ALL THE KINGS HORSEMEN
By Yvonne Barteau
Not so very long ago, in a land seldom heard of, a great and respected King had a most worrisome situation. He was a good man, well known for making wise and thoughtful choices about how his kingdom should be governed, and he was very content in all but one regard. He and the Queen, his devoted wife of over twenty years, did not have any children of their own. Therefore, there would be no royal heir to the throne, or to his kingdom, once he was gone. This was a truly unfortunate situation. The Royal couple both loved children and were genuinely interested in, and truly deserving of them. Those who had known the King and Queen the longest, agreed that they would have been great; in fact, they would have been “storybook” parents, regardless of their wealth, title, and privilege, if only they had been given the chance.
The kind, noble queen craved the sound and sight of children so much that she had opened a day school right there in the castle and because being around children made her so happy she often taught classes herself. All of the boys and girls from the village were welcome on the royal grounds anytime day or night as long as their parents were in favor of it. There were always games and activities to play and the royal cook had been told that there were to be no hungry children in this kingdom ever! Consequently, the entire castle often smelled of fresh baked cookies and home stewed apple sauce.
The king had poured his passion and interest in another direction. He had dedicated much of his energy and over a decade of his life into collecting and raising many different breeds of the most magnificent horses to be found anywhere in the world. The only traveling he did these days was to look at new horses. The king collected horses for the most noble of reasons. He was not interested in races or contests or prestigious awards although the royal horses were certainly of such a fine quality that they would have excelled at any venture for which they were prepared. But that is not why the king had purchased them. No, the king collected and kept his wonderful horses because he loved them, and each individual horse appealed to him in its own way before he made them his own. To him, all of his horses were beautiful both inside and out.
More and more he was worried that there would be no one to carry on his breeding program or care for his precious collection once he was gone. He took great pride in managing and seeing to the welfare of all of his horses each and every day. They were like family to him and he knew each of them like a good father would know his own children. He knew their individual personalities very well and had observed those that insisted on having their own way and those that were content to follow along. He had discerned that one of the young stallions had become the court jester of his pasture and that his newly acquired mare was both timid and fearful. He laughed as he scolded another young stallion who had become a bit of a bully towards his pasture mates and instructed that he be turned out alone so he couldn’t harm any of the others.
While the royal stable hands were not abusive in any way they tended to treat horses as livestock and the king wanted much more than that for his beloved herd. He had discovered long ago that not one of his many grooms had the interest or the desire to get to know his horses, as individuals, the way that he did. He was certain that his horses were taken care of to his high standards only because he prompted and paid someone to do so and that worried him as well. Not one employee at the royal stables seemed drawn to the horses or saw in them what he saw in them. To the king, these horses were his family, and he worried about their welfare as any man devoted to his family would have worried.
He had found no luck in the village when he had tried to secure a trainer. Someone passionate and dedicated about horses who would be willing to bring each member of his equine family to their fullest potential whatever it may be. All of the locals thought of horses as farm animals and could not connect with them in any way that would make the horses behave in any way other than just that. As farm animals. Beasts, to be ridden or driven, told what to do, but not interacted with. They didn’t understand when the king tried to explain all the wondrous acts that he had seen horses do, just for the bidding of their trainers. They simply had no imagination for such things. “Teach a farm animal to dance,” they laughed. “Why would you want to do that”? “Oh aye his herd is beautiful to look at, but they are still just farm animals”. They laughed some more. “Farm animals that don’t even work”!
There was, however, a certain young girl named Isabel who lived in the nearby village. She found herself constantly and almost magnetically drawn to the beautiful horses that lived in the kingdom. Horses were not often handled by girls or women in these parts and Isabel had no prior experience with animals at all. She had wandered out to the stables some months ago by chance and had been captivated ever since. Isabel was a lovely and obedient girl intent on being respectful to her family. However, she often felt very removed from the atmosphere she had been raised in. Her mother and Grandparents commented that she was too much of a loner for a girl who was certainly not homely and far smarter than she needed to be. Isabel knew she was different from everyone her age and she had absolutely no desire to follow in her mothers footsteps with thoughts only of marriage and starting a family of her own.
