Ten years ago, Jancy sold Speckles--the horse she loved--to pursue a bright future with her new husband. Now her husband has left, and her future is no longer bright. In today’s story, Jancy drives to the country to apologize to Speckles, perhaps hoping that her spirits can be lifted by the love of a horse.
About the Author
Mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write family-friendly fiction. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity.
HL Carpenter has published several family-friendly novels, the most recent of which, The Ghost in the Gardens, is available on Amazon.
Learn more about HL Carpenter’s work at their Amazon author page or their website:
The Love of a Horse by HL Carpenter
The horse was almost completely white. He had once been rose-gray, with a single well-defined sock and a blaze, but time had rendered those markings indistinct.
No matter. Jancy recognized him. The ten years since she last saw him hadn't diminished the memories. He had been her best friend, the one she trusted with her deepest secrets.
The one she abandoned in the name of love.
Today, she was here to apologize.
She walked to the fence, holding a bag of carrots still cold from the grocery store. The grazing gelding raised his head at her approach. He stood in the middle of the five-acre field, ears pricked, nostrils wide, gaze centered on her. Off to the left, a door slammed.
When Jancy whistled, the gelding snorted and shook. The fine hair of his mane flew across his neck. Then he casually sauntered in her direction.
On the day she sold him, he had tried to keep her in sight through the slats of the trailer as his new owners drove off. He had whinnied once, a questioning sound. She had turned away and wiped her tears with the back of one hand. When Paul tried to comfort her, she had shrugged off his arm.
“He's going to a good home.” Paul had hooked his fingers under the thin black belt threaded around the waist of his tailored pants. “This is for the best.”
“Yes.” But painful nonetheless.
They had reached the decision together. Speckles’ upkeep was too costly and time consuming for a newly married couple with two jobs and a small apartment in the city . . . a couple with a bright future and no room for the love of a horse.
She had been naïve.
“We have nothing in common,” Paul had said, just over a year ago. He paused at the door, his suitcase in his hand and his girlfriend waiting in the car. “This is for the best.”
“Yes,” she had said.
That day, she was the one abandoned in the name of love.
She turned. The man who marched toward her was in his mid-twenties with a neatly trimmed dark beard. His eyebrows were scrunched down.
“Hello.” She switched the carrots to her left hand and extended her right. “I'm Jancy Davis.”
His mouth turned upward in a delighted grin that wiped the frown from his face.
He should smile often.
“I remember you." He grasped her hand. “You used to own Speckles. I'm Ken—or Kenny, as my mom introduced me the one and only time we met.”
She tugged her hand free. No wonder she hadn't recognized him. When his mother bought Speckles, Ken was a skinny, silent, sulky teen.
She said, “How is your mom?”
“Still doing what's best for me.” Ken grinned. His gaze shifted over her shoulder.
Jancy turned. Speckles stood behind her, his muzzle extended toward the carrots.
“You old rascal.” She brushed back his forelock and stroked his face. “You haven't forgotten, have you?”
She took a carrot from the bag and held it out. Speckles lipped the treat from her hand.
Ken stepped to the fence and rested his sun-browned arms on the top strand of wire. “I still feed him carrots.”
“I used to carry one in my pocket when I was training him,” Jancy said.
“You told me that the day we bought him. I remember how sad you looked. I was sure you would change your mind and tell us he wasn't for sale.”
“I might have if it hadn’t been for your mother. Do you know what she said that made me decide I could trust Speckles with the two of you?”
Ken shook his head.
“She said her grandkids would ride him one day.” Jancy turned away to brush back unexpected tears.
Ken said, “So that's why she's always after me to get married and settle down. She wants to keep her promise to you.”
“You haven't obliged her yet?” Jancy longed for a child but had agreed to wait at Paul’s request. The years flew past without the timing ever being right.
“I've been waiting for the woman of my dreams,” Ken said. “I met her once, but she got away.”
“That happens. I almost lost the love of my life too.” Jancy patted Speckles. “But I think he's willing to forgive me. Do you still show him?”
