Old Mill Stables

by Haddie

Petting horses

Petting horses

I've changed the names of the stable, the people, and some of the horses, as well as other details, but this is based on a true story about something that happened to me several years ago.

Part One

I step out of the car and breathe in the smell of horses. I'm so happy. Wearing a lavender sweatshirt, tan jodhpurs, and tall black rubber riding boots, I've just arrived at the stable for my first riding lesson! I've longed to ride for so long, and now the day is finally here!

My stomach flutters as I walk towards the barn, but my nerves calm when I meet my instructor, a young woman with a kind voice and a gentle manner. She takes me to the tack room and finds me a helmet that fits and a pair of gloves to borrow. Then she smiles and says, “It's time to meet your pony!” It's the moment I've waited so long for.

After handing me a carrot, my instructor leads me to the stall of--“Haddie! Are you listening?” Oscar's voice jerked me out of my daydream.

Slowly, I made myself focus on my younger brother's face. “What?”

He grinned mischievously, obviously enjoying my confusion. “This is the third time Dad has said to go to the car!”

“Oh.” I picked up The Kingfisher Illustrated Horse and Pony Encyclopedia and followed Oscar out the front door.

Outside, it was a lovely day. The air was crisp and cool, the sky was blue, and birds were singing merrily. The trees along the street were decked in red, orange, and yellow leaves. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and my family and I were spending the holiday weekend at my grandparents’ house four hours away from home.

That morning at breakfast, Grandma had proposed a visit to a dairy farm close by. My three siblings and I had all agreed that it sounded like a fun outing, so we had all gotten ready to go, and then I had lapsed into my favorite daydream-imagining what it would be like if I ever got to ride a horse. I wanted so much to take riding lessons.

The screen door slammed shut as Grandpa, the last one out of the house, stepped into the sunshine. He locked the door and then we all piled into my family's Suburban. I crawled into the backseat between the car seats of my six-year-old sister Betsie and Jake, the youngest, who was four.

Dad started the car and we were off.

Several minutes later, I opened The Kingfisher Illustrated Horse and Pony Encyclopedia--my favorite horse book--and wondered which horse or pony from its pages I should pretend to ride today. The pretty little bay pony? The dappled grey Arabian? The big chestnut draft cross? I had just decided on the pony-my name for her was Cinnamon--when my dream was again interrupted.

“Haddie?” This time it was Grandma's voice from the seat in front of me. “If you look out the left window, there will be some horses in a few miles.”

Horses!? We weren't out of the city yet! But I glued my eyes to the window. Before long...horses! There they were! Turned out in a sandy arena...bays...pintos...a golden palomino...they were all so beautiful it took my breath away.

Then we were driving past a big barn, white with hunter green shutters on the stall windows...and then more horses! A second arena, with even more horses than the other one! Each horse seemed more beautiful than the last. I gazed at them for as long as I could.

Before long, we arrived at the dairy farm. Dad turned into the long gravel driveway. On either side of our car were green pastures, each with a group of light brown cows grazing peacefully. Oscar, Betsie, and Jake exclaimed over the cows. Only I said nothing--I'd always had a quiet personality; besides, I was trying in vain to decide which of the horses I'd seen were prettiest and which I'd like to ride most. Eventually I gave up.

“Jerseys on the left, Guernseys on the right,” Grandma informed us. She was knowledgeable about bovines, having grown up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. “We always had Guernseys when was a kid.”

I liked the cows. They were pretty animals, though, in my opinion, not quite as lovely as the horses.

Dad continued driving until we reached a small building with white rocking chairs on the covered porch.

“Uh oh,” Grandpa said suddenly from the passenger seat.

“What is it?” I asked, not seeing anything wrong.

“Look at the door of the building.” I took a closer look. On the door was a sign that read, in big black letters, “CLOSED”. The car was silent for a moment.

“Well,” Mom said slowly, “I guess we won't get our tour of the farm after all.”

Disappointed, I sighed quietly. I would have liked to get up close to the cows...maybe they would have even let me milk one. Dad turned the Suburban around and drove back to the pastures, pausing there to let us get one last look at the cows out the windows. Then he turned out of the gate and back onto the main road.

t was then that I had my idea. My heart leaped at the thought. I knew it might not work...but I just had to give it a try.


“Yes, Haddie.”

“Since the farm was closed...”


I blurted it out. “Could we go to the horse stable instead?”

He paused for what must have only been seconds, but felt like much longer as I waited in suspense for his answer. My dad always liked to think things over thoroughly.

“Well,” he said slowly at last, “I don't know if they would allow people to just come visit, but...we can try.”

