Skyler opened the front door, and headed to the kitchen cabinets. She grabbed a glass, then filled it half way with orange juice. Taking a sip of orange juice, she leaned against the counter, and stared at the wooden floor.

“What’s going through your head?” Ty asked, walking toward the kitchen.

Skyler watched Ty open the refrigerator and grab a bottle of water. “Are you still going to sell the other horses?”

“The buyer I had in mind backed out.”

“Is there another buyer interested?” Skyler stared at her glass, swirling the orange juice around.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.” Ty glanced at his bottle, then focused his attention on Skyler. “I already agreed to race Yellowstone. Isn’t that enough?”

“Yellowstone is only one horse. What about the other nineteen? They’re still headed to the slaughter house.”

Skyler wanted Ty to interrupt her; tell her none of those horses would end up in a slaughter house. But instead he said, “So are a hundred other horses. You can’t stop every horse from ending up in super markets.”

“Hundreds of people are going to lie and cheat, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Isn’t it the same here?”

“Skyler,” Ty inhaled deeply, as if trying to keep from saying something he shouldn’t. “I’m doing what I think will save this farm. And if you really wanted to be part in running this farm, then you’d be realistic.”

Skyler sat her empty glass on the counter and said, “We should go. Bob’s probably loaded Yellowstone by now. It’ll rain soon; the turf’s no good when it’s wet.” Skyler grabbed a pair of gloves from the coat closet and walked out the door.
***
One, two, jump. With Bob’s help Skyler mounted Yellowstone, and held on to the reins as Bob led them to the gate. Today was Yellowstone’s first time exiting out of a gate since they’d begun their training. Yellowstone moved his ears sideways, and held his head high. Slowly he entered the gate. The gate flew open. This was usually the part where the action begun. But instead of starting off, Yellowstone trotted out the gate and turned his head toward the bleachers. Skyler clicked her tong and kicked Yellowstone slightly. But instead of running, he stared at the bleachers; after two minutes, he lost interest and walked to the railing.

“The horse has gotten lazy.” Aunt Cathy shook her head, while clicking her tongue.

“It doesn’t make any sense; he was doing great yesterday.” Ty scratched his head and shifted his feet.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with him?” asked Skyler.

“No, he seems fine.” Ty examined the horse from a distance. “He looks almost . . . careless.”

“Should we try again?”

“No, it wouldn’t be any different. I’ll ask some other trainers and see if they know what’s going on.”

Skyler nodded and dismounted the gelding.

Later that evening Skyler stood in the stables, leaning against Yellowstone’s stall, studying his face. Three weeks ago, Skyler would never have thought they would’ve come this far. It had been a long shot: convincing Ty to race Yellowstone. But three weeks later and Yellowstone was nearly ready for his first race. Somehow it seemed like Yellowstone knew he would race again, or at least be promised to race again. So far, they hadn’t entered in a race, but as soon as Ty thought he was ready, Yellowstone would race. And the horse seemed to know, because he worked harder than any of them did. Surviving in the mountains for four years, then fighting to gain his strength again. Skyler almost wanted to win a race simply to give Yellowstone the reward.

“Why won’t you run?”

“He’s gone lazy.” Aunt Cathy shook her head and folded her hands behind her back.

“I don’t know if that’s it.” Skyler watched Yellowstone eat his hay, while Aunt Cathy walked toward her.

Once Aunt Cathy stood beside Skyler, she slipped her hands in her pockets. “See he runs great when he’s not exiting a gate, but when he is it’s like he doesn’t care.”

Skyler looked at Aunt Cathy, but Aunt Cathy didn’t seem to notice. Sometimes Skyler didn’t understand her aunt, why would she point out the obvious? They already knew how Yellowstone reacted, what they didn’t know is why.

“I guess we’ll see what tomorrow brings.” Aunt Cathy smiled at Skyler.

“Ty won’t want to try again until he has an idea of what’s going on.”

“We’ll see, tomorrow’s another day.” Aunt Cathy gave Skyler a side hug, then headed toward the house.

