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…“Finally,”  Tink thought, “a chance to show these guys that I can be just as good as them.  I’ll teach this little girl to ride and we’ll show them.”  But where was the little girl, anyway?

As Tink was led down the aisle towards the ring, the other horses came to life.  “You’d better take good care of our Tiffany,” said one.

“Don’t come back in here if you hurt Tiffany,” snapped another.  The giant, dark one said nothing but never took his hard, angry eyes off Tink.

Tink was led to a mounting block in the ring.  There were an awful lot of people around.  Then he saw Tiffany.  She was making her way across the ring with the help of two adults.  She had metal crutches attached to her forearms and was walking with a slow, labored, rolling gait.  She didn’t look very excited about riding him.  In fact, she looked quite pale and tense. 

Tiffany had been born with many problems.  In fact, she had had several operations before anyone even knew if she would live.  She had proved to be a real fighter and had lived in spite of what the doctors had thought.  Her life thus far, though, had been a series of operations and pain.  It had only been recently that she had been able to begin walking for the first time with much help. 

Everyone deals with pain in their own way and Tiffany’s way had been to withdraw.  When she hurt she would bear it bravely and not show much reaction.  The problem was that she also showed less and less reaction to everything else, too.  She no longer talked beyond the occasional single word.  She was a sweet girl and quietly did what she was told by her parents, her doctors and her therapists, but she showed little interest in anything and rarely smiled anymore.  Tiffany’s mother had a passion for horses and a special bond with them.  She and Tiffany’s father were hoping that perhaps it was a love that Tiffany had inherited.  They were desperately searching for a spark of any kind of passion in Tiffany.

With some help Tiffany got up the mounting block and onto Tink’s back.  One of the adults held his head very tightly but he really didn’t need to; Tink was afraid that if he moved he’d step on one of the many feet around him, or worse, that Tiffany would fall.  With one person leading him carefully (which Tink found rather insulting) and one on either side of him, he started off on a slow walk.  They went around and around this way and the instructor stood in the middle and told Tiffany what to do.  He was very nice and didn’t yell at all.  At one point Tink felt Tiffany’s weight suddenly shift to one side.  One of the attendants reached out for Tiffany’s leg to help her balance but Tink was quicker.  He shifted slightly to the same side and brought himself back under Tiffany’s center of balance.  He certainly didn’t want her falling off!

After fifteen minutes or so Tiffany was helped down and they all went to take Tink to his stall.  Tink was untacked and Tiffany helped brush him.  Sometimes she clunked him by mistake with the back of the brush but he didn’t mind.  And he kind of liked it when she leaned on him.  When they were done she gave him a carrot and a kiss on his forehead, then Tink was put in his stall.

Before leaving, Tiffany went about the barn petting each horse on the head.  This apparently was part of a routine, as each horse put his head out over the door and put it down for Tiffany to pat.  Each horse held his head very still for her, even those times when her crutch, dangling from her forearm, swung and gently bumped their noses.  The last pat was for Tink.  The instructor said, “They were right; he is a very special pony” and they all left…