I felt like jumping up and down, but I had a seat belt on. Instead, I thanked Dad. Then I looked out my window--the stable would be on my right now--and felt a smile of anticipation spread across my face. Maybe, just maybe, my dream of being with horses would start coming true today!

I couldn't wait.

Please comment if you like it and want more, or give me suggestions on how to improve my writing!

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Apr 16, 2018
by: Hoofbeats

Sweet. I like the balance in this part. You did a good job on balancing the tension and happiness out, which all equaled in an enjoyable read!

Apr 13, 2018
Part 4. Sorry it's been so long!
by: Haddie

After we finished petting Tommy, my family and I went, at Emma’s suggestion, to see the mares in the other arena. Emma told us their names.

The first horse to catch my eye was a striking black and white mare named Oreo. She was beautiful, a draft cross with feathered feet, but was never close enough to the fence for me to pet. More friendly was Rosey, a cute sorrel pony with thick flaxen mane and tail. Gracie, a dappled grey, had gracefully ambled, like a long-legged ballerina, over to the fence as soon as we reached it. So had Autumn, a chestnut with a perfectly diamond-shaped star.

Two mares stood together on the far side of the arena, scratching each other’s backs with their teeth; they were a stocky blaze-faced bay named Promise, and Belle, a dainty grey Arabian with a pink nose. They made an unlikely but cute pair.

When Emma had finished telling us briefly about the mares, she headed back to the barn to clean saddles. After watching her until she disappeared behind a hedge, I noticed for the first time some hay spread on the ground.

Picking up a few pieces, I offered some on my hand to Gracie, the horse nearest me. She stretched her head over the fence and took it gently from my hand with her lips. I watched her chew, noting the muscles rippling in her cheeks. The rest of the family saw what I was doing, and before long, Betsie and even my brothers were feeding the horses too.

Suddenly, I heard a child’s cry. It was Jake. He was sitting on the ground a few yards away from me and Mom was bending over him.

Rushing over, I asked Mom what had happened. "A horse nipped his finger instead of the hay," she said worriedly. Oh no. I groaned inwardly. I hope Jake’s okay. And I hope this is not the end of seeing horses for me.

Picking up his little hand, I examined it and was relieved by what I saw. "He’s just fine, I think, there’s no mark or anything," I blabbered nervously to Mom and the rest of my family, who had just arrived on the scene. "I’m positive it was just an accident; his hand’s so little and the horse must have missed the hay--"

I broke off. Hoofbeats. Coming from the woods on the far side of the arena. A horse was emerging from the trees. It was a dark bay, almost black, stock-type horse, being ridden Western by a man in a tan cowboy hat.

When he approached the little group around Jake, the man leaned back in the saddle and halted his mount.

"Y’all okay?" he drawled.

"I think so," Mom replied, sounding slightly less worried now that she’d seen that there was no blood pouring out of Jake's hand. "He got a little nip, but the skin’s not broken or anything."

The cowboy hat man tried to hide a smile. He hooked his reins on the saddle horn as he said, "Can’t count the times that’s happened to me. Betcha you’ll be just fine, little guy. Maybe pettin’ my Jewel here’ll make ya feel better." He patted his mare affectionately.

Jake had stopped crying, but declined the invitation. "Bad horsie," he muttered, hiding his face on Mom’s leg.

"That’s all right, young’un," the man chuckled. "You’ll come ‘round someday. My name’s Hutch, by the way. You wanna pet Jewel?" He was looking at me, I realized, with that last sentence. I must have been staring at the horse. I did want to pet her, of course, and stroked Jewel underneath her long mane, which was gathered into several braids that hung down her neck.

After a moment, Hutch tapped my shoulder. I looked up; he was grinning down at me. "Jewel’s braids are almost as long as yours, cowgirl!" I was confused for a split second, but then remembered plaiting my long brown hair into two braids that morning. I smiled, automatically fingering the end of one. The man chuckled again.

"Sure am glad y’all are enjoyin’ the hosses this fine mornin’," he said. Then he looked at Jake. "Most of ya are enjoyin’ them, that is. Anyway, our barn manager Mateo is a real nice man, lettin’ visitors pet the ponies. Most folks, they wouldn’t allow ya to do that. But I think it’s just great that he does." He nodded for emphasis.

I had never met this barn manager, but I wholeheartedly agreed.

Jewel, though she seemed gentle enough, had begun to toss her head impatiently, so Hutch said he thought it best to "mosey on back to the barn". He tipped his hat to us and, after a "Giddyup!" to Jewel, rode on.

