Amazing Kids! Magazine

Spirit

By Kate Arnold, age 13, Newbury Park, CA

 

He sat on a boulder, watching the lazy waves create mysterious little pools in low tide. He had so much to think about. Jackson had walked to the beach from the ranch thinking about Spirit. Since he was twelve he has had a fiery passion for horses and now that he was eighteen, he  faced his most challenging race of his life, the Kentucky Derby. He had ridden Spirit as the jockey in several races in the Prep Season and the Champion Series. Jackson’s thoughts drifted to his long-time friend, Draco, who also owned a champion three year old colt named Crabbe. He remembered the “prep” races where he competed against Draco, but Jackson had always won. After every race, Draco was sullen and ill-tempered at Jackson and never praised him or Spirit. Jackson had a strange feeling that Draco was becoming more of an enemy than a friend. Several hours later, Jackson left the beach and the next morning, he took Spirit into the arena at his ranch to train. While he was training, Draco came by and decided to talk with him.

“Are you excited about the Kentucky Derby, Draco?” Jackson asked.

“Yeah, I’m totally excited but still nervous,” Draco replied.

“How is Crabbe doing?” Jackson inquired.

“Fine, how’s Spirit?” Draco said.

” He’s doing great!” exclaimed Jackson. “Are you ready to race?”

“As I’ll ever be!” Draco replied.

After their conversation, both of the riders put their horses in their designated trailers and headed for the nearby racing arena where the racing horses had to compete in order to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Once they both arrived at the arena, they admired all the other spectacular horses that would be competing against them, while they waited at their trailers with their horses.

“I’ll go and sign us in for the races, Draco. Would you mind grooming the horses while I’m gone?” asked Jackson,

“Sure!” Draco answered. “Take your time, I’ve got it handled.”

Before long, the gunshot echoed loudly, and the horses sprung out of the gate. Spirit immediately sprinted ahead, leaving all eight other horses including Crabbe in the dust. Making a kissing noise, Jackson urged Spirit to hold the lead, until suddenly, Spirit began to slow down. Jackson knew something was wrong; Spirit would never do this. At that instance, Jackson realized that Crabbe was taking the lead. Once the race was over, Crabbe had won and Spirit came in third.

Soon after the race had ended, Jackson knew by the way Spirit was walking that something was wrong. He brought him back to the trailer and while he was grooming him, he discovered one hoof didn’t have a horseshoe on it. Jackson then envisioned that this was the reason why Spirit was racing poorly. He foraged the area looking for the missing horseshoe until he found it under the trailer. Remembering Draco’s mischievous actions in the past, he had suspicious thoughts enter his mind. Before long, the judges notified both Jackson and Draco that they had qualified for the Kentucky Derby.

A couple weeks later, both Jackson and Draco arrived at Louisville, Kentucky for the big race. Both of them were nervous about the race and neither of them had slept for the past few days. After a hard day of working the horses, Jackson and Draco decided to settle Spirit and Crabbe in their assigned stalls. Later that night, Draco moseyed to his hotel room so he could try to get some sleep.  Jackson stayed with Spirit and began to whisper to him.

“We can do it, Spirit,” Jackson reassured him.

Spirit nickered in response. Then Jackson smiled, knowing that Spirit understood what he was saying.

He checked his watch and saw that it was twelve midnight. “Goodnight, Spirit,” Jackson gently uttered, and closed the stall door quietly, before heading back to his hotel room.

As the sun was rising, Jackson woke up and thoughts of the upcoming events crowded into his mind. “Today’s is the day,” Jackson announced to himself. His stomach was churning wildly and his hands were clammy. He hurriedly pulled on his tall boots, white pants, and quickly buttoned his brightly colored blue shirt and raced to the stall.

Once he arrived, he grabbed a bag of oats and practically sprinted to Spirit’s stall to feed him. After he reached the stall, he dropped the oats into the trough. Suddenly his heart skipped a beat as he realized that Spirit wasn’t in the stall. Thoughts quickly entered his mind about the possibilities of where Spirit could be. He concluded that Draco must have taken Spirit out with Crabbe to get bathed and groomed, so he rushed to the bathing area to see if Spirit was there.

As he barged in, he scrambled around looking desperately for Spirit. He found Draco with Crabbe, but no Spirit. So Jackson decided to talk with Draco to see if he had seen Spirit.

“Have you seen Spirit, Draco?” Jackson asked, breathlessly.

