Love of Horses Pt. 03byEgmontGrigor2011©
Kate accepted Robbie's invitation to spend the first week at the end of semester at his home. The plan was they'd have Christmas with their families and then he'd stay with Kate for a week on the ranch.
Robbie mentioned before he left the university a day ahead of Kate that his mother was miffed when he'd revealed he'd been dating a younger woman than usual and she had flared when learning Kate was only eighteen.
"Um you best be prepared for a cold shoulder."
"Thanks for the warning. I hope she's not too old and crabby for me to endure."
"By mom I mean dad's second wife. Glen is thirty-nine."
Kate had to giggle when Robbie said his dad was fifty-four. Now who also was with a younger woman?
A little worried, Robbie asked, "Are you looking forward to being on vacation with me?"
"Yes apart from your stepmother's prejudgment of me and being stuck in the middle of a big city."
"Well that's a prejudgment. We live on five-acres on the western outskirts of the city with four horses, a donkey and five goats."
"Oh, sorry. That sounds more rural than urban."
Kate arrived at 'Kelston Oaks' at 3:30 and received a big welcoming kiss from Robbie. He led her around the house saying, "Mom's out riding Max, her favorite horse. Come and watch her jump unless she's finished."
She had, but only just.
Mrs Macdonald rode up to them and said hi and Kate said hi Mrs Macdonald and was invited to call her Glen, saying she didn't like being called Glenys.
"You are a little young for my son."
"Some people might think so, some might not."
Glen frowned and said, "Robbie said you are a freshman and help with the training of the equestrian riders."
"Yes that's correct. I love horses."
"Well what's this horse?"
"A gelding Hunter with some Arabian, I'd say 16.3 hands and ten or eleven years old."
"Ah so Robbie briefed you to impress me."
"He's a lovely horse."
"Mom I never said a word other that you were out riding your horse. I gave no description whatsoever."
"Thor is eleven and how could you guess his height so accurately?"
"Kate has been riding since she was four and spends a great deal of time with horses."
"Hmmm. Kate would you like to ride Thor now?"
"Not if the invitation is to just walk him."
"You can do what you like."
Kate was in jeans and wearing sneakers and so she felt comfortable enough to swing up with ease. She quickly pushed Thor into an easy lope and circled the post and three rail pasture twice and returned.
"Thor is an excellent jumper," Glen said as horse and rider returned to her.
Kate wheeled Thor and they went over the two jumps with ease, the first set at 2.5 ft and the second at 3 ft.
"You girl is an excellent rider."
"Mom I should have warned you... oh shite."
Glen froze, seeing what Robbie was seeing: Kate was riding hard at the gate.
Thor clipped it slightly and they went into that pasture for about 50 feet before turning.
"Oh god, that's an uphill slope, adding probably six inches to the height of the jump," Glen said.
"Kate's jumped 6 ft but she won't now because she doesn't know Thor," Robbie said confidently, both hands behind his back, finders crossed.
"Oh god," Glen groaned. She resumed breathing again when Kate checked Thor and rode slowly up to the gate and dismounted and opened it.
After shutting the gate Kate urged Thor into a lope to circle the pasture once more and then circled again at a walk and returned to Glen and Robbie.
Kate smiled and said, "Thor is strong and nimble. You must be very proud of him."
Glen flushed and said yes.
Kate dismounted and said she'd take care of Thor before turning him out with the other horses in the third pasture.
Glen said fine. That was one way of getting to know a horse.
Sensing Glen had thawed a bit Kate smiled, "Oh Glen, Robbie and I would appreciate being put in the same bedroom."
Robbie studied the sky and Glen looked at Kate and said a little stiffly she'd attend to that request.
Waiting in the kitchen, Glen looked at the clock and said tersely, "What's that girl doing?"
"Grooming Thor, probably better than he's ever been groomed and talking to him."
Glen looked almost apologetic.
"Mom I should have told you Kate has won three blue ribbons in the advance rider's equitation over fences in the three shows she's entered riding for Patrick and in Western horsemanship in her class it's two blues from the two shows that staged that event. She's clearly our best rider of the eighty riders in the Equestrian Club. Ask her to show you the DVD of film clips the equestrian coach's wife compiled of Kate's horsemanship. She'll have it with her to take home to show her mom and extended family on the ranch."
