Chapter 2:

Saddle Up

Black and White

(Scene one: Knowhow)

Precisely after six weeks, the doctor at the cottage hospital removed Brian’s cast. “Try moving your arm as usual. Like, clap, shake a hand, mimic throwing.” The doctor asked. Brian did all of them and felt no pain. “Take things easy. Don’t overwork the arm for a period. You can go have fun.” The doctor said and Brian left the hospital happily. Brian ran to the Gold-key ranch to meet Phantom. “Hey, you Two-B hop on!” James went by and lent a ride to Brian. “Thank you, AJ. Where are you two going?” Brian probed. “You are going to the ranch to learn and ride the black Mustang, right? Well, we’re gonna help you two.” James said. Brian felt glad.

Minutes later at fifteen passed nine, in the morning, James and Brian came to the Gold-key ranch and this time from the main entrance. “Oh hello, my new lumberjack! Ready for the first spin?” Mr. Paul asked while from his back, two ranchers took Phantom to an open place inside the ranch borders, so Brian can ride. “I’m sorry, lumberjack!?” James asked in a weird way. “Yeah, he calls me like that. I don’t know what he’s trying to say but I’m going on with it. Besides, what else can I do?” Brian said. “James, you came too, eh? Well good for Timber because I’m busy with party planning.” That was how Mr. Paul indirectly asked James to help Brian with Phantom and went in a hurry. “Party, he said?” Brian asked. “We’ll get to that later. I mean, to know it, you need to pass the test.” James said in confidence. “Not a test. Arhh!” Brian was bored and annoyed. “Lucky for you this ain’t a writing test. You have to prove to me you can ride Phantom. Show me the bond between you two.” James said and winked; hinting the test isn’t going to be easy as it to be heard.

 James and Brian came close to Phantom. Phantom stayed calm only when Brian approached him; at other times he was impatient and extremely unsupportive. Phantom’s these actions went clear when Brian saw Phantom send James flying, when he tried forcibly get on it. “Looks like my friend doesn’t want you to ride him.” Brian smirked. “You shush. I at least sat on him for two seconds.” James mentioned. “Yeah. Barely” Brian said and chuckled. “Tsk. Fine. Let’s start your riding skills. First, you have to put the saddle and the bridle. You bought them as I told you right?” James said. “You mean these…?” Brian pulled out the hand-made leather saddle and bridle. The saddle was black as the horse and its thread was brilliantly white. So were the colours of a curb bit, snaffle bit and iron stirrup, made from polished white glossing iron. And in the cantle of the saddle there were Brian’s initials and in the noseband of the bridle has the words ‘Phantom Bolt’ with two lightning marks; all words were in white in this pitch-black saddle. “I didn’t ask you to get a custom-made one. How much did it cost?” James asked. “For leather, threads, paints, iron and other equipment. About twenty silver… I guess.” Brian said. “That’s cheap for a custom…wait, you mean you made it on your own!?” James was astonished. “Well, sort of. I made a deal. I bought the stuff and gave them to a saddle maker. And I gave extra, one gold for his time and efforts. So, by rate, that’ll be a total of thirty silver.” Brian said. “The money you collected so far eh? Well better not let the paid stuff go to waste. Let’s start. First, you need those stuff mounted to Phantom. Like I've done to Loki. Yours is a Mustang so a bit different from my shire.” James said. “Understood.” Brian said. But what amazed James was unlike all the horse riders do, Brian approached from the front and asked the Mustang about the saddle and the bridle. “Hey Brian, you adjusted the bridle as I told you, right? The stuff to consider before adding the bridle…” James asked staying out of the fence of the practice area. “Yeah, yeah” Brian replied and kept approaching. Meanwhile Phantom kept eating grass. “And few things. Mount the bridle as I told you. Remember…whatever you do, do not spook him. In the process, he may strangle and break his neck if you spook it while adding the bridle. By the way, not too tight, not too lose.” James warned. Brian gestured by showing a thumb-up sign and finally came face-to-face with Phantom. “Phantom…Will you let me ride you? Would you mind if I put this on you?” Brian whispered into Phantom while keeping forehead to forehead. James was nervous and at the edge of the fence, standing from his arms. Phantom neighed and nodded. “Impressive Two-B. Very well done” James whispered to himself.

