“Goodnight, babies. Good job today. See you in the morning!” With one last swish of her ponytail, the stable manager flipped off the lights and closed the barn door.
For a few seconds, the only sounds were rhythmic munching and the muted rustling of tired horses shifting in their stalls. Then came the distinct sound of a throaty bass chuckle.
“Did you see the look on his face? ‘I swear that horse tried to kill me!’” Frank’s normally deep voice rose several octaves, mimicking the panic-stricken voice of the rider. Still snickering, he dipped his muzzle into the feed tub and lipped up another mouthful of oats.
“Priceless, Frank. Everybody was looking at him like he was nuts, and there you stood looking all innocent, with that ‘one step away from the glue factory’ face you do. Priceless, dude.” Hank yawned and stretched his muscular neck into his water pail. “That woman, though…she knows one end of a horse from the other. No way was I gonna to be able to get anything over on her.”
“The little girls were sweet. So well behaved and considerate. Good hands and seats, too. I think I got more pats and smooches today than I have in the past month.” Tinkerbell’s gentle voice floated up the stable aisle. From the stalls on either side of her, George and Gracie nickered in agreement through mouthfuls of rich alfalfa hay.
Frank stretched his massive frame, old spur scars whitening beneath his bay coat. Yawning widely and giving a dog-like shake, he grunted in contentment. Life was good, and a far cry from his days in the rodeo. “El Diablo” they’d called him back then, and many a cocky cowboy had lost his seat and his dignity in the arena dust swirling around Frank’s hooves.
“Okay, time for this old gelding to hit the hay. Night everybody.” As his stablemate’s responses drifted from the rows of stalls, the old quarter horse shifted his weight one final time and dropped his head. Almost immediately he began to snore softly, dreaming of cheering crowds and glaring lights. His slightly swayed back twitched with memories of tightly clamped legs loosening as bronc busters flew off his back in windmilling arcs.
“Gelding, schmelding.” Hank murmured, lips twitching in a sleepy smile. “You’ll always be a stud. Sweet dreams, El Diablo.”