We didn’t stay long after that, as Mom wanted to get Jake back to Grandpa and Grandma’s house so he could wash his injured hand. (No great harm ever came from that little nip; I think Jake had totally forgotten it by the time we reached the house. And I was never banned from horses as I'd feared.) I said a reluctant goodbye to the horses, petting Gracie until Oscar yelled that everyone would leave without me if I didn’t hurry up.

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded being left behind. But that wasn’t really an option. As we all loaded back into the car, Emma emerged from the barn, carrying a pitchfork. "Goodbye," she called. I was the closest to her. "Thank you," I said, hoping she knew somehow how much I meant it. Smiling at me, she replied, "Come back any time. You’re always welcome here."

Thanks so much for reading! I'd love to hear what you think. Sorry it's taken so long; I've been super busy. But I have Part 5 all ready to post soon (hopefully)! --Haddie (which, by the way, isn't my real name. :))

Dec 20, 2017
Great read Haddie!
by: Hoofbeats

Hi Haddie!

Thanks for commenting on my book "The Wild Flame and Paruku Island". Your comment really made my day.
I also saw your post about asking me to check out your book. I did and I'm really happy that you're still writing this story! Please continue updating us and we can chat if you like!

Nov 14, 2017
More coming...
by: Haddie

Hey girls! Wanted to let you know that Part 4 is in the works. Please keep reading and commenting! Hope you have a great day!

Sep 15, 2017
Part 3
by: Haddie

She was a young woman wearing tan breeches, and paddock boots with half chaps. In one hand she held a helmet covered in brown velvet. Her blond hair was pulled into a ponytail. She looked like the riding instructor in my daydream. Seeing me looking at her, she smiled. I felt more comfortable...she didn't seem like the kind of person to stop a horse crazy girl from petting horses. "I'm Emma," she said cheerfully. "I'm an instructor here. I see you all have some horse lovers here." She winked at me. "Yes, we do," Dad said. "Is it okay if they pet the horses?" I held my breath. "Oh, sure," Emma replied. "Most of them love attention!" I breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief. Oh, thank you, God! Emma scratched the black horse under his short, thick mane. "Shall I introduce them to you? This big black guy is named King. Thinks he's one, too! He's a boarder horse, and so are the pintos--Chance is the darker one and the chestnut and white is Cash." Betsie and I had gone back to petting the tall bay and the little Palomino. Emma motioned to them next. "Those guys are two of our best lesson horses. The bay is Brownie--he's very gentle and great for our beginner riders. Nugget is our super cute and cuddly Palomino pony. The Arabian is named Lex; he's also a great lesson horse. And the chestnut with the stripe is Mackey." I leaned closer to Brownie, glad I knew his name now. Very gentle and great for beginners...maybe I'd be matched up with him if I got to ride here. Emma was talking again. "Yep, all the geldings are out here...except one. My horse is in the barn because he injured his hoof. Would you like to go see him?"

The barn was big and airy. On either side of the aisle was a row of stalls. There were horse blankets, saddle pads, and bridles hanging on some of the stall doors. On each stall there was also a gold nameplate with the horse's show name and barn name. I glimpsed a few of them as I followed Emma down the aisle. Gold Nugget "Nugget"...Amazing Grace "Gracie"...Double Chocolate "Brownie". Emma stopped at a stall on the right side of the barn, the only one with a horse in it as far as I could see. "This is Tommy," she said. Tommy was a brown horse with a star shaped like a diamond. There was a blue bandage over his front left lower leg and hoof. Emma picked up a plastic bag and held it out to me. "Would you like to give him a treat?" I nodded and took one of the brown pellets out of the bag. Emma gave treats to Betsie and my brothers and told us about her horse while we gave the treats to him. "Tommy is eight years old and I got him about a year ago. He used to be a racehorse, but wasn't fast enough to make much money, so I adopted him and started training him to do dressage. Originally I was going to sell him to someone else once he was trained, but I got too attached to give him up!" She patted his nose fondly. "Would you like to see his tattoo? Every Thoroughbred racehorse gets a series of numbers tattooed on their lip to identify them." She moved her hand toward Tommy’s mouth, but he lifted his head out of reach. "Oh, come on, Tommy! Show us your tattoo." Tommy slowly obliged and Emma lifted his lip. Sure enough, there was a row of white numbers on his lip. When Tommy’s mouth was closed I started petting him. Apparently Emma could see my horse-craziness because she asked, "Have you ever thought about taking riding lessons? I'm sure our horses would love to teach you." Had I ever thought about it! I was about to explain that I couldn't very well take lessons at Old Mill Stables when Grandma said,"My grandchildren actually live several hours away. They're just visiting for the holiday."

"Oh, okay," Emma replied. She smiled at me. "Well I hope you get to ride someday." I smiled back.

