You are on page 1of 4

The Second Lesson

Even at 9:15 when Halley Janos’ foreman arrived, Alex still hadn’t
caught Bucephalus. He acted like a young foal just playing around with
another. Alex didn’t find it so amusing though. Once the foreman saw her and
laughed, she sighed and went to the gate. “I need breakfast.”
Bucephalus followed after her and gave a protesting whinny. It sounded
just like his mother. Alex turned to him. Bucephalus was only six feet away.
The morning sun shone blue on his coat and white on his mane and tail. He
looked every bit like a mustang on the outside, but in his eyes he was still
the young foal that Alex had to give up to the range.
Alex hated herself for forgiving him right then and there. “I need to
eat and then I’ll try again. You want an apple?” Bucephalus bobbed his head
once.
Janos’ foreman chuckled again and went to work putting the tack away in
the tack room. When Alex returned with breakfast she saw the training
equipment Janos was talking about.
The foreman carried a whip and a thick lariat. She ran straight for the
round pen and gave Bucephalus his apple. He stared at her as he ate.
“I’m alright boy.” Alex lied. She reached out to pet his face, but he
lifted his head out of her reach. “Okay, smarty. It’s the training equipment
that was brought for you.”
Bucephalus’ eyes filled with questionable fear. “That’s right, I’m
scared for you.” Alex told him. She reached out to him, this time he pushed
his nose into her hand. “I know Beauty. I won’t use it, but who’s to say
someone else won’t?” She finished breakfast silently.
Soon after, she climbed into the pen again and this time it took her
only ten minutes to catch Bucephalus. It confused her as to why, but then she
thought that maybe he figured she was the only human who would be kind to
him. Either that, or he figured it was the only way to get his freedom that
she promised.
Once the halter was on he shook his head. Alex petted him and crooned
sweet things to him. “I see you finally got him, Handerman.” Alex and
Bucephalus turned to the foreman. He had bowlegs like a real cowboy, light
skin, and a hard set jaw. He reminded Alex of her father. “Not easy to
befriend a mustang.”
“He wasn’t born on the range, he’s lived there for the last 18 months.”
Alex said.
The man nodded. “So I was told, by my daughter, Finn. She said she’d
tell me about this dream you had if it was okay.”
“I don’t see the harm in it Mr. Jackson.” Alex said. She had no idea
this man was Finn’s father. She looked nothing like him. “Maybe you could
clear up some things.”
“Maybe.” Finn’s father said. “Handerman, why don’t you stick with
calling me Leon? I’ll be working with you on training your horse.” He pointed
to Bucephalus.
Alex stiffened and she felt Bucephalus do the same from his tug on the
lead rope. “You won’t use any of that ‘training equipment,’ will you?”
“I hope not. Mr. Janos encountered a black horse on the range about two
months ago. Said he tried to rope it, but it escaped the loop and his whinny
sounded like a mocking laugh. So, he pulled out the slingshot and shot a
rubber ball right into his ribs.
“Poor thing fell and squealed in pain. Then when Janos got closer to
rope ‘im, he got up and fled. Dang thing played possum.” Leon said. “He said
that he looked something like his own race horse King Philip.”
Alex gasped. “He owns King Philip?”
“In a way, King Philip is retired at Hallowed Springs Ranch. Mrs. Janos
wants a race horse who’s wild but can beat him easily.” Leon nodded to
Bucephalus. “She said he was the only one who looked the sort.”
“Why did she want a wild horse?” Alex asked. Bucephalus snorted as
though he wondered as well.
“Dunno. She hasn’t told me why. Anyways let’s get to work. Try bringing
him over to the fence and tying him up.” Leon waved his hand over his head
towards the ranch yard.
Alex breathed in to calm down, even on a lead rope a horse could read
your feelings. She started to walk, but when she got to the end of the rope
Bucephalus acted as an anchor. Alex turned to him and gave the rope some
slack but kept it taunt.
“Not again, boy.” Bucephalus flicked his ears her way. “You’re too big
to do this again. Please come with me.”
Bucephalus lowered his head parallel to the ground and took a step
forward. She walked slowly and like magic, Bucephalus followed. He allowed
her to tie him to the fence and stood there. “Good boy, Beauty.” She patted
his satin neck.