(Scene two: Lessons)

After fifteen minutes of mounting saddle and bridle,  Brian finally set up Phantom for a ride. “Alrighty. Go toward the saddle; approach from the left. Now put your left hand on the pommel and grab the cantle from the right hand.” James kept instructing while Brian did what he said at the same moment. “Okay. Now listen carefully. Put your left leg onto the stirrup pad and give pressure to your hands; NOT THE FOOT, and mount on to the seat and put the right leg through the stirrup pad on the other side.” James said. “YAY!” Brian cheered; Phantom got spooked and ran. Brian quickly, reactively and accidentally grabbed Phantom’s neck. He went on an unbalanced bumpy ride on the horseback and fell over. Luckily didn’t run over by it. James facepalmed and he felt embarrassed to watch what happened to Brian. “Brian, buddy, did I instruct you to cheer?” James asked a bit less harshly. “Alright. I got too happy so I said yay” Brian apologized while getting up. James sighed. “Please do as I say. Now get to the Mustang and mount to the saddle. DO NOT DARE TO YELL. NO. NOT EVEN IN WHISPERS. Got it?” James said strictly. Brian went back to Phantom and calmed it down. And again, mounted the saddle. “Oh, hey Brian, what about the white Mustang? Is it a boy?” James asked while Brian was on Phantom. “Didn’t I tell you it’s a mare? Oh, and she ain’t a Mustang. She’s a Lipizzan.” Brian said. “A Lipizzan! No way.” James was stunned by the info. “Actually, yes way. Sure, that the white one looks different and muscular and stronger looking as a Mustang but, Mr. Paul confirmed it is a Lipizzan.” Brian said. “I see, they both were about fifteen hands… Alright, seems that you are pretty good at handling Phantom; on a slow walk. Now let’s jump to intense training.” James said with an awkward smile. He WANTED to train Brian, as much as to fail him. “TwoB, come here with Phantom.” James talked them over to show Brian, the real training course. “WHAT…IS…THIS?” Brian got nervous. It was a long obstacle course: Filled with jumping courses, walking courses, speed courses even a mud course too. “Listen,  buddy, promise me this. Do all the courses. And when you want me to check, your acts should be flawless. And here’s a challenge; break the record time of the mud struggle, when on the mud course. I’m telling you, that’s tough.” James challenged. “I’ll be over there. NOW GO TRAIN YOURSELF” James shouted and sent Brian and Phantom toward the courses. He went under a tree near the fences and laid back, covering his face with the cowboy hat, putting an oat stick in his mouth and taking a nap. Brian and phantom were really synced together. Understanding each other pretty well but, not doing much better with the courses. And both of them not giving up. Brian kept falling and taking bruises all over by falling off Phantom in jumping courses. Covered in thick mud too but, not totally. In the afternoon, Serena and Swifty the elites of Steel-lock, happened to pass by the ranch. She heard a person yelling, words like ‘One more time. So close. We can do it…’. Apparently, that person was Brian, talking to Phantom. Serena noticed and came around the fence and entered the ranch. She was friendly enough that Gold-key ranchers and she were…well…friends. “James!? What are you doing here?” Serena somehow knew James. “Well, ain’t it’s Serena and Swifty? Hey, you two.” James spoke lazily and went back to sleep.