Young Isabel was only truly content when she was around the kings horses. She couldn’t stay away from them. She had no idea why they were so essential to her happiness she just knew it to be true. If asked, she would have said that when she was around the horses she could breathe better and she felt very safe and comfortable amongst the herd. She was especially fond of a certain young stallion who had been difficult for others to deal with in the past. The horse was an energetic and clever type and he openly enjoyed the visits from young Isabel. Unfortunately she had to be secretive about her trips to the royal stables because her mother was terrified of horses and forbid the child any time around horses at all. She became nearly hysterical when Isabel asked if she could learn to ride or get a job taking care of the horses.
“Are you crazy”? she screeched! You will get killed, or worse yet maimed and disfigured and become a burden to your entire family for the rest of your life! Horses are crazy, scary, unpredictable creatures and the king’s herd is the worst, for they are all wild, and high bred.” There is never enough supervision over there with all those kids and horses milling about amongst each other’s feet. No one even looks for the danger, which is everywhere you turn in that environment. I forbid you any time at those stables. You’ll get hurt for sure.”
The girl did not argue with her mother. She did not obey her either. Whenever the opportunity arose she would sneak out to the stables and spend as much time as she could with the unruly young stallion. She felt far more at ease around him, in fact around all the horses in the stable, than she did around her family and friends at home. The stallion. who was both beautiful and eager for attention, also enjoyed her visits. Soon he began to look for her and would often whinny at her approach.
Isabel had studied the king from a distance. He seemed like a good man and it was obvious that he really loved his horses. She wondered if she should ask him to have a word with her mother on her behalf so that she could stop sneaking around the barn and help out for real but she finally decided against it. What if the situation got worse and she was banned from the stable on both ends? She decided to keep what little time she had with the horses a secret so she wouldn’t lose it altogether.
The good king was determined to find an answer to his horse training dilemma. He had discussed the situation at length with his wife and felt that he may have designed a possible solution. A proclamation would go out across the land looking for the very best horsemen that the region, nay, the entire world, had to offer. The royal scribe wrote it up and it looked something like this. “MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSEMAN’, Any man who feels he can display the best that a horse has to offer in a kindly way needs to step forward and demonstrate his work. Once all of the horsemen have given us view of their prowess then a choice shall be made and the winner will reside as the royal trainer of the castle horses, and he shall inherit everything when the king and queen pass on.
Word spread like wild fire and soon everyone for hundreds even thousands of miles knew that the greatest fortune in the land could be had by a commoner. The interest grew so great that a screening of hopeful candidates was mandated to sift between those who were truly great trainers and those who were just greedy. A ridiculous assortment of untalented gold diggers showed up including some of those from the village who had laughed at him before. The king however was not to be fooled. He knew what he was looking for. He needed only to watch a horse and rider interact with each other for a few minutes to determine if they had that “magical” connection he was searching for. It quickly became obvious that none of the locals had the skills that the royal trainer would need to possess. However, scripts had come in from a few different directions mentioning at least three wondrous and talented horsemen who were all making their way towards the kingdom.
Jaan Brinkman of Sweden was one of those men. He had been riding since he could walk and at the youngish age of twenty five was the most skilled horseman that most people had ever seen. His horses were trained dressage horses and he had been working with his new and favored horse for six long years. He had also brought along a few other horses that he had trained so that he could display his work more fully. All those that saw him ride and handle his horses knew that Jaan was a real contender for the throne. His horses were so well mannered and well trained that he could put common laborers on their backs and within minutes his horses would make amateur farm hands look like seasoned professional riders. Jaan’s horses truly could dance to music! It was amazing how these big clumsy heavy footed horses could look as graceful as a bird in flight once Jaan was aboard.
Jaan’s favorite horse was a chestnut named Wunderkin. Beneath his favorite rider the healthy well muscled horse moved in ways that no one had seen a horse move before. Standing in the barn aisle he might not have looked all that different than many other horses but, under saddle, that was another story! The huge chestnut horse could dance nearly straight sideways in trot and in canter with his legs crossing neatly in front of each other with every stride! He had another great move as well! A beautiful hovering trot which made the massive horse appear to be floating on air. He would intersperse those steps with a trot right on the spot and then….back to the floating trot once again! He looked so beautiful, balanced and rhythmical. And there was Jaan, just sitting there, tall and silent on his back with the horse dancing away underneath him. Many a man that watched his display of horsemanship realized that they could not move about on their own two feet as stylishly as his horse moved on his four hooves, even if they tried.
