Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash

By: Bev Pettersen

Made perfect sense, he decided.

“Is this a ship-in?” He cautiously lifted the mare’s front lip, surprised to see a tattoo. Old and faded, but clearly a tattoo. Definitely a Thoroughbred.

“Molly’s more like a lead-in,” Jenna said with a smile. “Now please stop talking. I need to concentrate on my patient.”

Her face set in concentration as her hands moved slowly down the horse’s rump. The mare’s trusting eye followed as Jenna circled to her side—clearly the mare believed she was in competent hands. Always a good sign.

But he was puzzled by Jenna’s technique. This was like no massage he’d ever seen. “What exactly are you doing over the sacrum?”

She shot him a warning frown. “Be quiet, Burke.”

He tightened his mouth and scowled at the attendant who ducked his head and scraped the rubber matting with his boot. At least one of the people in this room was respectful.

“There,” Jenna pronounced, stepping gracefully off the block. “She should move better now.”

Derek snorted. If this were Wally’s clientele, no wonder Three Brooks operated in the red. He doubted anything could improve this nag, and it wouldn’t help the Center’s image to have animals collapsing in the aisles.

Clip, clop. His eyes widened as the mare walked evenly from the room. Nothing could ever be done for her conformation but her hip no longer dragged, at least not at a walk.

Jenna was leaving, following the mare without so much as a word, and he stalked after her. “Tell me what you did.”

“Of course,” she said. “But first I have to talk to the owner.”

Talk to the owner. Of course. That was good. Owners and trainers appreciated full reports, would pay a premium for the service, although it was preferable to present them in writing, complete with a glossy folder. More efficient, better publicity and with the right clientele, the Center could draw horses from all over the eastern States.

He joined the parade, following the handler, the mare and Jenna down the aisle and through the wide end doors. He didn’t see a trailer; in fact the receiving lot was disturbingly empty, a fact he needed to remedy.

A freckle-faced boy popped up from the grass, sporting ripped jeans, a stained shirt and a gap-toothed smile. “Thanks, Jenna. She looks way better now.” The kid reached over and plucked the rope from the attendant’s hand.

“Not so fast, Charlie.” Jenna stepped forward, hands on her hips. “Have you been racing Molly again?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Don’t lie to me, young man. I know you’ve been racing.”

“Maybe just a few times.” The kid’s gaze darted to the ground and he twirled Molly’s lead rope. “I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he added sheepishly, “but I have to practice for the big race.”

Jenna’s voice softened. “It’s not the galloping. It’s the hard start. If you want to race, ask your friends for a trot start. She’ll hold up much better.”

“Yeah?” The kid brightened and tugged on the rope. “Can I ride her home?”

“Walk her down the driveway and mount past the gate. But take it easy and stay on the soft shoulder. Molly’s a nice horse. You need to take care of her.”

Derek dragged a hand over his jaw. “Leave us,” he snapped, jerking his head at the handler who quickly fled back into the building. Derek waited until Charlie was out of earshot. “What the hell was that?”

“Local boy with a horse.” Jenna shrugged. “I made the mare feel better.”

He stared down the circular drive, watching as the kid angled his horse to a rock, scrambled onto her bare back and trotted away. “We treat ride-ins?” His voice sounded strange and he had the absurd notion he might laugh.

“Sometimes. This place is never busy so of course we help the community.” She squared her shoulders. “Wally said you wanted to stop that, but I really think you should reconsider.”

“This is a profit center, Jenna, not a charity. Our plan calls for treating an elite animal with a high profit margin. You can’t have nags like that stumbling up to the back door. It weakens our image. Besides, who knows what contagious diseases they might carry?”

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