“No. After five years of barrel racing, he earned his retirement. These days, Mom and I saddle him strictly for pleasure.” Ken paused. “Would you like to ride him? Won't take a minute to tack up.”
“No, I can't. I—I have an appointment.”
Liar. She had nowhere to go, no one expecting her.
Speckles finished the carrot, stretched his neck across the fence, and lipped her hair. He butted her gently with his muzzle, his breath warm on her skin.
She had once read that Indians breathed into the nostrils of their horses so they would be lifelong friends. She had immediately raced to the barn. One shared puff in, one puff out, and she and Speckles were bonded for the rest of their days.
Did horses remember promises?
“You sure?” Ken asked.
She was more certain than she had ever been of anything. “I would love to ride him.”
“Great!” Ken caught Speckles by the halter. “Come on.”
He walked away, leading the gelding into the nearby barn. He cross-tied Speckles in the aisle and began running a curry comb across the gelding's gleaming coat.
“I owe you a lot,” Ken said.
Jancy settled on a bale of hay. “Me?”
Ken set down the comb and reached for a hoof pick. “Without Speckles, I would have become a statistic. One more fatherless kid turning to a life of petty crime.”
“Your mom said you were having problems.”
He bent over a hoof. “She understated the case. I was . . . let's just say I was headed in the wrong direction. Being responsible for Speckles made all the difference. And when we began winning ribbons at horse shows—well, I finally felt I might amount to something. That I could be someone.”
“Your mom deserves your thanks, not me.”
“You're right.” He replaced the hoof pick on the cart of grooming tools. “And she knows she has my eternal gratitude. But you played an important role too. Speckles had the training and disposition to make him the perfect horse for me. And you were willing to trust me with him.”
She hadn't considered parting with Speckles in terms of what she was giving. She had thought only of what she was losing.
Ken went to the tack room and returned with a saddle slung over one hip and a bridle dangling from his shoulder. Speckles snorted and grunted when Ken set the tack on his back. The gelding sucked in a deep breath, distending his stomach so the girth couldn't be tightened properly.
“He took in air,” Jancy said.
“He always does. A habit you warned me about.” Ken left the stirrup hooked over the saddle horn and slipped off the halter. When he had the bridle in place, he walked Speckles forward until the horse exhaled, then he took up the slack in the girth.
Speckles snorted and turned his head to Jancy.
“I didn't need to tell on you,” she said. “Ken knows you as well as I ever did.”
Ken chuckled and led Speckles back to the pasture.
Jancy took the reins when Ken offered them. She mounted, rising into the saddle as if her last ride had been yesterday instead of ten years ago.
Speckles bent his neck toward her.
Jancy laughed and dug another carrot from the bag. As Speckles crunched the treat, she nudged him with her heel, then touched his neck with the left rein. He started around the perimeter of the field. The sun warmed her too-pale-from-city-living face. The feathery summer breeze lifted her hair, carrying the salty-sweaty scent of Speckles, the faint aroma of saddle soap, and the pungency of second chances.
She and Speckles made two circuits of the pasture before she drew him to a halt in front of the gate.
“You needed that,” Ken said.
“Yes.” She slid out of the saddle. “And now we're even. You said I gave you Speckles when you needed him. By letting me ride him today, you returned the favor.”
He smiled. “I'm glad you stopped by.”
So was she. “I forgot how much I enjoyed riding.”
“I often wondered why you gave it up.”
“I thought I was making the right choice.”
“New day, new choices. I came to apologize to Speckles. Talking with you made me realize I have nothing to be sorry for.” She patted a wind-blown strand of Speckles' mane back in place. “Would you consider selling him?”
“Ah.” She wasn't surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. She held out the reins. “Just thought I would ask.”
“I have to respect my mother's wishes and keep him for my kids.” Ken took the reins and smiled. “But I'm open to sharing him—with the right person.”
About the Story
The Love of a Horse was written by HL Carpenter.
In The Love of a Horse, Jancy Davis visits the horse she gave up in the name of love and discovers that the choice she regrets turned out to be right in ways she could never have expected.
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