"I will, oh god how exciting for you to be teamed up with a woman like that. Do you think she'll be willing to help me with my jumping?"
"Yes if you ask her. She'll want to receive that request from you. Be kind to her mom; I have no wish to lose her."
Gradually Kate and Glen softened their relationship, with Glen coming to understand that Kate could be warm as well as being hard-nosed and strongly independent. Kate learned that Glen had to cope with a husband who was a horse vet and was practically on 24/7 callout with only one partner and he had too many clients because of his huge reputation for professional competence. Robbie's brother Ross was twenty-one did nothing around the home apart from make a mess and Robbie's 29-year old sister was home and emotional unstable after her boyfriend she'd been living with for eighteen months had recently dumped her.
After three days it became obvious to the family that Robbie's 'young kid' (Glen had yelled that insult when learning Robbie was bringing and 18-year old home) was having a stabilizing influence on the family. She had mother and stepdaughter out riding on local trails with her and was tutoring them both on some of the finer points of general horsemanship and improving their jumping performances.
Kate had told Ross to tidy his room and he snarled "Go pull your head in bitch" and she whacked him, hooking a punch into his belly that dropped him to the kitchen floor in a groaning heap. She then tipped a basin of cold water over his head and helped him to his feet. Probably what saved the situation was they were alone in the house and so Ross didn't find it necessary to defend his manhood or tell anyone the visitor had floored him.
"Jesus you can punch."
"Sorry darling," she'd said, kissing his forehead. "You are such a little shit but some girl will see good in you."
He took the bait and said he was one of those guys who failed to hold on to a girl.
His new friend said, "Well Ross here's what you can do to improve your chances." From then Ross's behavior around the home improved substantially and he and Kate had an easy relationship going that must have startled his stepmom and even made Robbie a little suspicious but neither said anything. After Kate had left and everyone was feeling a little flat Ross would admit Kate had sorted him out and he told his startled family what had happened.
Kate had become fond of Malcolm, Robbie's dry-witted father, despite knowing him for only a few days and she cried as she kissed him as she prepared to depart. Everyone was up and dressed at 6:00 to breakfast with her and wave goodbye as she headed off home.
Robbie was staggered to see his stepmom wiping her eyes. She never cried.
"Laddie there goes a bonny lass. You know what to do," his father said, hauling out a near forgotten accent and exaggerating it.
Glen cut to the bone. "Robbie don't you dare lose her. At last you've found your perfect woman and I want her beside me."
"But you don't like her," Robbie teased.
"Robbie do you want your butt indented with my riding boot?"
They wandered back inside for coffee. The family sat at the kitchen table and Glen said, "In such a short time Kate made such noticeable impact on this family. She belongs here."
"It can never be mom, apart from visits," Robbie said. "She wants to be the best equestrian trainer she can possibly be and she can't do that here."
Glen began sobbing and Ruby hugged her and she began weeping.
"I'm off to take a look at a couple of horses at Robinson's Barn," Malcolm said.
"Dad I'm coming with you. I'll skip college this morning."
Malcolm appeared staggered. It had been years since his son had accompanied him on a veterinary visit. Then the woman clutched each other and began howling and he grinned, knowing both of them knew to get out of the house fast.
Kate stopped for gas before hitting the highway and the female attendant noticed the red eyes and said sympathetically, "Running away dear?"
"Just leaving some people who've been real family to me during me brief visit."
"Well keep in contact with them dear. Good families don't seem so numerous than in my days when I was your age."
The early morning sun was soft and there was no wind and even at a gas station Kate could hear birds singing. It was two days before Christmas day. Kate had a sudden thought and called her mom."
"Hi darling, I'm on my way home."
"Since when have I become darling?"
Kate grinned. "Oh you know the sun is shinning, the birds are singing and I've had such a happy time. Mom I'd like to invite my boyfriend and his family to the ranch for Christmas Day and stay the night."
"You invite them. It's your home too."
"Robbie's stepmom runs their home. Her name is Glen, please don't call her Glenys and remember Robbie calls her mom. I think she's beginning to like me. In my mind I can see her waiting for your call."
"God you speak rubbish at times. But this is a most unusual request from you. Have you considered they are city folk and will feel out of place here? All the family and two other families will be here and we have cleared out the barn and the boys have installed two cookers and outside there are two barbecue grills."