“No, I haven’t,” Draco responded calmly. “Last time I saw him he was in the stall drinking water and waiting for you to feed him.”

Suspicion rose into Jackson’s mind; his instincts were telling him that Draco wasn’t telling the truth. Although he felt loyal to Draco, Jackson realized what he had to do. As he walked into the security office, he was determined to find Spirit, even if it meant accusing his close friend.

“May I help you?” inquired the officer.

“Yes,” Jackson replied with urgency, “I need your help immediately, officer!”

The officer queried, “What can I do to help?”

Jackson explained the events and his suspicions about Draco’s involvement. After a few minutes, Jackson and the officer departed for the empty stall where Spirit was previously, and investigated the surrounding area. Later, the officer asked Jackson more questions about the events and promised to contact him if he discovered any evidence about Spirit’s location.

After a while, Jackson had to make the decision about whether he was going to give up on his  dream of racing the Kentucky Derby, or ride another horse. Disappointed, but determined, he trudged over  to the official stand to inform them about the tragic disappearance of Spirit and the name of the horse that would substitute for him.

As the jockeys paraded the horses around the track, Jackson glanced over at Draco and noticed he was very elated. He watched as Draco, smiling and waving to the crowd like he was already victorious, sat proudly on his horse. Jackson took a good look at Crabbe. However, soon he realized to his shock that it wasn’t Crabbe but Spirit instead. He spotted the tiny snip on his muzzle that was almost indiscernible. Immediately, Jackson emitted a kissing sound and used his crop to urge the horse to gallop to the officials to report his discovery.

“Excuse me, sir,” Jackson exclaimed urgently. “We can’t start the race!”

“Why should we do that?” asked the official, “Are you ill?”

“I just discovered that Draco is riding my horse, Spirit, that has been missing since this morning.”

“How do you know it’s your horse?” the official questioned.

Jackson explained how he was able to identify Spirit by looking at the snip on his muzzle.

The officials told him that they would investigate Jackson’s allegation after the race.

Mournfully, Jackson walked with the horse back to the gate as he knew he wouldn’t be able to ride Spirit for the race. He mounted his horse and dreaded the sound of the starter gun. As he sprang out of the gates, he saw that Draco and Spirit were in the lead.

“C’mon,” Jackson urged the horse that he was riding, but the horse wasn’t fast enough to catch up to Draco.

Before long, Draco and Spirit were slowing down while the others were passing them.

“Agh!” Draco screamed as Spirit reared up on his hind legs. Bucking Draco off his back, Spirit took off and galloped at full speed after Jackson. Jackson noticed something, as he glanced behind him; he saw Spirit running after him without a rider. Realizing that something must have happened to Draco, Jackson slowed down allowing the horses to pass him until he came to a complete stop. The crowd stopped cheering and stared silently at Jackson, as he had turned around, searching frantically for Draco. Jackson pulled his reins, turning the horse and galloped to Draco before he was trampled. Jackson urged the horse onwards, nudging the horse with his crop against his flank. All the other competitors looked up and were confused what Jackson was doing. The race still continued despite Draco’s mishap and Jackson’s efforts. The crowd had the eyes on Jackson instead of the race. As he hoisted Draco up on the horse, Jackson lead his horse off the track with Draco, allowing the other jockeys to pass. While they were waiting for the other horses to finish the race, Draco and Jackson talked.

“Jackson,” Draco said, “why did you save me after I took Spirit from you?”

“Well, Draco,” Jackson replied, “you’re my friend and I wouldn’t want you to get hurt even though what you did was despicable.”

“I’m really sorry about my behavior,” Draco said with guilt. ” I just really wanted to win.”

Once every competitor besides Draco and Jackson finished the race, Jackson led the horse with Draco back on to the race track and walked towards the finish line. The audience applauded Jackson for his sportsmanship, while Draco sat hunched over in embarrassment behind Jackson on the horse. After the race was over, Draco slid off the horse and walked slowly with disappointment towards the official stand, while Jackson went to retrieve Spirit.

After Draco confessed to the officials his actions, they banned him from the Arabian Horse

Association of California for a year.

During Draco’s punishment, he encouraged Jackson to run for the Kentucky Derby again. Draco had learned a valuable lesson about friendship.  He realized that his desire to be a winner had distorted his moral compass. He had finally understood that his friendship with Jackson was more precious than being victorious in any horse race.