Firesky abandoned the stairs, sliding down the rail. When she reached the bottom she called out. "Duke!"
He stuck his head out of the kitchen. "Over here. I'm trying to make slushburgers, could ya give me a hand?"
"Kit won't be to happy with us." Firesky went into the kitchen. "Yipes. This place is a mess! Well, first, do you have a mix?"
"Okay, kill the slushburger idea. You got enough meat fried for two boxes of Hamburger Helper." Firesky pulled three boxes out of a cupboard, "pick."
Duke grabbed the Mexican one.
"How did I guess?" Firesky took the lasagna box.***
Half and hour later, Kit took one look at the food. "Oh, you Just HAD to make Hamburger Helper."
"Kit, I made ya a salad." Firesky told her.
Joan laughed. "This is neat. I've never had this much food before."
"You're kidding." Brian looked at her.
Joan shook her head. "No, I'm not. Mr. Dodo would give me a couple bucks and tell me to find something to eat."
"That's it?!" Firesky gasped.
Joan nodded. "Before that, when I was seven, I lived with my foster parents. But when they died --"
Kit cut in. "Foster parents?'
"Yup, they had horses, and taught me everything I know about riding. After they died, I had to go live with HIM. Actually, he's Doug's brother, but you wouldn't know it by meeting him."
"So, you can handle horses?" Brian asked Joan.
She gave him a *look*. "I just told you that. I can rope, pole bend, barrel race, take care of them, jump, brand, work cattle, you name it."
Duke had this puzzled look on his face. "Tell me that in English."
Firesky gave Duke a sympathetic grin, "It's Ok Duke. We all know you weren't raised right."
"Hey!" Duke jumped up and charged up his sword.
Firesky looked up at him. "Duke, that's not scaring me."
Joan was shocked, was he actually going to?
As if she read Joan's mind, Kit told her, "Joan, he's not gonna hurt her. I hope."
" First, let me explain what I meant about that remark." Sarah gazed coolly at Duke. "I meant you weren't raised around horses, pure and simple."
Duke growled and turned off is sword. "Whatever."
"C'mon, let's take ya to the stables to meet the horses." Sarah started clearing the table.***
"Wow" was all Joan had to say when she saw the blue trimmed two-story barn.
Sarah grinned, "big huh?"
"Big is an understatement."
"Whoah!" Duke jumped as they walked in and a large black head was put over the stall door next to him.
Kit laughed, "you've been fighting Chameleon too long. This is Johnny Boy, one of the ponies."
"Big, isn't he?" Duke looked at the black head.
Kit shook her head, "no. Not really."
Sarah went over to another stall and motioned for Duke to look, "This guy is big Duke. "
Duke looked at the 16th horse and backed off.
Joan laughed, "you don't like horses do ya?"
Then Joan noticed the nameplate of brass on the stall.Baburi Fleetwind
"Wow. Firesky Whitewing! She's like, the second-best defense on the Mighty Ducks."
Duke nodded, "Don't I know it."
Brian chuckled. "Joan, you wanna tack up a horse for him?"
"No really, that's fine." Duke held up his hands.
Kit turned, "you want me to go to the movies with ya? Get on the dang horse when it's tacked up."
Joan went to get the horse ready for Duke and came back later with a medium sized blood bay gelding with a snip.
Duke was arguing with a tall tan-feathered female duck. "Oh sure, go blow our cover!"
"Hmph! I don't care. I hate that person." The duck shuddered, "can't use my magic that way."
Joan gasped, "Firesky Whitewing!"
"In the feathers." The duck grinned and led a tall black horse from the stall next to her.
Joan handed her reins to Duke and he followed Kit and Firesky out into the chilly sunlight.
Brian put a hand on Joan's shoulder, "like t'see how good you are with horses. Pick one and tack up."
Joan walked down the row of stalls, talking out the horses, letting them sniff her hand, scratching their heads. At the end of the row was a large stall holding a tall sorrel stallion.
Joan stopped, "who's this?"
"Spiritsong, Drake Icefire's horse. I wouldn't try him though. The only person who can handle him is Kit."
Joan glared at Brian, "you told me to pick."
"Just don't do nuttin' stupid."
Joan unlatched the stall door and slipped in. "Hey boy." She whispered, holding out a flat hand. The horse snorted and sniffed it. Joan chuckled you must be a horse with a lot of energy."
Brian gaped. Nobody but Kit could get this close to Spirit without getting teeth shown at them.
Joan came back to him, "so?"
Joan slipped out of the stall and followed Brian to the tack room. He motioned for her to get her stuff, providing she knew what to get, and she grinned. "Let's see." She picked up a 27 inch western saddle, a tom thumb macarte, a couple saddle pads and a halter." This good?"
