The day of the trail ride dawned clear and bright, with a cool autumn nip in the air. A gentle breeze carried with it the sharp tang of woodsmoke from several fireplaces throughout the neighborhood, and birdsong fell from the trees like rain.
My Foreman and the lads had been up since before dawn, first feeding and watering the illusory horses, then grooming them to a shiny gloss before saddling them. Dragon, Cleric, and I joined them at a more reasonable hour.
“Well, it looks like thanks are in order.” I nodded my appreciation to the three horsemen, who had taken care of our mounts as well as their own.
“We could not wait for you slugabeds to join us.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and grinned at us, as Cleric tried to stifle a big yawn.
“Oh, prithee, stop being so jocular this early in the morn!” Cleric scowled at my Gypsy, then rubbed her eyes and tried unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn.
“Indeed,” Dragon agreed, glowering at the lad. “If such annoying gleefulness continues, I may be forced to start this evening’s barbecue a bit early.”
“He’s been like this all morning.” My Foreman chuckled and reached over to tousle the lad’s hair. “Now, if you ladies are sufficiently awake, mayhap you should mount up and walk your horses around the paddock to loosen up a bit.”
Dragon scoffed. “Is it not too early?” She turned to me. “What time are Anna and Colton expecting us?”
“They thought we could begin our trail ride from their place between nine and ten this morning.” I checked my watch. “If we leave now, we should have no problem arriving at their place by then.”
Dragon sighed. “Then let us mount up, and I will cast a new spell of concealment over horses and riders alike, so we can leave this property unseen by any of our neighbors. I can release the spell once we are on the backroad, hidden by the trees and brush.”
We all nodded.
As I swung up onto the compact blanket Appaloosa Dragon had created for me, I called to my characters, “Everyone needs to remember the names we used last time. Do not slip and call me Mistress. You may call me Missy, as is your custom in public, even though Anna and Colton will be calling me Marge. This black and white appy I’m riding is Scribe.”
My Foreman nodded as he stepped up onto his ebony stallion. “I am called Tor, and my mount is Centaur.”
My Gypsy vaulted into the saddle of his black-and-white cob. “My name is Rocky, and this is Gypsy.”
My Young Hero gave his chocolate palomino pony a pat on the neck as he mounted. “I am Cab, and this is Hero.”
Cleric led her tall, strawberry roan mare over to the mounting block. “The name I use is Clara, and I ride Blessing.”
Dragon clambered onto her stocky Palomino. “I am known as Dray and my mount is Dragon.”
I smiled, satisfied that everyone would remember. As Dray nudged her horse to stand next to mine, I raised a questioning eyebrow at her. “Have you completed casting your spell?”
Dray nodded. “We can leave the property unseen.”
We walked our horses single file along the side of the house and onto the street. As we proceeded past the other houses in the neighborhood, invisible to all and sundry, we had to dodge several cars pulling out of driveways as people headed off for work and school. When we passed Bastina’s house, I saw her and her daughter, Marisol, standing in their front yard.
I almost fell off my horse in a dead faint when I saw the little girl’s eyes widen, and I watched her tug on her mother’s skirt. When she pointed in our direction, Dray and I exchanged looks bordering on shear panic. Our wide-eyed dread turned to relief, as Marisol continued to point, her gesture following the path of a fat, sassy squirrel that had been running alongside our horses. The child and her mother laughed at the animal as it scrambled up a tree, and sat there, clutching an acorn and scolding loudly. We continued trotting along the street and headed, still unseen, toward our destination.
It took us less than an hour to make the trip to Anna’s farm. Half-way there, after traveling for fifteen minutes along a wide dirt road remarkably devoid of traffic, Dray released the spell of concealment that had kept horses and riders hidden from passersby. Moments later, we left the road and walked our mounts carefully along an overgrown two-track that would take us to our destination.
As we trotted up the driveway, we saw Anna saddling her flashy dapple-gray mare, Rosie. We waved and exchanged greetings.
“Where are Colton and Blue?” Clara was looking around, a worried expression on her face. “The last time we came here for a trail ride, Colton was already mounted and waiting for us.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/
“Oh, don’t worry! Colton’s been waiting for you for over an hour now. He was so nervous you wouldn’t be able to come today, even though I told him a dozen times or more you accepted the invitation.” Anna smiled broadly. “He just took Blue into the barn a few minutes ago. He forgot his jacket there when he fed Blue this morning, and he thinks he might need it today.”
Moments later, the young boy came out of the barn, shoving one arm into the sleeve of his jacket as he held his pony’s lead with the other hand. “Did I hear voices?”
“Hi, Colton!” A chorus of greetings brought a huge smile to Colton’s face.
“Hi, everyone! I was hoping you’d come! I can’t wait to get on the trail and show you all how great Blue is!” Colton, blind since birth, continued walking toward our voices, unaware his therapy pony, Blue, had stopped dead, feet planted firmly. Colton came to an abrupt halt when he reached the end of the lead that attached him to the pony.
“Wha…? What’s wrong, Blue?” Colton felt his way back along the lead line and stroked Blue’s neck once he reached the balky pony. “It’s okay, Blue. These are our friends.”
Anna furrowed her brow. “What’s wrong? Blue never acted this way around the other horses and ponies at the training facility.”
“It’s not surprising.” I motioned to my characters to move their horses back a bit. “Blue knew all the other animals at the facility and was comfortable around them. He probably just needs a few minutes to get to know us and our horses. Maybe if we introduced our mounts one at a time . . .”
But Blue wasn’t having any part of it. He pinned his ears back, turned, and trotted back into the barn, practically dragging Colton along with him.
What’s happened to Blue? Why is he acting this way? Be sure to come back next week and see what’s happening. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.