In the rolling hills of the Kentucky countryside, where two siblings call this place home, the sound of hoofbeats make a beautiful melody against the silence. Clippety-clop, they went, clippety-clop. The producer of this noise is a coal black horse running faster than a car, not even breaking a sweat. Around the large five-acre pen in which it is held, two teenagers by the names of Jack and Arya stare at their stallion with never-ending awe.
Jack and Arya are siblings. Arya is tall, with light blonde hair that skims over her shoulders and eyes as green as a leaf. Though witty and clever, her temper often sparks at the wrong time. Jack is also tall, with close cropped brown hair and warm, chocolatey brown eyes. Jack, who is the older of the two, is kind, calm, and like his sister, smart. He knows how to calm her in one of her rages.
The stallion running in the meadow is Jack and Arya's pride and joy, Bailey. He is extremely tall, standing at 18 hands high. He is fierce, wild, and untamed. The siblings won him off a raffle. His previous owner was old, and needed a calm, pleasure horse instead of an untamed stallion. Therefore, Jack and Arya found him, and Bailey would be theirs forever.
As Arya gazes, she reflected sadly on how they would have to sell Bailey soon. Their parents had let Jack and her enter in the raffle, only because it would stop the begging and their was practically zero change they would ever win. But out of sheer luck, they did indeed win. Unfortunately, Arya's parent never wanted a horse. They planned to sell him as soon as possible, unless Arya could do something about it. Then a lightbulb flashed in her brain.
"The Grand National! She thought excitedly," I could enter Bailey into the Grand National!
The Kentucky Derby was a huge horse race. The horses would go nearly one and one quarter miles long. It is highly competitive, and extremely tough. If someone rode Bailey in the race, the prize money would be more than enough to pay for Bailey's needs. Arya could pay for him on her own and their would be no way her parents could refuse to that.
But there was one flaw in her plan. Who would ride Bailey? Her parents would never hire a jockey to ride Bailey; they would never even go to an event like this. Her parents were old-school, never getting their clothes dirty. They never went to sporting events either. All they did was go to fancy lunches with fancy people at the various clubs at which they belonged in. The only way Arya even new what horses are, let alone ride them, was through her friend Kendall. Kendall had taught her to ride on her own horse. That left Jack. While Jack was athletic, horseback riding was a whole different story. He had never been on a horse before. Anyone can be in great shape and fall of a horse within an instant. Horseback riding took muscles many people have never used before in there life. And then there was bonding with the horse and getting a connection, on top of the physical part.
"No, no," she thought bitterly, "Jack won't do. Whatever, there was no way this idea would work anyway, I might as well give up now."
Jack pulled her from her thought by telling her he was going inside. Soon she was alone with Bailey. With Jack gone, she let her frustration loose. She stormed short, little paces on the grass. Finally, her annoyance at her failed idea got the better of her, and she jumped the fence into Bailey's pen.
Bailey saw immediately saw her and charged. Arya stood awestruck at the large stallion staring at her. She was paralyzed, but Bailey wasn't. He kept charging until he was within five feet of her where he stopped. He stood there not moving, just staring at her through two large, intelligent eyes. Then something sparked in his eyes, and he took two swift strides, closing the distance between them in a matter of milliseconds. Then he stopped and head-butted her squarely in the center of her chest. With a shriek, she fell over on the grass. Bailey got her again, this time on her side, flipping her onto her stomach. She started crying. Her stupidity had led her to her death In the hands of the horse she won of a raffle. Then the was a pull on her pants and a sudden crunching noise. She turned over to see Bailey with the carrot from her back pocket that she had planned to eat. She started to giggle. Bailey had just wanted a treat.
She let him eat the carrot before warily standing up slowly, and backing away, toward the fence. She was almost to the fence but Bailey wasn't finished yet. More calmly this time, Bailey walked foward and rubbed his head against her chest. This time there is nothing rowdy about it. He nuzzled, and she worked up the courage to rub his head. The rest of her day was perfect.
That evening, she broke out her plan to Jack. It took some convincing, but eventually he agreed. Though it would be difficult to get Arya to the Kentucky Derby to ride Bailey, it would not be impossible.
Everything would work out perfectly. The siblings parents would be gone, off to visit a very sick family friend. Arya and Jack would be left in the care of their senile old baby sitter, Ratha, who would not realize it if Arya and Jack snuck out for a week. She spent all her time napping.
At midnight, Jack and Arya went out to Bailey's pen to plan out their great adventure. They figured they wouldn't tell their parents, as they would never approve. They had to keep this a secret. Arya suggested that Kendall would be able to get her older sister to drive their trailer to take Bailey. They would sign up the the event via the newspaper ad, so they would be all set. Now all they had to do was train and train and train.
The Grand National was in four weeks. They barely had enough time.
Every night, two hours after her parents went to sleep, Arya and Jack snuck out, training Bailey. Bailey handled it with grace. He performed so well everyday, Arya had no doubt he'd win.
Arya was also in the midst of planning. She was practically drowning in paperwork that had to filled out. The judges had to know everything, Bailey's height, weight, colors much more. They also had to know Arya's height, weight, and eye color. They expected all the competitors to be male, so they didn't ask what gender they were. On top of this, everything had to be hidden in order to keep there parents fom knowing. Time flew until the race was one day away.
"Goodbye, sweeties," Mom said. "Keep out of trouble and be good for Ratha."
"We will mom, don't worry," said Arya, crossing her fingers behind her back.
