to the kitchen with Sharon. “How about something cold to drink?” he asked her. While Sharon put ice in two tall glasses, he asked her, “What did you think of Prince Ali?”

“I didn’t get to see much of him, but what I did see, I liked,” she answered. “He’s got size on his side, he has a beautiful face, long and shapely neck, and his legs look great from what I could see below the blankets. I see what you mean about his charm. He does catch you with his eyes, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, he does. Let’s hope that still works at Scottsdale. If it does, the judges won’t be able to take their eyes off him!”

The next morning, Todd wandered down to the barn before breakfast. He’d knocked on Becky’s door. She didn’t answer, so he assumed she was still asleep. He walked over to Prince Ali’s stall. The feed crew was still at the other end of the barn feeding horses. He didn’t see Ali over the half wall either. He peeked in the stall. He saw Prince Ali lying on his side, fast asleep. Becky was beside him, also fast asleep. He was surprised. He whispered loudly, “Becky, wake up! You shouldn’t be doing that.”

Prince Ali startled at the sound. His eyes flew open, and he lifted his neck to look around. He nudged Becky with his nose to wake her. Then, he nickered softly to her. Becky’s eyes flew open, and she sat upright, embarrassed to be caught sleeping in the stall.

“You shouldn’t do that, you know,” Todd said again. “You could get hurt if someone startles your horse.”

“What do you know?” Becky snapped back. “I’ve been napping with my horse since he was born.”

“Yeah, but he’s not so little anymore! My Dad would have a cow if he caught you in that stall sleeping with your horse.”

“You aren’t going to tell him, are you?” Becky pleaded.

“Nope. Just be careful and don’t do that if he can catch you,” Todd suggested. “I’m not a tattle-tail!”

Becky stood up and dusted herself off, pulling stray pieces of wood shavings out of her hair. She opened the stall door and walked into the aisle next to Todd. “He’s my best friend, you know. I don’t know how I will get along at home without him. Would you please keep an eye on him for me? Maybe you could call me after school every day and let me know how he’s doing?” The tears were forming in her eyes again. Todd was a little embarrassed by her show of emotion, but he understood it.

“Maybe, if my phone works in his stall, I can video call you so he can see you and you can see him. Would that help?”

Becky sniffled and wiped her eyes dry. “Todd, would you really do that for me? Yes, that would be wonderful. I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me. Thank you so much!”

“Yeah,” Todd said. It was such a little thing. He just had to figure out when she got home from school and what time it was in Colorado so they could get the timing right. “Easy Peasy,” he thought. “How about we get back to the house. My mom is making breakfast, and I’m starving!”

Becky’s hunger pangs started right then. She felt hungry too. As they walked back to the house, she looked at Todd sideways so he wouldn’t know she was looking at him. He wasn’t a bad-looking boy, she thought. He seemed nice too. He’d impressed her with his offer to call her from Ali’s stall. Maybe these next few days wouldn’t be so bad after all, even if he was a boy.

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.