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Heartland #10: Tomorrow's Promise

Amy and Ben walked Storm and Red back to the trailer. Storm's day was over, and Ben wanted to rest Red until his class. Leaving the two horses in the trailer, they headed off to explore the show ground. In the closest ring, the Modified Jumper was underway. The fences were set at four feet six, and any horses that went clear continued straight over the jump-off course, without leaving the ring. Amy knew that many of the riders in the Open Jumpers would use this class as a warm-up.

Amy and Ben bought a hot dog and Coke from one of the stalls and sat down to watch. The class was about halfway through.

"That was four faults for Helen Pierson on Boomerang. And now we have number 45, Daniel Lawson riding Burning Amber," the loudspeaker called.

Amy clutched Ben's arm. "It's that guy! The one I told you about. He's the one who wont he Six Bar at Meadowville."

Ben watched as Amber trotted intot he ring. "His horse isn't much of a looker, is it?"

"Wait till you see her jump," Amy said. "I bet she'll go clear."

Just as Amy had predicted, Amber jumped all eight fences of the first round without a fault, and then she tacked on a speedy clear for the shortened jump-off course. Still, Amy watched a bit skeptically. The roan mare had cleared the fences but hadn't jumped with the overwhelming willingness and desire that had made such an impression a week ago. Amy observed just the slightest hint of resistance - a swish of her tail as she approached the triple, her ears going back as she cleared the gate, a hesitation as she met the wall. But she jumped clean, and that was the main thing. The crowd applauded as Daniel slowed her to a trot.

"You're right, they are good!" Ben said to Amy.

"Yeah," Amy said, but she spoke distractedly. She was puzzled at the change in the mare, and as Daniel rode out of the ring Amy was sure she saw a look of concern on his face.

However, the next horse quickly entered the ring and Amy put Amber out of her mind.

When the class finished, Ben stood up. "I'm going to get Red saddled again," he said. "My class is next."

Amy went with him. As they walked past the in-gate they saw the seven riders who had placed come to the ring to collect their ribbons. Daniel was waiting to go in, his dark hair untidy, the reins looped over his arm. Amber was nuzzling his shoulder affectionately. He had won the class.

As Amy passed by, a glimmer of recognition crossed Daniel's face, and he scowled at her. Amy glared back and marched past.

While Ben worked Red, Amy stayed with Storm in case he became anxious without his stable companion. She needn't have worried. Storm was as calm as ever. Amy brushed him over and checked her watch. Ben should be going in soon. She'd better get going.

When she reached the ring, Ben was on deck. She wished him good luck and got a seat in the stands. The course of ten jumps was impressive - the fences were wide and solid and much more flashy and colorful than the schooling fences at Heartland. Ben trotted Red in.

Amy held her breath, particularly when Red nicked the top bar of the second jump with his back hoof. But it didn't fall, and Red cantered out with a clear round.

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