Kate countered, "Malcolm, Robbie's father, is a horse vet and Glen, who is his second wife, has four horses and rides every day mom and..."
"That's enough. Stop blathering. Give me Glen's number darling."
"So I'm darling now."
"No you cheeky young bitch. It's Christmas."
* * *
Glen came off the phone looking almost shocked and Ruby said in alarm, "What is it, has something happened to dad and Ross?"
"No everything is fine. It was Kathleen John, Kate's mom. She's just received a request from Kate to invite us to the ranch for Christmas Day and to stay the night."
"Omigod are we going?"
"I said yes if your father can get away."
"Call dad now. Mom they have thirty horses and you'll want to ride them all."
"I want to meet Kate's mother, that's what I want and the colorful old guy who is their cook and is called Sammy. Kate calls him her honorary grandfather."
"Doesn't Kate's mom cook?"
"Yes but badly Kate said. She runs the ranch that supports the four families and seasonally hired help."
"Mom we have to go, even without dad. We've never been on a real ranch."
"I'll not leave your father alone at Christmas. I'm estranged from my family after marrying him against my parent's wishes and his parents are in Scotland and..."
"Then I won't leave him alone either."
"Good girl. You have calmed since Kate's visit."
"I know. She worked on me to think of myself as who I am and not to consider myself as someone's else's baggage who can dump me at will."
"Omigod. I tried to tell you something like that."
"I know and thanks mom. Kate just had the knack to get through to me."
"Omigod you've never called me mom in that tone."
"Haven't I? Well get used to it. Don't call dad. Call Linda and see what their Christmas work arrangements are. Only one of them will be on call."
Glen came looking for Ruby and found her changing the sheets on Kate's bed.
"Glory be, you haven't done this before, ever."
"Yes and I've made your bed as well. Get used to it."
"Um what's come over you?"
"Nothing really. I just appear to be thinking differently that's all. It's no big deal."
"Oh, Linda is on call this year from Christmas Day to the day before New Year's Eve. So we can go but I best check with your father."
"No mom. Let's go over to Robinson's Barn. It's too easy for anyone to say no on the phone."
"Yes you're right," Glen said, looking at her stepdaughter quizzically.
The family left on the 550-mile trip a day early for a stopover because Robbie and his dad wished to show Glen and Ruby over Patrick University although it would be closed down for the break.
Driving towards the equestrian center at Patrick they saw a rider to their left and Robbie diverted to Range Rover to intercept her.
"Omigod what a beautiful and strong looking horse. It moves so fluidly," said Glen.
"It's Cool Charm, one of Kate's horses. Anne, wife of the riding coach Ralph Hall, is the rider," said Robbie, hitting the horn once and Anne came to them, riding at a lope.
"Hi," Robbie said, kissing Anne who'd dismounted. He introduced his family and her eyes lit up and said, "Oh Dr Macdonald, our illustrious alumni. We meet at last."
Anne noticed Glen eyeing the horse and Glen said, "Kate talked to me about Cool Charm."
"Then ride her."
"No I'm in stockings and this tight skirt."
"Then change. We won't look."
"No I can't..."
But too late.
Robbie had open rear access and pulled his stepmom's bag to the edge. "Here you go mom. We won't look."
Glen rode off very happily, Anne telling her to ride to the biggest barn. She jumped into the vehicle and they drove there.
They went inside and inspected the top horses. Glen spotted one way off and said, "That's Chocolate Ice. Kate told us about her and Robbie made her show her the video disk you compiled about her riding that she was taking home to show her family. Kate has been staying with us for a week and we go on to her family ranch tomorrow for Christmas lunch."
"Oh how lovely. Where are you staying here?"
"We'll find a motel."
"Oh no you're not, you're staying with Ralph and me."
"Anne we can't barge in like that."
"Sorry Glen. It's a done deal. Come up for lunch and this afternoon we'll all ride the new trail. Robbie darling, please take care of Cool Lady for me."
"As madam wishes."
"May I ride Chocolate Ice this afternoon Anne?"
"Yes of course Glen. You are a very capable rider and she's some horse."
Next morning the family continued on to the ranch.
Glen said, "I can't get over how Anne and Ralph speak of Kate as if she were their daughter."
Malcolm said, "They don't have children so I guess in their minds, perhaps without intending it, they've adopted her as their daughter."
