WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Mike asked Brody to put together a flyer on the stray horse. Brody was better on the computer than Mike was. Brody asked Maryann Wilcox for help. Maryann was a young volunteer who was working off her riding lessons with Aunt Ginny. Normally she scrubbed water buckets, mucked stalls, and cleaned tack. She went to school with Brody, and he knew she was better with artwork than he was. They put a flyer together, including a photo Brody took of Ali with his cell phone. It wasn’t the best picture, but the horse didn’t look very good anyway.
Mike had one of his guys make copies and drop them off at the local feed stores. Mike fully expected to hear from some idiot who had no business owning a stallion with a silly story about how the horse got away from him.
Mike put Brody in charge of Ali. He was taking care of the rest of the ranch with Ginny gone. Brody was a big help, and he was happy to take over Ali’s care. He and Maryann spent time with Ali before and after school and weekend days. They washed and put new ointment in the wounds on Ali’s back and flanks, fed the horse three times a day, and brushed the knots out of his mane and tail.
He and Maryann brushed the rest of Ali, except for the area with wounds taking care to miss the sore spots where the cholla stickers had been. They re-iced Ali’s leg to keep the swelling down and called the farrier out to replace Ali’s shoes. Brody and Maryann kept Ali’s stall clean and his water buckets full. They spent time with Ali just talking to him. Ali looked and felt better by the day.
Clyde had the run of the ranch every day. He stopped in to talk with Ali when no one else was around.
“You never did tell me what happened to you,” Clyde said.
“It’s a long story. The last thing I remember was Becky leading me back to our horse trailer after the parade and two guys walking up on me while Becky was in the trailer changing clothes. One of them stuck me with a needle. I saw Becky fall but couldn’t help her. I woke up in a stinky horse trailer on my way up to the mountains.”
“Wow. What happened next?” the dog asked.
“The two guys dropped me off in the mountains with an old man and another horse. He forgot to latch the corral gate a week later, and I walked out. I have to find my family!” Ali explained. “I know you’ve been there. Do you know how I can get home?”
“Sure wish I could help you,” Clyde said. “I rode in the truck, so I don’t know the way. Maybe when Ginny comes home, she will recognize you and help you get home.”
“That’s the most hopeful thing I’ve heard. Thank you. Do you know when she’s coming back?”
“Naw, I just hear bits and pieces of conversation when Mike, he’s the big guy, talks to her. I’m an old dog these days and go to sleep early, so I don’t hear much of what he says to her when she calls home at night. What I meant to ask you was how you got those wounds.”
“I was in the forest trying to figure out which way to go and looking for something to eat at the same time. All of a sudden, a huge monster jumped on me. It had the biggest teeth I’ve ever seen and huge paws full of long, sharp claws. I’m sure it was trying to kill me. It used those huge teeth to hang on when I reared and tried to run away. I saw it slipping behind me, so I used every ounce of strength I had to kick it off and get away. I was scared to death!”
“Really? How big was that thing?” Clyde asked with eyes open wide.
“Bigger than you! It was at least twice your size and then some. It looked a little like one of the barn cats we have at our barn, just huge.”
“Oh, that will give me nightmares. Some of the barn cats here don’t like me much as it is. I can’t imagine one of them that size.”
“You wouldn’t have liked the other monster that chased me either then. That thing was huge and brown and hairy. It came at me with its mouth wide open full of sharp teeth. Its paws were gigantic and ended in long claws. That thing sure moved fast for as big as it was. I’m just lucky I’m a horse and could outrun it.” Ali told him.
“Wow. I’m kinda sorry I asked you. Now I will have nightmares for sure.” Clyde admitted.
Ali looked forward to Brody’s and Maryann’s visits to the barn. The wounds on his backside burned a lot less with the ointment and the cleaning. He ate good feed and drank fresh, clean water. They kept the stall deeply bedded so Ali could lie down and take the pressure off his feet for a few hours each day. He felt safe here and enjoyed the companionship of Clyde, Maryann, and Brody.
Ginny called Mike every night to report on her day and how Becky was doing. They talked briefly. Mike wasn’t a big talker in the first place. Mike just gave her a running summary of daily activities at the ranch, which wasn’t all that much.
Ginny explained there had been no changes with Becky and that she and Sharon O’Neil worked with the Howard horses, helped Fernando maintain the ranch, and told him what delightful meal Esperanza prepared for dinner that night. She usually called home after Brody had gone to bed, so she didn’t have a chance to talk to him.
Friday night, Ginny told Mike that Becky finally had some movement, and the nurses told Caroline she might be waking up. There wasn’t much change to report on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday nights.
For whatever reason, Ginny called around 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Brody answered the phone this time. She hadn’t talked to him in over a week. She was delighted.
“How are you doing, kiddo? How’s school? What have you been up to?” Ginny wanted to know.
