Girls Horse Club Blog

Alfred

Published by • May 16th, 2011 • Category: Competitions & Giveaways, Fiction

Story by Toppyrocks, age 14 | Illustration by HorseFeathers, age 18

1st Place - Girls Horse Club Every Picture Tells a Story ContestAlfredIn the most eastern part of a huge grassy field a slightly chubby pony napped. He had already spent all day grazing and rolling in the sweet grass, as well as being fed treats by the granddaughter of the elderly couple that owned him. The pony’s name was Alfred, and he led one heck of a great life, but it hadn’t always been that way.

* * * * * * * * * *

When Alfred was just a young horse, he lived in a field with many other horses, some older than him, but most were young, just like him. Many of them had never had any training, including Alfred. A time came one autumn when the landowners lost their job and had to sell the field, including all the horses. A trailer came, they were all loaded up and shipped away to an auction.

At the time, Alfred didn’t have a name. The auctioneer just called him out with a few of his friends as “Lot number 46, five three-year-old ponies” and sold them off to a man that was a horse dealer. About a week later, after having been moved to yet another field, the pony dealer came to look at his new purchases. The man’s job was to buy and sell horses, giving some of them training if needed, while hopefully making a profit off of them. He decided that each of them would need some training before being re-sold.

Over the next year, Alfred learned to stand quietly to be groomed, saddled and mounted. He learned to carry a rider for the most basic things, but not jumping or any fancy dressage moves. Come the next fall, the young horses were re-sold yet again, but this time separated from each other. Alfred found himself living alone in, you guessed it, another field. A young girl had received him as her tenth birthday present and it was her that finally gave him a name, Alfred. The two had many adventures, and both learned a lot. They hacked, learned to jump and went to some small schooling shows.

One summer day when the girl, Sophie, was thirteen and Alfred was seven, the two were riding together in the field. There was a loud bang in the distance, which Sophie later figured out was an air canon, scaring away the crows from a farm a ways away. The noise scared Alfred, causing him to rear and bolt. Sophie lost her stirrups and fell, landing in a dirty patch of the field. Sophie ran back to her house dirty and crying, as well as mad at Alfred for letting her fall.

Alfred sulked for a week, ashamed of what he had done. Finally Sophie came back to see him. She had accepted that it wasn’t his fault, and ignoring him wouldn’t help anything.

Five more years brought Sophie to graduating and Alfred to the age of twelve. Oh course, Alfred didn’t understand what ‘graduating’ meant, or that Sophie would have to leave to go off to school. At the end of that summer, Sophie came to Alfred with an apple and a sad look on her face. He tried to comfort her, but she ended up bursting into tears and hugging him, telling him to be a good boy and that she’d come to visit him every weekend. Sophie’s parents called from their mini van for Sophie to hurry up. Alfred had watched all morning as they loaded box after box into the van. Sophie was growing up, and now she was moving out to the university in the city an hour away.

When Sophie left and didn’t come back that day, or the day after, or the day after that, Alfred got confused and sad.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Alfred!” Sophie called from behind him on the weekend. Alfred jumped, raced over to her and gave her a horsey hug. But at the end of the weekend, Sophie left again. The next weekend she was back, and then gone again. Soon Sophie was only coming every other weekend, then once a month, and then only on holidays. Alfred waited for her every time, and just when it seemed that she wouldn’t come back, there she was. Sophie came back in the summer, but many of her days were spent working in a cafe, not with Alfred. The little time they did have together, she just didn’t seem the same.

Sophie left for school again, this time not visiting Alfred at all. Sophie’s parents took care of them, but it just wasn’t the same for him. Alfred found himself waiting, alone again. He had no work, no other friends, and nothing to do. Boredom overcame him, and soon he had lots of bad habits. Pawing, chewing the fence and pacing the perimeter of the field. Sophie never came back to see him, and it had been a few months. Her school and job had her too busy, and even though she thought about him all the time, she wasn’t able to see him. But Alfred didn’t know that.

A wind storm struck the small town, wreaking havoc all over the place, falling trees and breaking branches. A branch from the largest tree in Alfred’s field fell onto the wooden fence causing a gap just wide enough for Alfred to squeeze through. It happened in the middle of the night, and by the morning, when Sophie’s parents came to feed Alfred, he was long gone. Boredom and loneliness had driven Alfred away and out into the wide world.

The field that Alfred had left was on the very edge of the property that Sophie lived on, and after the field there were no buildings or roads for a long time — it was all cattle grazing land. Alfred wandered for a few days, drinking from streams and sleeping under trees. His coat grew thick and fluffy for the winter, and when the first frost came Alfred was really cold at night. Being by himself hadn’t bothered him until then, for he had been alone in his field anyways. But now there was no shelter or warm blanket.

Snow covered the ground soon, and finding food was hard. Alfred wasn’t used to finding his own food through the winter, and it was a hard change. The pony lost some weight that winter.

What Alfred didn’t know was that Sophie had come back at Christmas to see him, and when he wasn’t there she was heartbroken. Sophie had gone with her friends and their horses searching the countryside for days, but never found Alfred. Soon it was time for her to go back to school and stop the search.