“So…What ARE you doing here?” Serena asked. “Training my friend over there in horseback riding.” James pointed at Brian. Serena quickly recognized Brian. “Oh him. Wow! he’s all better now. I’m going to talk, by the way, you are terrible at teaching. You missed a few important points. See you slacky.” Serena mocked James and went to meet Brian. “Hey buddy, nice Mustang you got there…” Serena said. Brian felt the voice familiar and looked and recognized. “Oh! Ms. Ryte! Thanks. The name’s Phantom.” Brian said. Serena was stunned to learn that Brian knew her name and thought, Brian’s name was Phantom. “So, Phantom, how do you know my name?” Serena asked. “Oh no-no. I am Brian Bolt and this is my horse Phantom. And I know your name because Mr. Paul told me about five or six weeks ago when he saw me having a cast in my hand.” Brian said. “Oh. On the contrary, what are you doing as a beginner here? I mean this is where most experienced riders practice.” Serena said. “Wait, WHAT!? James…arhh.” Brian was surprised. “Yeah, James ain’t doing any horse racing or performances so current practices are fine. But otherwise, there are complicated things to be concerned about in the beginning.” So saying, Serena had dismounted and tied Swifty to a fence. “Come over here. Both of you!” She asked and continued. “Now listen. When you mount the saddle, there should be a straight line through your ear, shoulder, and hip to heel. And shoulders should be even and give the weight to the saddle.” She said so Brian can adjust. “Alright. Now you need to hold the rein right.” Serena helped Brian with, how to hold the reins. “Uh…Serena, what type of a mare is Swifty?” Brian asked. “Oh, this gal? she’s a Thoroughbred” She said. “You are really fast on learning. Can’t believe you aren’t the class ace.” She said and it left Brian speechless for a second. “How do you know I wasn’t the class ace?” Brian questioned in amazement. “Just a hunch. Now, let’s keep up the pace and train.” Serena smiled and cheered up.

Up until six o'clock in the evening, Serena kept helping Brian and he used her as an advantage and began learning fast. “Well, the sun is about to go down. I better leave.” Serena said while untying Swifty and mounting. “Ms. Ryte, Thank you. Was a big help.” Brian acknowledged. “Happy to help a spirited jockey-to-be. And don’t call me, miss. Just say Serena.” Serena looked glad somehow but the moment she winked made the situation bit complicated. Serena waved and left the ranch. “Man, you are lucky. I’m really envious of you.” James said. “Why…Wha whoa!” Brian tried to dismount and he fell. While he was falling, he spooked Phantom. And his left leg was stuck in the stirrup. “Oh no.” Moment James said it, Phantom ran here and there, brushing Brian’s face on the muddy ground. And the ride ended when Brian got stuck in a bunch of thorn bushes. “Ouch. That sure hurts. Arhhh. Gives me chills to even think how to tolerate it.” James shivered while saying to himself. Brian put the cleaned Phantom to his pen in the stable and added lots of hay and a trough full of water with extra two water buckets and came out. Annoyingly, James was laughing while rolling on the grass, seeing how Brian looked. All covered in mud and thorn scratches. “James…what’s so funny?” Brian asked while breaking the joints in his hand. “No…it’s nothing. You just literally went THROUGH a thorn bush. And survived! Buddy, for what you have done, I AM BUYING YOU A BIG DISH.” James said. The big dish is a culinary masterpiece; which included several dishes with rice, chicken, fried fish, baked beans, roasted potatoes and fruits. The taste was truly heavenly. Fact, not all in one dish; since it’ll be disastrous. Brian went to the bathroom in the ranch and cleaned himself, before going to eat the complimentary dinner. After taking the big dish as dinner, Brian went back to the ranch and rode back home on Phantom. They came home at half-past nine. Mr. Bolt had built a stable–like, enclosure in his backyard, sized enough for Phantom. And next to it was a cart full of hay under a hut. Brian tied Phantom and filled the trough in his new home, with water. “You did too good Phantom. Thanks for the support. Let’s work together and do amazing stuff. You are my number one horse.” Brian said to Phantom and went to his room.