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Shade Thornton

Run for the Roses

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Posted (edited)
Scene Rating: PG
Scene Type: RSVP
Setting & Location: Kalispell race course, Kalispell Fairgrounds
Time and Weather: Afternoon; weather is sunny, hot, dry and breezy - a gorgeous day in Kalispell!

The race course circled the meadow and fairgrounds. It covered close to a mile and a half and included uphill and downhill sections, water obstacles and low brush obstacles to jump. Only one of the water obstacles was broad with water deep enough to cause concern for some of the horses. The event had been designed for horses that were accustomed to being ridden through the rough and rugged terrain of the Montana territory. There were actual race tracks in Missoula and Helena, and the town council had discussed allowing a developer to build one east of Kalispell. So far, however, the majority of the council were not supportive of it.


Despite the fact that the founding fathers, or their wives, disapproved of horse racing and the ensuring betting that inevitably occurred, the Founder's Day Race was one of the most popular events at the fair. To keep their spouses happy, bets were limited to five dollars or less. Those engaging in private wagering were not subject to those restrictions. Entry fees were pretty steep too, two-dollars each horse. The total of the fees would be divided between first, second, and third place in percentages. The winner would receive seventy percent, second place would get twenty percent, and third place received the remaining ten percent.


The race itself had few rules. To win, place, or show, both horse and rider had to cross the finish line. Horses that unseated their riders were disqualified. Riders had to run the entire course. To keep it fair, secret checkpoints had been established. Spotters, hidden from plain sight, would account for each entry. In the three years of the Founder's Day Race, no one had been disqualified for cheating.


morningglory.png.d83563066937348d7ad03eb6f8fc16c7.pngAlong with most of the other riders, Shade had walked the course that morning. He wasn't riding Lakota in the race. Instead, he was riding a big, rangy roan mare that had belonged to his late sister-in-law. Regina had won the race on the mare the year before. Kate Hale had described the horse as being about the fastest in the region that could jump like a cat. Since Regina had been considerably lighter than Shade, he was riding the mare with a bareback rig. She was accustomed to a snaffle-style bit although Kate warned that she liked to get the bit in her teeth.


Shade glanced around at the other entries. Most were your usual assortment of stock horses and saddle horses. There was a tall liver-chestnut with white socks and a blaze that stood out. The gossip was that he was a prized racehorse, a thoroughbred, bought and shipped from back east along with his jockey, a diminutive fellow that remained aloof from the other riders. The chestnut was owned by Evergreen Ranch. Shade sighed and hoped they would not be up to their usual dirty tricks.


Shade turned back to his mount. The mare seemed relaxed, standing hip-shot while Ezra Hale rubbed her gently between the eyes. Regina had named the mare Morning Glory. He ran his hands down her neck, smoothed the red-colored mane, and then on down her each of her legs, feeling for any heat in the tendons. He had taken her on a gallop the night before. She had a long stride and seemed to float over the ground. With luck, they wouldn't embarrass themselves.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)

It was something Addy might not normally do -- racing was pretty much pointless in her opinion.  Didn't matter much how fast a beast you had if it wasn't sure-footed, strong and level headed.  Running fast off the side of a cliff didn't serve a body any more than running slow off one, no, it was more important that a horse know not to run off that cliff, nor walk off it, and that it was important that the animal didn't drop of exhaustion after the first mile a run, and that it could fancy around obstacles without letting noise and sights fluster it. 

 

No, there was far more to a horse than speed, but this was a festival, and it was all in fun and good spirits, so Addy had entered Arabesque into the race.

 

Not that she thought they had a chance, the sorrel mare was lanky and strong, a good saddle horse that could go all day and never flinch, but speed wasn't her strong suit. 

 

Still, the track did have some jumps and streams and whatnot, so that would likely equalize the work horses against any fancy-going gandy dancer.

 

Leading the mare by the hackamore, she headed to the start line, then mounted up.

 

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Edited by Bongo (see edit history)

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Shade led the big roan mare, Morning Glory, toward the starting line. Stopping just short of it, he grabbed a handful of mane. Glory started forward, already sensing the race before her, and he had to rein her in and back her back into line with the other horses. Recognizing Adelaide Chappel, Shade sidestepped Glory over next to her horse.

 

Tugging the brim of his hat, he grinned at her, "Miss Chappel. Good to see you again. The twins are over on the sidelines with the family watching the race. Nice looking mare," he complimented her on her mount.

Edited by Shade Thornton (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)

"Afternoon."  Addy smiled and nodded to Shade.  "Thank ya.  This here's Arabesque, she an' me been tagether a while now."  Leaning forward, she patted the mare's soft neck.  "Nothin' special, but a good mount, knows what I need, sometimes more'n I do!"

 

She glanced around for the kids, waving when she spotted them, then looked back at Shade.  "Got ya a fine lookin' steed there, too."  She grinned teasingly.  "Hope she don't mind a little dust kickin' up in her face!

Edited by Bongo (see edit history)

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Shade chuckled low in his throat, amusement lighting his deep blue eyes which crinkled at the corners as he smiled, "She's a good mare. Belonged to my late sister-in-law, the twins' mother. Thought it'd make them proud to see her run. A good memory to replace the recent bad ones." He smoothed the big roan's reddish colored mane and narrowed his eyes a bit, taking the teasing in with good humor, "Don't know how old Glory feels about dust in her face, but I don't like it!"

 

A disturbance rippled down the line of horses as the big Evergreen Ranch chestnut lashed out at one of the horses that got too close. The big animal reared, nearly unseating his rider, before being brought into line with the others.

 

Shaking his head, Shade said quietly, "Watch yourself, Miss Addy. The Steelgraves are known for dirty tricks. Their jockey might be a hired man but I'd almost guarantee that he's been told to win at all costs. Wouldn't put anything past them. Pretty sure they wouldn't hire someone that had really high moral standards."