Dad and Mom hugged them both and then left, the motor of their car fading into the distance.
After, Arya and Jack snuck to their rooms after the car was a tiny black speck on the horizon. Ratha was sound asleep on the sofa and took no notice of them. Together, Jack and Arya packed their bags, including Arya's emerald green jockey silks that Kendall had sewed for her. Then they killed some time visiting Bailey and going over their plans. Soon they went to bed. Arya slept fitfully, knowing everything that happened tomorrow would determine Bailey's future.
At seven AM, she woke up with her alarm, the adrenaline of an important day getting her out of bed faster . In the room over from her own, she heard Jack's alarm go off as well. They got up, got ready and headed over to the pen. They put Bailey's halter onto him and with that they left, striding firmly over the green grass to Kendall house.
Kendall and her older sister Rollin were waiting by the end of their property with the trailer attached to the truck. After ten minutes of pulling, yanking and a bag of carrots, Bailey was persuaded into the trailer and they were on their way. The first three stages of their plan had gone without a hitch.
In the two hour drive from Kendall's house to the Kentucky Derby, Arya had plenty of time to worry. Her stomach was a whirlpool of mixed feelings; anxiety, happiness and guilt. She couldn't believe that she had lied to her parents. She had done it millions of times before, but never in as big if a thing as this was. She had lied about things like eating sugar packets or not; she's never lied about sneaking away to a horse race that she planned to race herself on a supposedly wild horse. She was going to be in serious trouble if she got caught. Lost in thought, she didn't realize time had passed as quickly as it had. The grounds of the Kentucky Derby were in sight.
Her breathing became short and shallow; her breakfast was threatening to make a reappearance. Behind them, in the trailer, Bailey started sensing the challenge of other stallions in the stables and grounds. Oh no. That couldn't be good. Arya mentally smacked herself squarely on the forehead. She had never exposed Bailey to any other horses, let alone stallions. That was a huge problem. Stallions fought all the time. In the wild, a stallion ruled over a pack of horses, consisting mostly of females. They were super protective. So having two stallions get to know each other was like introducing two of the biggest, best and proudest boxers with no supervision of other people. In other words, a very bad idea. She prayed she could control Bailey from going after other horses in the race. If not, she couldn't think what would happen. She would be grounded for life, and even worse, lose Bailey. Everything was at stake.
Soon it was time to get out of the car, sign in, and unload Bailey. She jumped out and asked Jack to sign her to avoid too many eyes being on her and realizing she was a girl. Then she made her way to the back of the trailer and slowly opened the latch. She jumped inside and took hold of Bailey's halter before he could make a run for it. Digging her heels into the bottom of the trailer, she quieted Bailey until she felt he was ready to come out. He walked out slowly and surveyed his surroundings with wide eyes. Jack hurried out of the sign in tent, and showed her the way to get to Bailey's stall. She had purposely arrived today, the day of the race, so she wouldn't see very many people or let them have enough time to study her face.
Time flew until the race was just an hour away. She groomed and saddled Bailey, and led him to the course. The announcer called her name as she entered, introducing her to the hundreds of people in the stands. She walked Bailey in circles, waiting for the others to show up. Horses of every color trickled in, with the tiny jockeys on their backs. Soon they were all lined up in their gates.
"Let the race begin," she thought.
Time seemed to slow down as she waited. She thought about all that was at stake, and was determined not to lose. Her breathing slowed, her eyes sharpened. Bailey sensed her mood and his fidgeting stopped. He knew what was going on. He sensed it through her, and the bond between them was like a perfect fit. They were two halves of the same whole. And in that second, they knew nothing could stand between them.
Bailey did not let her down. At the minute the shot pierced the air, signaling that they could go, Bailey shot of the starting gate like the bullet that had just been fired. She clung on as Bailey ate up distance with his legs. He danced, one, two, three, four strides ahead of everyone else. They were unstoppable. Soon the finish line was in sight, and Bailey was sweeping over it in a matter of seconds. The already loud crowd erupted in cheers. She slowed Bailey and hugged him, loving him more than ever in these precious seconds. She took her sweaty helmet off, forgetting that she was trying to hide the fact that she was a girl. The judge who just put a huge horseshoe of roses on Bailey stared in disbelief.
"You're, you're a girl?" he stuttered.
"Yes sir," Arya replied, sensing that their was no way out of this situation.
She braced herself for the inevitable, the judge would take the roses away, and she would be disqualified and lose Bailey forever.
"Well, you have a great horse and you're a great rider," he said. "Because of this, I'm going to let you keep the prize. You were brilliant."
Arya was stunned into silence. He handed her the prize money and first place ribbon. Then the familiar sound of high heels and mens' dress shoes combined hit her. Mom and Dad were here. They ran up hugging her, and patting her down for injuries. Their words of anger, relief and pride swept over her. Maybe they wouldn't ground her for life.
"Can I keep Bailey?" she asked.
"That is the first thing you say?" Mom said. "After all this, no "hi" or anything?"
"Sorry," she answered. "But really, can I? I can pay for him."
"Yes you may young lady," Dad said.
"But under one condition," Mom cut in. "You are grounded for life."
Nothing could spoil Arya's moment. She turned to Bailey and told him the great news. She was so happy and absorbed in Bailey-her horse- that she never saw the mischievous look on her Mom's face that would've told her she wasn't actually grounded for life.
And with that, she grabbed Bailey and her mom's hand, walked back to the trailer. Then she headed back to the rolling hills of the Kentucky countryside, the place that she and new her horse called home.