One day, Leo, the stable owner, asked my permission to “donate” Bandit to a one-month program for Girl Scouts who were learning to ride.
“Bandit is perfect,” he said, “because he’s so gentle.”
“That’s true, but no.”
“It’s only for the month of July. He’ll be back in August.”
I very, very grudgingly acquiesced, and for one month, I did not ride my bike up that hill to the ranch, did not smell horse on my clothes, but did lie depressed in front of the television eating ice cream, like I’d just lost the love of my life.
August 1, I was up the hill on my bike at dawn (well, more like 9 a.m., after I—ahem—horsed down the breakfast my mom forced on me). I slid my bike into my usual rack space and raced to Bandit’s stable, an apple and a carrot in my backpack… only to find the stable empty.
Steam coming from my ears, I stomped past the corral, and there was Bandit, being ridden by some old dude with a crop.
I stared, open-mouthed. He wasn’t a Girl Scout! I’d been bamboozled!
My inner Viking warrior woman began to sing. This was war!
Bandit’s head whipped toward me, ears pricked forward, which in horse language means he was listening to me. Dude tried to regain control, but—ha-ha—too bad.
I whistled again. Bandit galloped full speed across the corral, with Dude holding onto the saddle for dear life.
Bandit dropped his head over the side of the corral, and I stroked his soft nose while simultaneously glaring Viking eye-daggers at Dude.
“Get off my horse!”
Dude snorted. “This nag is yours?”
“Get off him, and take your saddle with you!”
Dude slid off Bandit, unsaddled and unbridled him and made a very rude comment at me.
Bandit’s ears went back. He glared at Dude, stamping his rear feet into position, intending to tattoo a horseshoe print directly on his forehead.
Dude slunk away, and I slipped Bandit a carrot. My hero.