Aug 29, 2017
Thanks for reading everyone!
by: Haddie

Thanks so much for the comments! Good suggestion about using similes, hoofbeats.

Hoofprints in the clouds - yes, this did really happen to me, although I've changed some of the details. I should be posting Part 3 very soon, so stay tuned!

Aug 24, 2017
by: Hoofprints in the Clouds

This is so good! Now where is part three? Did this really happen to you? Please write more soon!

Jul 21, 2017
by: Hoofbeats

Great job, Haddie!

Maybe try to say the bay's coat gleamed like gold... if you know what I mean. Like add similes. They help describe stuff and make it more interesting.

Sorry that was just a suggestion. Overall, it was brilliant!

Jul 15, 2017
Part 2
by: Haddie

Part Two

My stomach felt fluttery as we drove closer and closer to the stable. I tried to remember what I had read in the Kingfisher Encyclopedia about being calm when meeting a new horse or pony so that they don't feel nervous. I took deep breaths to try to stay calm, but still felt excited.

Soon, I saw the larger arena. Good, the horses were still out. Was this all too good to be true? Could I really get up close to those beautiful animals? Or might they not allow people to come visit? Surely they wouldn't stop me from petting the horses, I reassured myself, fervently hoping it was true.

We passed the barn. Dad turned into the stable’s driveway, then parked beside the first arena we'd driven past on the way to the farm. I spotted two signs on the dark brown fence. The larger sign read, "Old Mill Stables". The smaller one said, "The Boys"--this arena must have the geldings in it, I figured, and the other one would be for the mares.

I was the first one out of my seat. I opened the car door and stepped onto the grass. Immediately, I smelled horses and remembered my daydream, thinking, this feels almost like that... but it's really happening!

I walked toward the horses.

Leaning against the top rail of the fence, I was hardly aware of anything but them. Several of the horses had noticed me and were ambling up to the fence. Being this close to them, watching them move, I realized just how big and beautiful these animals were. God, your creation is so amazing!

The first horse to approach the fence was a tall bay. He wasn't a particularly eye-catching horse but he was a horse, and I caught my breath as he came near.

Almost delicately, the horse placed his head over the fence and pricked his ears toward me. Hardly daring to breathe, I touched his nose. It was velvety soft and I felt his warm breath on my hand. He had a long black forelock and enormous, kind brown eyes. The sprinkling of white hairs on his face showed that he was an older horse, but that didn't make him any less beautiful to me.

"Good boy," I whispered, stroking his smooth brown neck.

By that time the rest of the family had come over to the arena. My parents, grandparents, and brothers stood back a little. They'd never particularly liked horses. But Betsie came up to the fence and started petting a cute Palomino pony.

I looked down at the green grass under my feet and had an idea. Picking a handful of grass, I offered it to the big bay. He sniffed it, then lifted it from my hand with his big lips and chewed. I felt his slobber on my hand, but I didn't mind.

Betsie saw what I was doing and picked some grass for the pony. She giggled as he ate it from her hand.

A third horse reached the fence. This one was a medium-sized bright bay with a thin stripe down his face. His mane and forelock were long and his face looked distinctly Arabian. I gave him a pat; then Betsie came over to see him and I returned to "my" horse.

Looking beyond him, I took note of the other horses in the arena. There were two Paints. One was mostly dark bay, with tall stockings on all four legs and a patch of white above his tail. The other was in the far corner of the arena. He was chestnut with a wide blaze and several white spots on his belly. There was also a solid chestnut and a very tall, solid black horse.

Before long, the black horse and the chestnut came up to the fence, and Betsie and I pet and fed them too. I was so caught up in the horses--still amazed by how big they seemed up close--that I was startled when a new person seemed to appear at the arena out of nowhere.

My hand dropped from the Palomino’s neck.

Thoughts flashed through my head... I imagined her telling us to stop messing with her horses and never come back... why else would she have come up to us? Please oh please don't say I can't pet the horses!

Jul 03, 2017
by: Haddie

You girls are so sweet! Part 2 is in the works - hope to have it posted soon!

Jun 23, 2017
Hi Haddie!
by: claudiahorselovr

You encouraged me with my stories, and now I'm gonna do the same for yours!

You're such a good writer! Please write part 2! I have already fallen in love with the story! Keep on going!

Jun 14, 2017
by: Heartbeat For Horses

I love this! Just how I felt 2 1/2 years ago. Please keep writing!

Jun 13, 2017
by: hoofbeats

This is totally cool Haddie!

I love the story, you should write more!

You know I was so excited when you said you were going to be writing a story and you totally nailed it! LOL

Like I said please write more!

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