Alfred survived the winter and came out alright; he was just lean, had knots in his mane and tail and a few scratches on his legs where he had rubbed against underbrush. Spring came and went, leaving Alfred as alone as ever. Alfred was fourteen now, still in his prime, so surviving wasn’t a huge issue. Sophie searched for him all that summer, putting up posters and calling farms all over the province. No one had seen him, and if they had, it would’ve been from a long distance and he would have been mistaken for a cow, because he was still in the cattle range.

Only once was he threatened by predators. A trio of coyotes followed him one summer evening, getting closer and closer until Alfred turned and chased them away. They snarled, he snapped. They tried to bite his ankles, he gave them a sharp kick to the side that left them whimpering and running off. The coyotes didn’t dare try again.

In late summer, Alfred found something he hadn’t seen before. He was particularly thirsty that day, and when he found a creek at the bottom of a valley he eagerly descended the hills and plunged into the water. Alfred finished after a few minutes and started to leave the valley. The grass here was short and fairly dry and there would be no point staying here. Alfred’s hooves hit rocks and gravel as he climbed the hill. The hill seemed much more steep then when he came down and climbing back up was a lot of trouble. The bay pony just wasn’t cut out for this kind of thing and as a result ended up slipping and scrambling. For every few feet he managed to climb, Alfred slipped back down the same amount of hill.

A stone became lodged in his hoof, putting pressure into his foot in a painful way. Alfred only tried a few more times before stopping. The poor pony was exhausted and sore on top of being lonely and scared. He managed to find some decent grass that night and a place to lie down and sleep.

In the morning Alfred’s foot was even more sore then the evening before. He favored it all day while he searched for another way out and better food. By afternoon, Alfred had given up and resorted to whinnying every twenty minutes or so, in the chance that someone would hear.

Alfred spent the night the same way as he spent the previous night — lying down in the grass, sleeping. The next few days, Alfred would graze and drink from the stream, every so often calling out. A week after Alfred entered the gully, someone came.

At first, all Alfred heard was rustling in the bushes and voices. He stood still, unsure what it was. Were they coyotes, back to try again? A man appeared at the top of the gully. Carefully, he climbed down the side and approached Alfred. At first Alfred shied away; it had been almost a year since he had seen a human.

The man spoke in a nice friendly voice and approached in a non-threatening way, and Alfred let him come up to him and give him a pat. Slowly, the man pulled a piece of rope over Alfred’s neck and tried to lead him forward. Alfred followed with a limp. “Oh no, now that won’t do,” the man said. “Can’t have you limping now, can we?” The man stopped and carefully lifted up Alfred’s foot. Using another rock, the man pried out the rock. On they went, Alfred only limping a little bit now.

Over the next hour, the man led Alfred up the gully. Instead of going straight up, they traversed across the hill, only going gradually up. The man found the best paths for Alfred and Alfred didn’t slip as much as his first attempt.

The man took Alfred home with him to his cattle farm. Alfred was fed a warm mash and placed in a field with another horse. From then on, he had a pretty good life, even though he still did miss his Sophie.

The man that had rescued Alfred taught him to pull a cart that could carry him and his granddaughter. The granddaughter adored the fourteen-year-old pony and Alfred loved her. He was ‘Freddy’ to her.

A few years later, Alfred had a visitor, a young woman in her early twenties. She hugged Alfred and fussed over him. At first Alfred didn’t recognize her, but when she scratched him between his ears and whispered in his ear, Alfred suddenly perked up. That’s what his Sophie used to do! Alfred knew this girl, it was his Sophie! The two spent the day together in the field.

Soon, Sophie had to leave, but she still visited him often. She had a full-time job now and didn’t have the time for a pony any more, but now she could see her childhood pony and he had a great life with the man’s granddaughter and the other horse. It had taken many years to finally find a permanent home. Alfred had gone through auctions and training, living wild and being by himself. Now, here he was, a chubby, well-fed Welsh pony.

ALFRED is an entry in the Every Picture Tells a Story contest, where authors create a short story inspired by image submissions, then readers vote for the winning collaboration. Click here to learn more »

4 Nickers »

  1. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWw… this is just soo perfect. I loved it! My favorite phrase was “The ponies name was Alfred, and he led one heck of a great life’ haha that made me smile. I also loved the characters because I can relate to Sophie and the heartaches that come with graduating and growing up.. its not all fun and games. =(

    Loved it soo much!
    HF

  2. Thanks! I just loved your drawing so much, I had to write a story about it. And it’s kinda sad because in a way your drawing made me sad (not your fault) because it just looks soo incredibly much like the real Toppy, the pony, that I rode for 2 years, learned a lot on, before moving to other horses, but still loved him, but he passed away in December, and so that made me sad and so I felt that I kind of had to write about this picture, even though it wasn’t about him. I might write stories about him sometime though, there are defineately some things that he did that are worth telling. Anddd… that was pretty much rambling. Haha. Thanks though, HorseFeathers!

  3. That is a perfect picture!!! I love it!!!

  4. Cute! :)