Jaan had dreams and visions that involved only his horses at present. He was traveling to the king not because he wanted to run the kingdom or enjoy a wealthy environment. He had come from money and material possessions did not interest him. He travelled to the kingdom because he had heard that the royal stables housed some of the best horses in the world and he wanted the chance to work with and study such fine animals, just to see what they were capable of. He was excited but nervous about the trip. In his mind his work was still far from good enough. He had heard the king was a great horseman. He was worried that he would see how much he still needed to learn.
As Jaan made his way to the village Isabel’s relationship with the king’s young colt had strengthened. She would sneak into his private pasture at night and play with him for as many minutes as she could borrow or spare. With or without a treat her new found friend would run to her and they would start a fun game of chasing and following each other. She had named the colt gypsy because he reminded her so much of all of the carefree but prideful gypsies she had met in the past. A couple of times she had even climbed onto his back without the benefit of a saddle or bridle and he had tolerated her quite well. The moments with the young colt were the only moments that mattered to young Isabel. She wanted more time around gypsy and all of the horses but she feared she might lose what little she had if she were not very careful.
Another great horseman was also in Europe at the time and he too was making his way towards the royal kingdom. He was known simply as Andrew the American and he had come from a wild section of the Americas and was rumored to have ridden with the Indians for years. He had a style of riding that no one had ever witnessed before and his small compact horse was amazing to watch. He could run at full speed and then nearly sit down and slide a good long distance. He could spin on the spot in either direction round and round like a top. He could take off at a mad gallop from a standstill, slide to a halt, and then wheel about and head the other way, while others just watched dumbfounded.
Andrew was an engaging character and each day was an adventure and party for him. He loved his horses but he loved people as well and he used his skills on horseback to entertain and delight people wherever he travelled. He knew he was good with horses and he was confident in his work. He travelled to the castle because he too wanted a chance to train some of the king’s magnificent collection. He imagined designing and creating a wonderful show full of well trained horses in a lovely environment with people clapping and laughing every day.
The last real contender for the throne was a great and famous warrior who had fearlessly led many troops to victory. His name was Sir Wallace of Whales and he was an unmistakable sight for he always rode his majestic black Friesian stallion wherever he went. In his last battle Sir Wallace had been seriously injured and his wonderful horse Boater had stood over him, shielding him with his body, until the battle was finished.
As the warrior regained his strength he had designed a way of working Boater without actually riding or touching him at all. He called the display that he had perfected “ Liberty Work” and it consisted of Boater working around Wallace completely without harness or bridle, picking up signals from Wallace’s arms, body position and voice and then obeying these requests while loose in a field, an arena or wherever Wallace chose. The beautiful display consisted of a series of circles and patterns that the attentive stallion performed at the trot and walk. Occasionally he would run off, seeming to break contact altogether but within a matter of seconds he would happily return looking eager for more instruction. Boater would stand in front of Wallace and then rear to his full and majestic height looking every bit the proud and beautiful stallion that he was. He would walk beside Wallace striking out with each front leg on cue and then stand stock still, waiting for a signal, when it came he would walk confidently backwards until he was under the arm of his trainer.
The partnership between this man and his horse had been marveled at by all who witnessed it and when Wallace was asked if it was possible to train other horses to perform this way he replied modestly and honestly. “All it takes is the right horse and a careful observation of his behavior patterns. Once you know your subject it is merely a commitment of time”.” So, I guess anyone could enjoy this way of communicating if they were so inclined”. “It sure didn’t take Boater long to figure these movements out”.
Not one of the people who heard these words ever believed that they could do such incredible things with a horse, they wouldn’t even know where to start. What they did know was that this man, with his magical way of communicating with horses, was just what the king was searching for. They encouraged him to make the trip to the kingdom with his horse and to try for the position of royal trainer.
