Book extract: Silver Spurs and a Twelve Pound Heart
A sample from a new romantic fiction novel by Northumberland author Helen Newman Wood.
Katie was cantering The Mechanic around the warm-up, occasionally asking him to come back to a halt before demanding he canter on again quickly.
She was nervous and wished Roger was there to reassure her, but she knew that he wouldn’t be at the start of the cross country with Vision until after she had set off. She jumped the practice fence and saw Daniel Jobson’s wife at the side of the arena.
‘Good luck!’ Sara called out to her. ‘Brilliant show jumping!’
Lifting her hand to wave her thanks, Katie saw Caitlyn running past the start and out onto the course. She felt a stab of guilt for bawling her out; it hadn’t been her fault, and Katie seethed silently for a second, wondering if Jules had brought her the wrong horse deliberately to mess things up.
Stopping to catch her breath, Caitlyn watched The Mechanic bunny-hopping in the start box, desperate to get on with the job. Katie sat effortlessly as he pirouetted, and when the starter raised his eyes from the stopwatch to give them the order to go, Katie had him facing the right way, and he bounced into a canter. Caitlyn watched them jump the first three fences and made her way up the hill to see them through the combination by the trees.
There was a group of spectators next to the three fences that were decorated with plastic gnomes and pixies, and as Caitlyn approached, there was a blast on a whistle and a man on a grey horse took the long route through the obstacles, twisting and turning to jump the fences, taking up a lot of time.
‘It should be Katie Holland next,’ a lady wearing a headscarf was studying the programme, ‘I do so love her pink colours.’
‘I’ve bought my granddaughter the same hat cover that she wears,’ the other lady was holding the lead of a lurcher, ‘such a pretty silver pom-pom on it.’
As the whistle sounded again, the group turned to see The Mechanic galloping towards them, Katie looking straight through the combination.
‘Looks like she’s going the direct route,’ stated the headscarf.
The Mechanic pricked his ears as Katie sat down in the saddle to collect him and Caitlyn heard her telling him firmly to “steady”. They jumped the first part, took two smart strides, cleared the second part and, with Katie giving him a slap down the shoulder with her whip to keep him straight, cleared the third and were back on their way.
Caitlyn ran back down the course so she could see them over the last few fences while, back at the lorry, Shelley heard the commentator reporting that The Mechanic was clear so far and well within the time.
Roger, riding Vision around the warm-up, watched The Mechanic jumping the huge steeplechase fence as if it was nothing at all and galloping on to the fence adorned with milk churns. The Mechanic stood off the fence a stride, and Roger observed Katie letting the reins slip through her fingers, to give the horse the reach he needed to clear the fence.
‘Roger? You’re next to go!’ called the steward.
‘Can you let another one go before me?’ he shouted back, watching The Mechanic clear a set of enormous poles and hearing the steward ask if anyone else was ready to start.
Shelley was straining to hear the commentary as the water poured into the bucket from the lorry’s water tank.
‘The Mechanic is clear at number twelve, one of the few to get through the direct route clear today…’
Shelley turned off the tap and leant against the side of the lorry.
‘Cathy Marks is clear at seven, and Katie Holland is home and provisionally clear.’
Grinning and clenching her fists, Shelley then carried the bucket to the back of the lorry and saw Jules sitting on the ramp looking boot-faced.
‘What?’ asked Jules huffily as Shelley looked at her.
‘For God’s sake smile, or get a new job,’ suggested Shelley.
Caitlyn was puffing madly but made it to the finish to see Katie galloping up the run-in, standing in
her rose gold stirrups, leaning forward to pat The Mechanic’s sweaty neck in praise. Running across to her, she took The Mechanic’s reins as Katie slid pink-faced from the saddle.
‘Amazing round.’ Caitlyn was grinning, the earlier shouting all forgotten.
‘He was amazing,’ corrected Katie as she lifted the saddle flap and loosened his girth, hearing the commentator confirming that they had no jumping or time penalties to add.
‘I’ll take him back if you want to watch Roger?’ Caitlyn had unfastened the horse’s noseband and was rubbing his forehead.
Katie shook her head. ‘You stay and watch him, and I’m sorry I shouted at you – I was panicking about his show jumping.’
Katie looked at Caitlyn’s kind face. ‘How can you be so nice?’ She unclipped her chinstrap.
Caitlyn shrugged. ‘Roger can be a shouty fooker as well when he’s stressed.’
As Roger came back on Vision after her cross country, Shelley gave a whoop as she checked the
live scores on her phone.
‘He’s won – The Mechanic’s won.’ She grinned.
‘All the scores can’t be in yet, surely?’ Roger took off his saddle and dumped it in the locker. ‘Doesn’t matter, no one left to go can catch him. Scottish Championship here we come!’ Shelley’s
voice was drowned by cheers from Caitlyn and Katie.
‘Well done, Pink Knickers.’ Roger briefly put an arm around Katie’s shoulders, making her blush.
‘Maybe all the horse needed was a change of cross country colours.’
Bloody hell, he thought. Charles Dee will insist he goes to the Championship, and how on earth
can they replicate today’s total fluke?
‘Ooh, Katie,’ said Caitlyn excitedly, ‘you get a lovely set of silver spurs if you win the Championship,
and you get training vouchers too, so you can have lessons with someone really good.’ ‘Really?’
‘I wouldn’t get too excited about the training vouchers.’ Roger was waiting for Shelley to hand him Vision’s headcollar.
‘Why? Who’s the training with?’ asked Katie.
‘Me,’ he replied dryly.
‘Well, at least if she wins them,’ Shelley was easing off Vision’s bridle, ‘it’ll save you shouting at someone else and them finding out about your foul temper.’