Her aunt might be a high-spirited woman, but deep down, she was still the loving, caring aunt that raised them.
***
Skyler swept the broom across the front porch, shoving the dirt onto the grass. Red and orange colored leaves covered the ground. The leaves rustling as the cat walked across the grass and laid down under the dogwood tree. Skyler cupped her hands together, lifted them to her mouth, and breathed on them to warm her fingers. Eastern Kentucky never disappointed, fall was always cool and crisp. But soon they’d escape the cold for a while and soak in the California sun. Of course, she hadn’t told anyone about that yet. Her timing had to be perfect—everything had to be perfect. And right now, it wasn’t. Nineteen horses might still be slaughtered due to her brother, and her horse wasn’t performing the way he should. Right now, nothing but the weather seemed perfect.

Unless, unless she found a buyer who was willing to pay more for those horses than Ty’s old buyer had been willing to pay. But where would she find someone who was willing to buy nineteen abandoned horses that were barely back on their feet. Their parent’s farm had once bred only the best thoroughbreds in the state. Now they were trying to make a living off of selling abandoned horses. Ty would know who to call, but then she’d have to convince him to find a different buyer, and lately it felt like that was all she was doing, convincing Ty.

Skyler spotted Ty walking across the yard and figured she’d give it a shot. “Hey Ty!”

Ty stopped when he heard Skyler’s voice and waited for her to catch up.

Once she stood in front of her brother, she asked, “Aren’t there any other buyers interested in those horses? Buyers that won’t use them for . . . you know.”

Ty looked at his little sister and smiled. “I called a potential buyer this morning. I think he might be interested in the thoroughbreds, and we’ll see if we can’t sell the Appaloosas and Paints as trail horses or show horses.”

Skyler’s smile grew bigger with every second that passed.

Ty let out a light chuckle and said, “Hey now, don’t smile so hard, you’ll get wrinkles before I do.”

“You’re not cold hearted after all,” Skyler teased.

Ty began walking toward the stables; Skyler walking beside him.

“Why would you think I was?”

Skyler lifted her eyebrows, and gave Ty a side glance.

Ty nodded, realizing what Skyler meant, and said, “Let’s not talk about it. Stress will get a person to do some things he usually wouldn’t. But from now on it’ll be you and me making the decisions, so I can share the stress with you.”

Skyler lifted her head toward her brother. “Sounds fair to me.”

“Okay, I’ll load Yellowstone, then we’ll head to the track. I got something I think will help him.”
***
Skyler sat on Yellowstone, listening to Ty, when Aunt Cathy came jogging toward them, a radio in her hands. “Wait! I’m sorry Ty, honey, but I think I got something even better.”

When Aunt Cathy reached the railing, she sat the radio on the ground and stood beside it. She waited for her breathing to slow down, before she explained her plan. “Now when Yellowstone is in the gate, I’m going to hit the play button and the crowd is going to get wild.” When everyone stared at her she said, “By that I mean we’re going to clap and cheer Yellowstone on, making him believe there’s a crowd.” Still, everyone only stared at Aunt Cathy, so she clapped her hands and raised her voice, “Well let’s give it a try at least. Now get in the gate.”

Skyler entered the gate and Aunt Cathy pressed the play button. Yellowstone’s ears shot forward with the sound of the recording. The gate flew opened and Skyler pushed Yellowstone forward. The horse took off at a steady speed; the more excited the man on the recording became, the more Yellowstone’s speed increased. The louder the cheers on the recording, the harder Yellowstone tried. Skyler countered the turn of the track and rode the horse to the finish line.

When she finally slowed Yellowstone to a trot, she turned him around and trotted toward the railing. “It worked!” Skyler said, breathing deeply.

“I thought it might.” Aunt Cathy looked at Ty, who only smiled at his aunt.

Skyler laughed, still petting the horse’s mane. After a while, she sat up straight and looked her brother in the eye. Not a hint of a smile appeared on Skyler’s face when she said, “The Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes are in two weeks.”

Ty stared at Skyler. “It’s a mile race.”

“I know the risk; I think Yellowstone’s willing to take it.” Skyler allowed herself to show a slight smile, while she waited for her brother’s response.

Ty looked at Yellowstone, as though he was reading his mind. Finally, he answered, “Let’s win the Shadwell Stakes.”

“And then the Breeders’ Cup?”

“Hey, I say, all in or nothing at all.” Aunt Cathy slapped the railing, smiling at her niece and nephew.

 

 
Will Yellowstone win the Shadwell Stakes, or will the family lose their farm after all? Find out Tuesday, November 5th, on The Farmer’s Daughter.

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