Jaan had arrived at the kingdom just hours ahead of Andrew the American and Sir Wallace. All had asked for an audience with the king. They were each required to give a brief display of their work and the royal advisors were amazed that after all they had seen three such talents would appear on the same day. They were astounded by all three of the hopeful candidates and none of them could venture to say who was the best. All of the work was of such high quality and the horses seemed happier than most other horses. No one in this area had ever seen the like of it before. They invited the trio to stay and housed their horses in the royal stable for the night. They were told to check back in the morning to see what time they should audition for the king.
By late afternoon the king had been informed that there would be three real contenders for him to view the next morning. He was excited to hear the news as he had been sorely disappointed by all who had shown up thus far. There was a good deal of talk and buzz amongst the castle crew as they speculated who the king might choose and how he would come upon his decision. Anyone who had seen these horsemen work was now starting to realize that this was what the king had been talking about all along. How would they ever have known that this kind of relationship was even possible with a horse if they hadn’t seen a glimpse of it themselves? None had been witness to anything close to what they had seen that day. Just the way these men spoke to and handled their horses was different than what the locals were familiar with. Consequently, there was an air of excitement and festivity around the castle that had never been present before.
Later that same evening Isabel had hurried through her chores and then had crept away so she could spend some time with Gypsy. She had seen the bustle and flurry of activity that surrounded the stable even now after dark and so she avoided the area by an even wider margin than usual and was thankful that her four legged friend’s paddock was so isolated. She was out in the field working and playing with gypsy when she saw a group of men approaching the paddock. She ran behind a tree lest she would be spotted and waited for a chance to sneak away. The men got closer and actually came into the field with young gypsy. She recognized a few of them from the village that was beyond her own. It looked as if they were trying to catch the Kings colt but they seemed to be trying to do it quietly as if they were not supposed to be there. Isabel got suspicious and stayed to watch. The colt ran from the men and approached the tree where Isabel was hiding. The men followed behind. As they got closer to her hiding spot was able to hear what they were saying.
“This is the one. I think he is the most valuable one here. The men that dropped this one off said the King paid a pretty penny for him. Once we get him hidden away we’ll send a note to the king and insist that he share some of his fortune with us if he wants to have him back.”
Without thinking Isabel jumped out from behind the tree and confronted the men.
“Who are you and what are you doing in the king’s pasture” she demanded trying to sound brave and in charge.
The four men stopped dumbfounded. They were not expecting to have to deal with a witness to their crime. The apparent leader made a quick decision and began barking orders.
“Young lady, if you want this horse to be safe then you best catch him up and help us handle him. If we get what we want we’ll let the pair of you go and none the worse for wear I promise.” “All we want is a share of the king’s loot. When Isabel hesitated and began looking around he spoke again. “ Go ahead and run off if you want to. One way or another we’ll get this colt to come with us and I don’t care if we have to break one of his legs or cut his ear off to do it.”
Isabel was afraid. She was afraid for gypsy if she ran off and she was afraid for both of them if she stayed. She decided she could not abandon her friend and so she put her arm out towards the colt, and called him to her side. Gypsy came right to her and she put a lead rope on him. Once the colt was secured the men gathered around the pair of them and told her to walk the colt towards the back gate For the first time ever Isabel wished that the large pasture was not quite so isolated and private. They were out of the field and down the road within minutes and nobody saw them leave.
They walked on and on and then turned and headed deep into the forest. Gypsy was now worried and he was becoming difficult even for Isabel to handle. The leader of the group took another rope from his bag and looped it around the colts neck from the right side. He again told Isabel that they were near to their destination and that she should not try to do anything to escape.
They came upon a small clearing that housed a newly made paddock that was high and stout with a small shack right beside the gate. There was a water trough holding some muddy water but no food for the colt that Isabel could see. When she questioned the leader about food or hay he laughed at her. “ If we get what we want this horse won’t be here long enough to get too hungry, he replied. If we don’t then we’ll probably eat him ourselves”. They all laughed like idiots with no conscience and Isabel was now more scared than ever. She figured that these men were rather slow and stupid but also that they were greedy and mean enough to do whatever they had to so they could have a share of the kings fortune. When she thought a little more she realized that she could probably escape quite easily. She was a very fast runner and knew she could out foot this lot. But she dared not leave Gypsy. She believed they would harm or kill him and not think twice about it. She had to find a way to get both of them free.