“Beauty? Sounds more like a mare’s name.” Leon said.
“Beauty is short for Bucephalus.” Alex saw the connection made in
Leon’s face. “I named him because all I had on my mind on the time was my
project on historical animals. Bucephalus was the only horse, so it fit.”
“It suits him. He’s big, he’s powerful, and yet he’s chosen a human
friend who understands him.” Leon’s teeth flashed white against his face.
“Instead of a prince, it’s a princess.”
Alex rolled her eyes. “Finn told me about the coincidence. I’ll believe
it when I finally get his permission to ride.”
“His permission? Why do you say that?” Leon asked.
Alex looked at Bucephalus. “When I trained him to lead, I was a lot
more patient with him, I’ll admit.” She bit her lip and looked at him. “I
think we should start over. After all, I owe it to him for my impatience.”
Leon smirked. “You think you can finish his training in two and a half
months? If Finn’s right, you two can do it. Janos wants me to be here in case
of any accidents.”
Alex untied the lead rope. “Okay, to the center and then you lead.” She
told Bucephalus. He complied and they stood in the center.
Leon watched as Bucephalus looked into Alex’s eyes. The two of them
stood there as though they were having a silent conversation. They might as
well have been, since Bucephalus stepped back to the end of the rope.
He took another step back and Alex took a step toward him to kept the
rope the way it was. Then he stepped forward half a step and Alex stepped
back. Leon shook his head. “I never seen anything like it. Seems they’ve done
this everyday.” He grinned to himself.

At 11:45 Alex decided to break for lunch. She and Bucephalus had gotten
up to trotting around the pen. He had apparently remembered the cues she gave
him. She was glad that he remembered so well. When Leon brought the new
grooming kit borrowed from J.E.N., Bucephalus leaned into the brush just
loving the attention. He refused to pick up his hooves because he was
unfamiliar with the pinching gesture on his pasterns. Leon’s suggestion of
pinching and then pulling up on his leg worked.
When Leon turned his back Alex took off the halter and set it on the
fence. “We just earned lunch Beauty. I’ll go get it.” Bucephalus nickered his
eagerness and danced in place.
Alex wasted no time with the food. Just after she gave Bucephalus his
apple Geoffry came along. “Finn’s dad said you were doing really good with—
what was his name again?”
“Bucephalus, like Alexander’s war horse.” Alex glanced at the colt as
he gave a proud whinny.
“I’m starting to think you are Alexander’s reincarnation, and I don’t
believe in that stuff.” Geoffry bit into his sandwich. Bucephalus pawed the
ground. Geoffry backed off from Alex. “But I do believe he’s claimed you as
his.”
Alex snickered. “He just remembers the rope.”
“He just remembers the rope.” Geoffry mimicked her. “How long did it
take for you to catch him?”
Alex looked at the sky. “Let’s see, I came in at 6:30. Leon arrived at
9:15.” That was 2 hours and 45 minutes.
“Leon?”
“He insisted. We had breakfast for 10 minutes. Then it took me another
ten to finally catch him. So three hours.” Alex finished calculating.
Geoffry whistled. “For a horse born tame and almost broken to the
saddle—“
Alex turned to him so fast she hit the fence making them rattle.
Bucephalus sidestepped away and Geoffry stared at her wide-eyed. “I did it
again didn’t I?”
“Your deal? No. My family never believed in ‘breaking’ horses to a
saddle. We ease them into tack.” Alex strained her voice to stay level. Her
shoulder was in burning pain from the sudden impact.
“Okay, okay. Geez you’re touchy. I wonder how I ever come to work for
you.” Geoffry blew out an exhausted breath.
“You know, your father said that your mom works on a track back in San
Fransisco. Any chance that she might know about how to train a horse to race?”

After lunch, Bucephalus stood still for the halter. Alex let him lead
around the pen. Her way of letting him know that when she didn’t know what to
do, and he did, she trusted his judgment. Geoffry watched and warned her when
Margie arrived for her lessons.
“Could you get Jumpy’s tack? It’s the third bridle from the door and
the big saddle on the left.” Alex told Geoffry. He was gone at the final word.