"Yeah well they are fond of her but they are not alone in being impressed by Kate because she's so awesome for an 18-year old," Robbie said. "The way she commands the respect and motivates older students is, well, almost unbelievable. I think it's because they know what she'd done and what's she's capable of doing and they know she just wants them to be the best they can be."
"That's quite a speech son," grinned his father.
Ruby said, "Dad the next time you need to hire a new assistant would you please consider me. I'd find that more worthy of managing the boutique."
"Yes dear," said her father, aware his daughter was very strong for a woman and she did have affection for horses. He looked back to smile at her and saw Glen was holding Ruby's hand.
"What?" Glen asked.
"Poke your tongue at him," Ruby urged and Malcolm turned away grinning and saying, "Cheeky tarts."
"What does Anne do all day, just ride horses?"
"No dad. She's an aspiring author and has had three novels published based on Patrick University. "Her most recent one has a research scientist Dr Walter Habib who teaches the wife of the university president to ride and they end up having a torrid affair that they almost managed to keep secret."
"Almost?" asked his mom.
"Yeah well it's a novel written to sell. There has to be plenty of tension and drama."
"What is the novel about that she's working on now?"
Robbie said he had no idea and Ruby muttered she'd bet it would be based on Kate, if not this novel then the next one would be.
The family reflected on that. As they progressed farther north and increased in altitude they began to see snow on the ground, probably two or three days old. But as they approached the ranch house there was less snow to be seen and the outside air temperature reading on the gauge was two to three degrees higher.
Robbie said, "The land from her rises and I bet a mile up beyond the house the air temperatures will have nose-dived."
The Range Rover drew up outside the ranch house and only an old dog appeared.
Glen appeared devastated and Robbie laughed and said, "We'll go to the barn, everyone will be up there yelling and talking and getting ready for the big event."
He hit the horn as they approached. Kate emerged at a run with a small horde of people coming out behind her, all dressed warmly although no doubt there would be portable heaters roaring away inside the barn.
"Glen," yelled Kate.
"Jesus what about me?" Robbie laughed.
Glen was so excited she opened the door and Ruby had to hold her back until the vehicle stopped.
"Go get her mom," she whispered.
The two women slammed into each other and kissed and parted and Kate turned to a lean, hard-faced woman with very bright eyes and said almost shyly, "Mom this is Robbie stepmother Glen he calls mom. Glen this is my mom I call by her name Kathleen."
About fifty people, from kids to a white-headed couple, surrounded them.
The two women remained still until Glen stepped forward and held out her hand.
Kathleen broke into a big smile and said, "We are country people and we kiss" and she grabbed Glen and kissed her and said, "God you are pretty and smell so sweet."
"Oh my, you are so friendly. I didn't know what to expect, I was so nervous," Glen said. She grabbed Kathleen and hugged her.
Kathleen grinned and said dryly, "Well you kiss or hug a woman only once around here unless you wish to start the tongues waggling."
Robbie came around the vehicle to Kate and kissed her warmly.
"That's enough Robbie, I don't want you firing up my jealous uncles. Everyone this is my best boyfriend ever. Robbie Macdonald a vet at Patrick University and that's his dad Malcolm, a horse vet in private practice and that's Robbie's sister Ruby who works in high fashion and is almost as passionate about riding as Glen, and this charmer is their brother Ross who's studying accountancy at college."
The people around them clapped.
"Right you are too numerous to introduce individually so please step forward John Ted and Seth."
The big men came forward and Glen stepped back nervously.
"You guys as my uncles have the responsibility of hosting one of the Macdonald's and introducing them to people. Seth you take Glen, John you take Malcolm and Ted you look after Ruby. Cousin Louise?"
The curvy 19-year-old blonde stepped forward. "You look after Ross and be gentle with him."
Seth picked Glen up by the armpits and went to kiss her but almost dropped her in the haste to put her down when Kathleen yelled, "Seth! Attempt that stunt again and you'll be dog's meat."
"Yes ma'am," Seth said to his sister, who was less that half his bulk. "Sorry Glen."
"I accept your apology Seth. Please introduce me to your wife and children."
Half the crowd drifted away to continue interrupted luncheon preparations. Others were introduced to the Macdonald's including the families of Kathleen's brothers and then the wives hurried away to continue food preparation.
"How long have you been married to Malcolm?" Seth asked Glen. "You are only a little older than Ruby."