The men took Gypsy from her and put him in the paddock and then secured the gate with ropes and logs so it would be difficult to get him out in a hurry. They shoved Isabel into the small shack and secured the door from the outside with more logs and rope. The shack was only about ten foot square and had nothing but a dirt floor inside. No windows food or blankets and nothing to use as a tool to try and escape with. It was dark and damp inside and as Isabel heard the men leaving she sank down onto the floor put her head in her hands and tried to formulate an escape plan.
The floor was hard packed dirt she would have to dig her way out. But with what? She got on all fours and crawled along the floor feeling the walls for any loose branch she could use as a tool to dig with. She finally found a useful chunk of wood about two inches wide and six inches long. She felt along the wall for the softest place to start digging and when she found a likely spot she started in. The earth was packed down and quite hard. It would be slow going but at least she felt she was doing something towards gaining her freedom and so she pressed on inch by inch.
Back in the kingdom one of the stable hands had finally realized that Gypsy was not in his paddock and was in fact nowhere to be found on the entire royal grounds! The lad had rushed to tell the king and now a search was taking place in case the colt had somehow gotten loose and then just wandered off property. No one even suspected that he might have been taken on purpose until Isabels mother came forward and asked to speak to the king personally.
“My daughter did not come home tonight,” she announced while wringing her hands and looking at her feet. “I know that she has been spending a lot of time around your stables because even though I have forbidden her to go there she often has time that is unaccounted for and her clothes seem to always be smelling of horses.” “I cannot believe in my heart that she could have anything to do with the disappearance of your valuable stallion but I do not know where she is right now and I am afraid that she may have done something foolish.”
The king was more concerned than angry. He was worried about his stallion but also troubled for young Isabel. He instructed his men to do a more thorough search of his pastures and then to question everyone in the village to see if they had noticed either Isabel or the colt. As his guards were departing on foot a local boy from a nearby village came in and asked if he could give a note to the king. Permission was granted and after reading the note the king read it aloud.
“If you want to see your horse alive then you will put three bags of gold coin on the back of a pack horse and send it away with this lad no later than mid-morning tomorrow. Do not follow him. If you do, his family, your horse, and the girl we nabbed as a bonus will all pay with their lives. Once we have our money the horse, the girl and the boys family will all be turned loose and can return to the village unharmed.” “You have plenty of money and we have none. I know everything we are holding is worth far more than what we are asking so we are doing you a kind service not asking for more”. Just send the money and this matter will be done and over with and you’ll hear no more from us, ever. Further, neither man, child nor beast will be harmed in any way”.
The king looked at the lad who had delivered the note. Do these men have your family he inquired? The boy, who was barely in his teens, seemed on the verge of tears but was trying not to show it. He nodded. The king thought for a moment and then spoke.
“We will search for Isabel, this boy’s family and the stallion for the rest of the night but we must do it with their safety in mind. No rash maneuvers until everyone is accounted for.” If we do not have their whereabouts determined by 9:00 in the morning we will send the gold and hope for the best.”
Teams of soldiers filed away to do his bidding and Isabel’s mother who had been weeping steadily excused herself and went back to her family. The boy was put up in the palace for the night and given instructions just in case he had to deliver the gold the next morn.
Jaan, Andrew and Sir Wallace had all heard of the king’s dilemma and volunteered as one to help with the search. The king thanked them but declined explaining that they were unfamiliar with the area themselves and may actually slow things down. He was confident that all would be well before the sun rose. He shook all of the men’s hands and told them how much he was looking forward to their demonstrations tomorrow.
Meanwhile Isabel had been working feverishly on her escape hole and felt that if those men did not return to check on her she would be out within the hour. Her fingers were torn and bleeding and she was filthy from the dirt but she was determined to get away from these men and this place and return Gypsy to his home at the palace stables. She wondered if anyone had noticed him missing. Or her for that matter. She could hear Gypsy running frantically around his enclosure, he whinnied every minute or so out of panic.
“Don’t worry”, she called out to him. “ I am right here”.
“Good boy,” she repeated several times when he quit his running to concentrate on her voice.
She encouraged herself to re-double her efforts as she continued to talk to Gypsy outside. Isabel checked to see if she could squeeze through the opening she had made. She could not. She resumed her digging with renewed vigor.