 

Tags @Bongo

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Frowning, Addy glanced at the horse that was causing trouble, then shook her head.  "Shows poor trainin'." she muttered, then she gave Shade a smile.  "Thanks fer th' heads up.  Reckon it ain't gonna be a problem if we're both of us so far ahead of 'im!"

 

Speaking boldly, but she'd keep an eye on the troublemaker although she didn't really understand why people were like that.  It was just in fun and it wasn't as if there was any real benefit from a win besides a modest pot and bragging rights, and she hated people that took the fun out of, well, fun.

 

The moderator called for the 'Get Ready', and she gave Shade a final nod.  "Luck to ya!"

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Shade's reply to Addy was lost in the sound of the gunshot from the starting pistol. Almost as one, the horses leaped forward. The big liver chestnut took the lead and his rider seemed intent on setting a hard and fast pace. Shade guided Glory into a spot, laying an easy third or fourth behind the leader.

 

The course was long and varied. It was designed for working horses with challenging obstacles that any good stock horse might meet on the trail. They would be splashing through creeks and streams, jumping low brush and fallen logs, dealing with uphill and downhill runs. The professional race horse likely had run over level terrain, maybe with a few jumps if he were a steeplechaser, but this was a different sort of race. It was more like a cross-country event.

 

The big red roan mare seemed content to follow the leg, hand, and low voice commands from her rider. Shade wanted her fresh and ready to take the lead when they came into the final quarter mile. For now, he wanted to keep a wary eye on the Evergreen horse and concentrate on keeping Glory steady and on her feet.

Edited by Shade Thornton (see edit history)

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Letting out a jubilant, 'Whoop!', Addy gigged her horse forward and into the fray, just enjoying herself and not necessarily trying to get to the lead, although that would come later.  For now, she was keeping an eye on Shade, and the lanky chestnut ridden by the suspect jockey. 

 

For now, everything looked to be kosher, but when they plunged into a wide stream, the Steelgrave horse bumped into a big dun, and at first glance, it looked to be an accident, but Addy noticed that the Steelgrave man twisted his ankle and quickly, subtly, drove his spur into the dun's flank, causing the horse to balk and then buck.  Arabesque barely managed to dance around the horse and rider as they tumbled into the creek.

 

Cursing, Addy pulled up her mount and turned her back, then jumped down to see if the man or horse needed help.  The race was over for her, and there would be hell to pay when she had a chance!

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Posted (edited)

The pace of the race did not seem to be an issue for Shade's mount. The mare flowed over the jumps without undue stress. Glory took the water obstacles in stride - literally. Once or twice during the route that wound through a wooded glade, the Steelgrave jockey had given Glory a pretty hard bump. It was apparent that Shade's analysis of the man's ethics had been accurate.


As a group of five horses came down a slope and into a creek, Glory bunched her haunches and leaped clear across the stream, landing on the hill and surging into the lead. Finally, they were out of the wooded area and in the clear yet still far enough away from the finish line for it to be anyone's race. Shade took a deep breath. As things stood at the moment, Glory looked to be the winning horse.


That is when everything went south. Shade had let his guard down, temporarily forgetting about the Evergreen horse as he leaned low along Glory's neck and just enjoyed the power and speed of the big horse. Before he really registered what happened, there was a flash of white as the blazed face of the liver chestnut drew even with the roan mare. Shade let out a yelp as he felt the sting of a riding crop strike on his shoulder. The next blow landed on Glory's flanks.


Instead of faltering, Glory stretched her neck out and put on another burst of speed. The Steelgrave chestnut matched her pace and even drew ahead slightly, putting his rider even with her head. The man glanced over his shoulder at Shade and grinned nastily. Leaning out of his saddle, he reached out and snagged the headstall of Glory's bridle, yanking it over her ears. The distraction did slow the big mare - briefly.


Shade hauled back on the reins while the bit was still in Glory's mouth. He now regretted choosing to rid in a bareback rig. Without stirrups, he could not easily lever himself up far enough to grab the bridle before it came all the way off. The chestnut was pulling ahead, but the race was not over yet! Shade tightened his leg muscles and inched as far forward on the mare's back as he could, leaned low along her neck Indian style. With one hand, he pulled on the reins, making her bow her neck enough for him to reach the headstall of the bridle with his right hand and drag it back over her ear.


They had lost ground to the lanky chestnut and his nasty little rider. However, Glory seemed to sense that there had been foul play. As soon as Shade relaxed his pull on the reins, she shot forward, her hooves thundering against the hard earth. The mare's ears were flat against her head, and her nostrils were wide as she gulped in air. Little by little, she gained on the chestnut and Shade shot a triumphant look at the surprised Steelgrave rider as they passed the chestnut.


Getting Glory reined in after they passed the finish line was easier said than done. She was in no mood to top running. As soon as Shade got the mare stopped and was declared the winner, he began looking around for Addy. He felt sure she had not been far behind him at the stream. Shade did not see Addy, but he did see the Steelgrave chestnut canter over the finish line.


In a flash, he was off Glory and stalking toward the little man, murder blazing in his dark blue eyes. Just as he bunched his fist, preparing to deliver a sound hit to the man's jaw, a figure stepped in front of him. "Let me by, Ezra!"


The older man stood his ground, "Not here and not now, boy. Pick your battles." That was said in a low voice. The older man then clapped Shade on the shoulder and shouted and with a smile, "Well done, Shade. You made the ranch proud."


By the time Shade had extricated himself from Ezra's bear hug, the liver chestnut and his rider were gone. He made himself smile, but it did not reach his eyes.

Edited by Shade Thornton (see edit history)

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Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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