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Once again, Sandy was left wondering what to choose for Twilight's future. Like a cat, she could have nine lives. She could be an endurance horse, race horse, calf-roping or barrel-racing horse, harness horse, hunter or jumping horse or a three-day-event horse, the decathlete of the equestrian world!
Or, Sandy told herself, Twi could finish what she'd already begun.
"It's hard finding the right slot for her," Clayton O'Quinn told Sandy one day. "Twilight is not an easy horse to classify."
"I know," Sandy said. "She's one of a kind, and I love her for that. It's part of what makes her great. You know, in the far-off future, I don't rule out the Olympics."
"Begorry!" O'Quinn lapsed into his Irishness. "You dream big, Sandy. But the question is, what will she do now?"
"For now, Clayton, maybe she should complete her cutting chapter," Sandy said quietly.
"I was thinking the very same thought, even though the girl at the Pinto Horse Association told me that a pinto's actions has to twice as sure as any other horse's for the judge to even look at it. She says there's never been a pinto cutting horse that was the winner."
"Never?" Sandy smiled. "What a fickle word!"
Fate plays a big role in our lives. It must have been fate that prompted Sandy to pick up a horse magazine, one day soon after her conversation with O'Quinn, and turn to an article about a cutting horse trainer from Dothan, Alabama. His name was Buddy Tate and he was scheduled to judge a show right near Ocala on Wednesday next. He was touted as one of the most knowledgeable cutting-horse trainers.
Before Sandy could forget the spelling of Dothan, she pulled out her road map and traced the routefrom Apalachee Bay, on up the Chattachoochee River to Dothan. Then with red ink she circled the date of the Florida show on her calendar. Over the black numerals she wrote Twilight's future?
On Wednesday afternoon Sandy could hardly wait to say good-bye to her last patient. A short time later she was rubbing elbows with owners and horse people of all ages and sizes. She watched two pintos in the competition, but neither won so much as a pink ribbon. "Could it really be true that a pinto's color works against him?" she asked herself.
After the show was over, Sandy joined the long line of folks wanting to meet Judge Buddy Tate. He looked tired, as if he wanted to bolt for home, but he blotted his brow and managed a smile when it finally came
Sandy's turn. That was all the encouragement she needed.
"Our Twilight is a tornado, even if she is wearing clown's colors," she announced without any other opening. "And she's ready to show her stuff."
Judge Tate glanced at his watch. "You live near here?" was the only thing he asked.
"About thirty minutes away," Sandy replied breathlessly.
"Okay. Lead the way."
At Stolen Hours, Chris and Pam had just finished sloshing water over Twilight. They earned part of their allowance by grooming the horses after school. The day had turned hot and muggy, and Twi was enjoying her bath without any of her usual fidgeting.
A rub-rag still in his hand, Robert hastened to meet Sandy and the judge as they got out of their cars. When Sandy introduced him to Buddy Tate his eyes widened in awed respect.
"He's here to see Twilight," Sandy explained.
Robert swung into action. He snapped a lead rope to Twi's halter and began trotting her in an ever-widening circle. Twi was in her element. She tossed her mane, arched her tail, and pranced as if she were leading a parade.
Pam and Chris clapped noisily. Sandy gave them a shushing look, and all waited silently for Judge Tate's reaction.
The answer came with agonizing slowness. "Quarter horses take all the ribbons."
"Yes, I've noticed." Sandy wiped her sweating palms on her pants legs and waited for him to go on.
"She'll be soft after not working awhile."
"I know that, too."
Then he shook his head and gave a suppressed laugh, as if surprised at his own impulsiveness. "There's something about Twilight's spirit that impresses me. I believe I could put a happy ending to her story."
Sandy's heart bumped into her throat. The kids let out a cheer.
Three days later Twilight was shipped to Dothan, Alabama. The lively way she hightailed it into the van without urging was proof enough that travel and adventure were her lifestyle.
Copyright © 1992 by Marguerite Henry