Back at the palace groups of the kings horseman had been dispersed in all directions to search for Isabel and Gypsy and the men who had abducted them. The King stayed at the palace to wait for word of any developments and to co-ordinate everything.
Isabel was free! She undid the makeshift gate in Gypsy’s small prison and climbed onto his back. Gypsy took over and ran for the palace twisting nimbly through the woods while Isabel clung to him in silence. Within minutes they were at the Royal stables. One of the guards spotted her and sent her directly to the royal courtyard to see the King.
Isabel slid off of Gypsys back and walked towards the castle courtyard. Gypsy walked behind her like a dog. As soon as the King saw her he stepped forward and put his hands on Isabels shoulders as he looked into her face. Are you alright he asked. Isabel nodded and told him that Gypsy had not been harmed. She waited to see if she would be lectured for the times she had visited the stallion without permission. The King’s next question surprised her.
Are you fond of this horse, he asked kindly. Isabel smiled and nodded answering simply. “I love him”. The king smiled slowly and then spoke again. “Why don’t you put Gypsy up for the night and go home and get rested yourself. Please though, bring your family back tomorrow. I would like to watch you work with Gypsy if you will give me the honor. You can watch the festivities and witness the trainers who have come to show me their work. Sometime after that you can show us why you and young Gypsy seem to enjoy each others company so much.
Isabel went home, tired, but with a light heart. She felt justified that her initial intuition about the king being such a good man had proven to be correct. When she arrived home her mother was so happy to see her she just hugged her and cried. Isabel told her mother what the King had said to her and then went to bed.
The next morning the sound of music woke Isabel. It was still early morning but the Royal musicians were parading up and down the street inviting everyone to the Castle for a day of food and festivities. People were following the marching band back to the castle so Isabel dressed quickly and joined the procession.
Once at the Royal stables she ran out to visit Gypsy who ran to her from his paddock now anointed with it’s own guard. Once she had made her greeting she broke loose and went to the courtyard to see what the day would hold for everyone. The stable hands were talking about the horse thieves who had been captured in the next village. No one that had been missing had been harmed and all were now accounted for. The criminals were to be returned to the Kingdom the following day to meet their punishment.
The King was already up as were the three new horsemen everyone had been talking about. They stood together talking and when the King spotted Isabel he waved her over. He introduced Jaan, Andrew and Sir Wallace and informed her that the Riding presentations would start within the hour. He asked if she would like to bring Gypsy out at the end of the display and show everyone what they had been working on together these weeks in the field. Isabel, too much in awe to say anything at all nodded her head in agreement.
She found a seat by herself that was close to the arena the trainers would be presenting their work in. Isabel wanted to be able to focus on these horses and riders with no distractions. She wanted to find a way to understand the magic with horses she was sure these men all possessed.
She was not disappointed. The first to present was Jaan on his amazing chestnut stallion Wunderkin. The royal musicians played as he rode and it seemed the horse was actually dancing to the music. And that it was his idea! Isabel was mesmerized by the horse and how happy he seemed to be in his work. She wondered how long the pair had worked together. Their partnership was evident to all who watched and they were met with thunderous applause when the saluted at the end of their ride.
Next to go was Sir Wallace with his big Friesian stallion who walked calmly into the presentation arena beside his handler attentive but relaxed and obedient. The Royal musicians started to play a haunting melody and at a signal from Sir Wallace the stallion circled around his master changing direction and speed with small, almost invisible cues. He ran off just for fun it appeared, and came racing back to rear to his full and majestic height directly in front of Sir Wallace. Gypsy had reared at play with Isabel but she hadn’t quite figured out a cue for it. At one point Boater halted and stood still as Sir Wallace walked to a spot about ten feet behind him. He looked up and raised his hand. Without turning around the stallion walked backwards until he was under the arm of his master. Unbelievable! How had he taught him to do that? Wallace stepped forward and cued the big stallion to walk with high marching front legs right beside him. When he finally tapped him on his knee and the horse dipped to a bow there was wild cheering and clapping from all of the spectators.
