“Exactly.” I open the gate and head toward the black Arabian. My parents bought him the summer before I moved to California, and I spent months breaking him before I left for college. He’s thrown me off too many times to count, but I worked him until we were both exhausted. Shadow was my summer project and eventually he learned to listen to commands, but he’s a wild spirit at heart. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to break that out of him. It’s been a few years since I’ve ridden him, but when he looks over at me, I can tell he remembers that time we spent together just as much as I do.
“You’re just going to go after them?” Drew asks, leaning on the metal gate.
“Yeah, we have to catch them to ride them.” As soon as I take a few steps toward Shadow, he looks like he’s ready to run, so I stop. I’ve got him beat on that level, because I’m more patient than my brothers and can stand in this same position for the next hour if I need to.
I take another step forward and hold out some feed in my hand as I say his name with the halter behind my back. After a few minutes, curiosity gets the best of him and he moseys over to me. As soon as he’s close enough, I put the halter over his head and snap it up then put the lead rope on the bottom hook under his chin. I can tell he’s not happy he’s been caught, but he doesn’t fight me.
Drew opens the gate for me to easily walk through. I tie Shadow to a ring that’s on the outside of the barn and he already knows no matter how hard he pulls, he won’t break free. I walk into the barn and pull out a saddle pad and a western saddle. I throw the pad over Shadow’s back then lift the saddle, though he’s tall as hell, and put it on top of the pad. Drew walks over and helps me straighten it on his back as I cinch him up.
“This is blowing my mind,” Drew says as I tighten the strap under Shadow’s belly and attach the rear cinch strap.
“Why?” I ask, brushing hair out of my face.
“Because you’re a real-life cowgirl.”
“Saddling a horse is like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it.” I give him a smile as I put the bit in Shadow’s mouth and release the lead rope. I swing the reigns over Shadow’s head then place my foot in the stirrup and pull myself up. Drew looks up at me and smiles. “Damn, you look sexy up there.”
I hold out my hand and take my foot out of the stirrup. “Come on, Deputy.”
His eyes go wide. “What do you mean?”
“Place your foot in the stirrup and pull yourself up by using the horn. You’ll throw that other leg over and hold on to my waist.”
“But your mom said he’s moody.”
I give him a side smile. “He’s always moody. Do you trust me?”
He searches my face. “Of course I do.”
I tap my foot on the stirrup. “Then come on.”
I’ve never done anything like this before and Shadow looks like one of those demon horses the headless horseman rode. But I trust Courtney. I look back down at the stirrup and push my converse through it, grab onto the horn and pull myself up. As soon as I put my leg over his back, Shadow takes off into a fast gallop and Court is laughing the whole time. I wrap my arms around her small waist and pray I don’t fall off and take her down with me.
Finally, Shadow slows to a walk and we travel down a small path. When I turn around, I can’t see anything around us but rolling hills. The tall grass blows in the wind as the sun shines down on us. Courtney guides Shadow into the woods for some sort of shade, but the sun reflects through the branches. I can’t seem to soak in the scenery fast enough because it all feels surreal. We come out the other side and cross a small creek that runs through the property.
I place my hands under her shirt until my fingers brush against her bare skin. She leans against me as she guides Shadow through an open field and in the distance, I can see a small house.
“Who lives there?” I ask and she turns her head back at me and smiles.
“Hold on,” she says and makes a ticking noise with her mouth as she barely taps Shadow with her heels. He goes into a full sprint, and I wrap my legs tight around his body, hoping I don’t bounce right off. She’s laughing so hard as we slow in front of the house. She slides right off Shadow and I hop over the saddle and follow her lead.