She tugged on the lead rope to stop Bucephalus. “Sorry boy. I gotta
give my cousin lessons. I will be back and work with you until closing time,
okay?” She took the halter off and went through the gate. “I promise.” She
blew a kiss to him. Bucephalus snorted but made no protest to her leaving him
this time.
Margie led Jumpy to the hitching post and brushed his coat. Jumpy still
trembled at the hoof pick, but that was all in tacking him up. To do two jobs
at once, Alex caught Golden Red in the ten-acre pasture and tacked him up as
well. The two girls lead the horses into the arena and mounted.
“Okay,” Alex said once she was mounted. “today I was thinking we could
work on trotting a lap around the arena. Remember to stand and sit at his
rhythm and always keep your eyes up.”
“Okay.” Margie nodded. “Why are you riding today?”
“I need to exercise Golden Red. He’s a little overgrazed. I’ll be
careful of you two. Keep your reins snug so Jumpy doesn’t follow.” Alex told
her. She turned the retired show horse and started around the ring. As
instructed, Margie rode Jumpy at a walk around the ring, then got him into a
trot. Alex saw the progress and continued with Golden Red.
When she changed horses she let Margie know before dismounting. For the
rest of the lesson she exercised an old harness mare who was too old to even
bother with Jumpy. That’s when the dark red Ford Mustang showed up. Both Alex
and Margie knew Halley Janos was back, and she was not gonna be happy about
Alex not training Bucephalus.
“You’ll need to rest now.” She told Margie. “Let’s cool down the
horses.” They dismounted and went to work unsaddling the horses.
Halley came up to them wearing a flannel vest over a dark green blouse,
jeans, and boots like the Hollywood cowboys wore in movies. Just as the girls
predicted, she was not happy. The horses felt it too and stepped to the end
of their lead ropes on the hitching posts.
“Why aren’t you with that mustang?” Halley asked obviously trying not
to scare the horses.
“I’m doing my job and exercising the horses I’m supposed to today.”
Alex stated. “Plus I just finished with my cousin’s riding lessons.”
“How sweet.” Halley walked behind the horses at a distance where they
wouldn’t hit her if they decided to kick. “Why she looks like her mother.”
Alex heard Margie make a “hmph!” sound. Aunt Janet had told Margie
about Halley Janos. She told her all about the humiliations Janet had to
endure, starting with the accident freshman year.
“I’m all done here, so we’ll turn the horses out and I’ll get back to
Bucephalus.” Alex said untying the old mare’s lead rope.
“Bucephalus…yes. Darrel told me that you called him that. He should
give King Philip a good run for his money.” Halley said thoughtfully.
He should. He’s his colt. Alex didn’t say that out loud. She just led
the old harness mare to the box stall where she’d get hosed down. Margie did
the same with Jumpy and turned him into the pipe corral. Margie learned that
Alex was right. She needed to rest from all the trotting she did. It had
caused a dull pain in her thighs.
Bucephalus was biting at Janos when they arrived at the round pen. She
was yelping and waved her hand at him. “Stay back you mongrel!”
Alex rolled her eyes. Margie stepped forward though. “Don’t do that.
You’re scaring him.” She said sternly.
“You’re one to talk, Handerman.” Janos snapped.
“Just ‘cause you hate my mom, don’t take it out on me.” Margie snapped
back. “And it’s Smitherson.”
Alex took her cousin’s shoulder and pulled back. “Janet married
thirteen years ago. You may want to stand back from the gate. Bucephalus
doesn’t like a lot of people.”
“You mean, people who aren’t related to you.” Janos pointed to
Bucephalus sniffing Margie’s hand.
Alex couldn’t help but smile. “She fed him a carrot when I was around.
He’s getting to know her.” She waited for Bucephalus to finish with Margie.
Then she patted his soft muzzle and entered the pen. The big horse turned
around to allow the halter to be put on.
Margie and Janos watched as the two led around the corral alternately.
Margie saw that Alex and Bucephalus got along like how her mother had
described. When they were young, they were like two puzzle pieces that were
not quiet one, but they were close. Janet believed that would change once
Alex mounted Bucephalus for the first time.