Oh boy, my tummy feels jumbly, Addie thought as she swallowed the lump in her throat. The horse she was riding walked with jerky movements towards the other horses waiting for the ride to begin.
But this is it! I’m 11 this summer and can go on the hour-long group ride.
She smiled nervously at the other beginning riders who looked about her age. She had seen them hanging out together at the stable and hoped they would include her in their group this summer.
“Is this your first ride on the beach?” the redheaded boy asked her.
“Yes,” Addie replied. “I took a lesson yesterday, but we didn’t go on the beach. Is it your first?”
“Naw, this is my third ride,” said the boy. “I’ve got it down now.”
“That’s cool,” said Addie. She had been saving her allowance and doing odd jobs to pay for this ride during her summer vacation.
“Smokey’s a pretty horse. They said he’s okay for a beginner, but he seems a little friskey,” she said. She had picked him because of his unusual speckled gray color and dark gray mane and tail.
Her attention quickly went back to Smokey, who was prancing away from the other riders who had started out along the road.
“Bring him back in line,” shouted Tyler, the teenaged guide.
What did she learn? Guide him with the reins. Oh good, that worked, Addie said to herself, as Smokey settled into the line of other horses.
When they got to the top of the large sand dune at the beach entrance, Addie grabbed the saddle horn as she was suddenly dropped down and thrown forward by Smokey’s movements.
“What are you doing? Oh no, don’t roll over!” she cried as Smokey began to roll in the soft sand. Her foot got caught in the stirrup and she yelled as the weight of the horse pushed it into the sand.
“Oh no, oh no,” she whispered to herself, tugging her foot out from beneath him. She felt her face and neck get hot, and her tummy knotted in distress as she heard a snicker from one of the other riders who had stopped to watch.
Smokey scrambled up as Tyler came back to make sure she was okay. He helped her to her feet and she grimaced in pain as she stepped down on her right foot.
“I think its okay,” she told Tyler. Her ankle looked red, but was not swollen and the more she walked on it, the better it felt.
“You should probably go back to the stable now,” he said.
Addie felt embarrassed and unhappy, but held back her tears. How did I ever think I could do this, she thought.
She grabbed a hold of Smokey’s reins and turned to lead him back to the stable. She went a few yards and then stopped. She remembered how much she had been dreaming about this first ride on the beach.
Addie squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, turned around and shouted to the departing group, “No, I’m going with you!”
Tyler shrugged his shoulders as he said, “Ok, it’s up to you, but you will have to keep up.”
Little did she know that her challenge had just begun.
When they got to the ocean, Smokey kicked out his back legs and started to gallop out of control down the beach away from the group
Not again, thought Addie in a panic. What do I do? What do I do? She racked her brain to remember.
In an instant, it all came back to her and she pulled back solidly on the reins, bringing him under control, and to a walk.
There, she thought triumphantly. If I just take charge, I can do this.
When she turned Smokey around to rejoin her group, they cheered her return.
Tyler gave her a high-five as she got in line to continue. “Nice job, Addie,” he said.
It was finally going to be the ride she had been dreaming of all winter.
Addie could have gone back to the stable as Tyler suggested she do, but instead she showed the courage to deal with her difficult horse and the determination not to give up on her dream.