Last to go was the engaging cowboy they called Andrew the American and his palomino Quarter Horse named Cowboy. He was also at one with his horse but he knew how to entertain the crowd as well. It appeared that he did not want to take his work too seriously. Even his little horse seemed to be having fun as he ran at high speeds and then slid to a stop. He spun in dizzying circles first slowly and then much faster and then relaxed and cantered off, very at ease in his work. Near the end of his presentation Andrew reached up and pulled the bridle off of his horse and rode just as well without it. What fun! Andrew rode around the ring with hat in hand as the audience applauded his efforts.
Isabel was inspired and amazed. She wished the presentations could go on all day. She knew with certainty that this…all of this was what she wanted to spend her life doing. There were no women riding and training horses that she had ever seen or heard of.
How would she be able to convince her family that this is what she was meant to do?
And now they would want to see Gypsy work. He couldn’t do any of these fancy things! All they had was a partnership and a few games they had played together. Yes she could ride him but he was certainly not trained. These other horsemen would probably laugh at her clumsy ways with her horse. She wished she hadn’t agreed when the king had asked her to present him in front of everybody. But she had. Before the king even had to summon her she was making her way to Gypsy’s paddock to bring him to the arena.
He was freshly groomed and looked spectacular. And he was happy to see her. She grabbed a few of his favorite treats from a bucket by the barn. All of the horses loved them. They were a sugar, oats and apple concoction made by the cook especially for the Royal horses. Isabel had eaten a few of them herself and they were pretty good. She fed him one and he followed her quietly to the arena. She felt so awkward being in the same arena that these great horsemen had just performed in. She stopped near the end of the arena and looked at the King. Miraculously he seemed to sense her feelings and said just the right thing. “Isabel, why don’t you try to ignore all of us and pretend it is just you and your friend Gypsy out here”?
Isabel nodded gratefully. She could do that. She turned towards the horse and blocked out everyone else. It was just her and him in the paddock enjoying some of their time together. She thought she heard music playing but even that seemed far away. Gypsy watched her waiting for a signal of how their play would start. Isabel kind of danced towards him, petted him and danced away again. Gypsy ran a few circles around Isabel and then came in for a pat. She danced around him again and he spun with her so he could look at her straight on. Halfway around she tried to trick him and change directions but he was wise to that game and changed directions as well. She kneeled down and with a tap from her he followed suit so that she could climb on his back. Once up there she steered him around in some circles at the walk using only a neck rope she had fashioned out of vines and twigs. Finally she asked him to canter and they sped around the ring together both oblivious to the captivated crowd.
She did love that horse. He had been waiting for her since he was born and she for him. In all of her young life she sadly didn’t know any two people that could say they enjoyed their relationship as much as she and gypsy enjoyed theirs.
Isabel had a sudden and absolute realization. Instantly she was happier than she had ever been in her entire young life. She already was a horse trainer! She was born to be one she knew it in her heart. She just didn’t know enough yet, but she knew she could learn! These other horse trainers could teach her!
When she looked up from her thoughts everyone including the King himself and the three amazing horsemen were all smiling and clapping. For her. For her and for Gypsy. Isabel both recognized and enjoyed the best moment of her life to date. She stood beside Gypsy and smiled.
The King had an announcement. He raised his hand and everyone grew silent. “Ladies and Gentlemen”, he began. “Today we have witnessed the best horsemanship that one could ever hope to see in one place and at one time. My hope is that all three of these fine horsemen would consider sharing the position of Royal Trainer so that they might learn from each other. I know that all of my horses would benefit from their combined talents and expertise and each would reach it’s fullest potential, whatever that might be. My other hope is that young Isabel’s family would allow her to come and learn to become what she was born to do and that is work with horses and become a trainer herself.” Can we all agree on this so that we can celebrate, he inquired out loud?
Everyone including Isabels mother was smiling, applauding and nodding their heads in approval. The three new Royal trainers all clapped each other on the back and shook the King’s hand in agreement. The best moment in Isabels life had just changed again for the better. What an amazing day! She would be a horse trainer. These men would help her! No one could hope for more. The world was alive with possibilities and never ending opportunities. What fun life would be!
The good King was finally content. All he had hoped and wished for had become a reality that had surpassed even his own lofty expectations. His family of treasured equines had been joined by his new family of horse trainers. He looked forward to the years ahead of them and felt no worries at all.