Joan slung the saddle over her shoulder and went back to the stall, depositing the bridle and saddle on the tack box next to it. "Hey guy, me again." She slipped into the stall and held out her had to Spiritsong. He sniffed it, and nuzzled her shoulder. Joan chuckled and dug an apple peel out from somewhere. Spirit licked it up, then searched her pockets for more.
"Halter?'" Joan asked Brian. He handed it to her. Joan moved to Spirit's right side and pulled the halter over his head, biting the strap, holding it there while she reached over his head for the strap. Biting it, she reached for the buckle and buckled the halter. Brian opened the stall door, amazed for the two to come out into the hall.
Joan clipped another lead to Spirit's halter and crosstied him. After brushing him down with a brush from the tack box, she picked up the saddle pads and swung them up, landing them on Spirit's withers. Next she hooked the left stirrup over the saddle horn and swung it up over Spirit's withers. Sliding everything back a little, she pulled the mane from under the saddle.
Next she leaned under Spirit and grabbed the front cinch, pulling it to her side. Holding the cinch, Joan took the long leather strap and fed it through the D-ring. Over and under she went, from D-ring, to D-ring. After about five of these, Joan braced herself and pulled the strap tight. After a few seconds, she started with the strap again. After pulling it tight the second time, she slipped the strap through a ring next to where it was attached to the saddle.
Joan moved onto the back cinch, reaching under Spirit's belly and grabbing the thick piece of leather. She buckled that one and look at Brian. "Bridle?" He handed it to her. Joan unbuckled the halter and slipped the noseband off his nose. She then rebuckled it around his neck. Taking the headstall of the macarte in her hand, Joan took the bit in her other hand.
"OK boy, this is where ya put your head down for me." Joan put one arm over his neck to force his head down. After a moment of resistance, the horse lowered his head. Joan slipped the headstall over his ears and stuck her thumb in the corner of his mouth. "Say ah." Spirit opened his mouth and Joan slipped in the bit. Then she pulled his ears through the top of the headstall and buckled the throatlatch. "Good boy."
"Wow," was all Brian had to say.
"Told ya I could work horses."
"No, it's not that. I knew you could handle horses when ya saddled up for Duke. But Spirit," he shook his head.
"Can I ride or what?" Joan asked.***
Duke was really glad they were almost back to the house. This horse had a trot like a jack in the box. And on top of that, (besides the fact he could hardly ride) Kit and Fire had chattered on about horses nonstop. They rounded the barn just then.
"One que-" Firesky cut off what she was saying, staring at the outdoor riding rink.
"Wha?" Kit's jaw dropped.
In the ring was a sorrel horse, with a person on his back.
"Kit, tell me I'm seeing things." Firesky mumbled.
"If you are, then I am too."
"Huh?" Duke hoped they would have an easy explanation for this.
"We told ya about Spiritsong right?"
"Well, that's him... and Joan's on him."
The three trotted down to the corral.***
Joan looked up from talking with Brian to see Kit, Fire and Duke coming towards them. She had to laugh. While Fire and Kit rode with the easy confidence of long practice, Duke's posting was painful to even watch.
Kit grinned at Joan, "If ya can handle Spirit, I say Brian should hire ya."
"Heh, she's already been hired." Brian told his sister.
"Don't forget Donna." Firesky reminded Kit.
"Oh yea. Heh, Spirit's harder to handle than Donna, and she's human!"
"Biggest brat in the world. Expects people to cut her food for her, not to mention take care of her horse." Firesky grumbled.
"Hmm." Joan looked at Brian.
Firesky perked up. "Hey, let's show Duke what we meant by pole bending.!"
"Do I have a choice?" Brian groaned.
"Fine by me." Joan said. "Does this guy neckreign?"
"Like a charm." Kit replied.***
A set of poles appeared out in the ring. Joan trotted Spirit over to the gates and sat looking at the things. They were in a straight line, and the goal was to move through them without knocking them over. Suddenly she flicked her latigo straps and Spirit took off. They looped up to the far end pole and turned, weaving back and forth through the poles, never breaking pace or touching one at the other end, Joan turned Spirit and they went back to the top.
Once there Joan flicked the latigo strap again and then ran to the gate.
"That's pole bending?" Duke wasn't impressed.
Firesky chuckled, "It's harder than it looks. This proves ya weren't raised around horses."
"This guy is great!" Joan said as she pulled up in front of them.
"That's nice." Duke replied. He sounded really vague.
"What is it?" Fire asked.
Duke pointed up. "The Raptor."
Authors note: Hehe. You might be wondering why I devoted an entire chapter to Joan saddling a horse. Well, I needed it. If you're wondering about any of the terms in here, email me. Oh yea, it's not lariet, it's catch rope, repeat catch rope, not lariet.