“Did Uncle Mike tell you about the horse that strayed onto our property last Friday?” Brody asked her.
“What horse?” Ginny asked him.
“Well, I was doing my homework, and Clyde came into my room and got me. He let me know he wanted me to follow him, and we went out back. There was this poor horse just standing there. He’s skinny, he’s dirty, he was covered in cholla, he’d lost a back shoe, and he was bleeding. Poor guy had blood all over him.”
“No, Uncle Mike didn’t tell me a thing about it. You know your uncle, a man of few words. Guess he forgot. Tell me more about this horse.” Ginny said.
“Well, I thought Uncle Mike would’ve told you since he’s one of those, as he calls them, “Arabian” horses. We put flyers up at the feed stores, but nobody’s called us yet. This poor horse looked pretty sad. Me and Maryann have been taking care of him, so Uncle Mike can get the other stuff done, with you gone and all.”
“An Arabian, you said?” Ginny asked.
“Yup. He looks like a purebred to me. He’s really pretty, and he’s getting better since we’ve been working with him and feeding him. He must’ve gone without food for a while. He’s not so sucked up now as he was when he got here. Oh, did I tell you he is a stallion? But he’s really well behaved too.”
A light bulb went off in Ginny’s head like a bomb. Walter told her the creeps that stole Ali took him up in the Angeles National Forest and sold him for four hundred bucks. He escaped from there, and nobody could find him. Could this be him? How far would that be? She couldn’t fathom. It was quite a distance as the crow flies, but there’s a three or four-thousand-foot elevation change and so many obstacles Ali would have encountered.
“What color is this horse?” Ginny asked and then held her breath.
“Aunt Ginny, I thought I told you. He’s gray!” Brody answered.
“Oh, my Dear God!” Ginny said. “Find Uncle Mike and get him on the phone, will you?”
Brody laid the phone down on the kitchen counter and went looking for his uncle.
“Uncle Mike, Aunt Ginny’s on the phone for you! It sounds important!” he shouted.
Mike picked up the phone. “Hey sweetheart, how’re things down south?”
“Why didn’t you tell me about the stray horse?” she asked.
“Oh, gosh, I forgot. I miss you and just wanted to talk about the ranch stuff when we get to talk. You know how busy it is around here. Brody’s been taking care of him, and it just slipped my mind.”
“Didn’t I tell you Ali was loose in the Angeles National Forest? They’ve been up there on horseback looking for him for days now. Maybe he made his way down out of the mountains. Maybe that’s the horse you have there. Brody told me he was a gray Arabian stallion. That could be the horse everybody and their pet duck have been looking for.”
“Oh, my gosh! Do you think it’s possible that horse made it all the way here?” Mike asked her. “That poor horse was attacked by something big. He has deep scratches on his flanks and back, and bite marks from something that looks like it could’ve been a mountain lion or a bear. Maybe you’d better come up here and take a look. We put flyers at the feed stores, and nobody’s called us.”
“I’m on my way!” Ginny said. “See you in an hour and a half. I’ll bring Sharon O’Neil with me.”
Ginny closed her phone and ran to the back patio where she’d seen Sharon last.
“We gotta go!” she said to Sharon. “Brody just told me they have a stray horse at our ranch. He showed up late Friday. He’s a Gray Arabian Stallion! Brody told me he’s skinny and dirty but pretty. He and Mike told me a mountain lion might have attacked the horse.”
Sharon jumped up and ran to her room to grab her shoes and purse. She met Ginny outside, and they climbed into Ginny’s truck. Ginny had already told Esperanza they’d be gone for a while. Sharon grabbed her cell phone and started to call Walter and Caroline at the hospital.
“Let’s wait before we call them,” Ginny said. “Let’s make sure it’s Ali first. We know how worried they’ve been. Can you imagine! That horse walking onto my ranch of all places? God, please let it be him! But, let’s be sure before we celebrate.”
“You’re right!” Sharon agreed and put her cell phone back in her purse. She didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up and then find out it wasn’t Ali.
Ginny drove straight to the ranch and, as she put it, didn’t spare the horses. They made the hundred miles in about an hour and fifteen minutes. As soon as they drove up, Mike opened the back door. He, Brody, and Clyde came out and walked with them to the barn.
Ginny and Sharon looked into the stall. Ali was standing with his head down. Sharon spoke first. “Ali, is that you?”
The horse snapped his head up at the familiar voice. He stared through the bars in his stall and nickered a greeting to her. He walked over and poked his head out of the stall, and began nuzzling Sharon.
“This is Prince Ali!” Sharon shouted with tears welling up in her eyes. “I’d know him anywhere, anytime, anyplace! Boy, is this going to make a bunch of people happy!”
Ginny pulled out her cell phone and made the call to Caroline. Sharon pulled her cell phone out and made the call to Chris. They danced in the barn like a pair of lunatics.