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For all those who have ever dreamed of having a horse as a friend. By Amanda Stagnetto

Chapter 1

Amy had been a very good girl, so her grandmother Joanna kept on telling her and because of that she was going to get a great surprise, although she was getting no clues and she wasn’t told when she was going to get it either. So she went about her chores of looking after the chickens in the yard and looking over her shoulder every other second to see whether the surprise had already arrived or not. She had been orphaned two years ago at the age of 8 and had gone to live with her grandparents in the horse country state of Wyoming which she loved much better than the city where she had lived before.

Her grandfather Charlie, had already made sure that he taught her how to ride and she had turned out to be a natural, and when she wasn’t helping her grandmother around the farmhouse she would love to go for a ride with Charlie on the two mustangs that they had. One was called ‘Pepin’, a golden Palomino and the other was called ‘Gata’, a dappled grey. Her grandfather lived for horses, just like Amy, and had been taught how to ride by an American Indian when he was about the same age as Amy. The Indian had been very strict with him and for the first few months Charlie wasn’t even allowed to get up on a horse. The Indian wanted him to learn how to be around horses. How to care for them. How to understand them and know what they were thinking and feeling.

‘When you can feel that you are at one with the animal is when you will be able to move with his every movement and then riding will be no problem’. Said the Indian to Charlie. And that was how it was and this was also the way that Charlie had taught Amy. They both believed that it was far better to understand a horse and become friends with him slowly than break him and his spirit in. The horse then does what you want as he wants to please you rather than doing it out of submission or fear. Later on in the day her grandfather called her. ‘Amy, saddle up the horses because I’m going to take you to show you something’. Amy had the horses ready in a flash and once both mounted they set off for the woods that were about a 10 minute ride away.

The woods were magical to Amy. They were full of tall pine trees, streams flowing through and the sunlight that shone down in between the trees would appear as rainbows due to all the dew around. They were looking particularly enchanting this day and Amy sensed that something special was going to happen. Suddenly Charlie stopped ‘Amy, I want you to be perfectly still and very quiet because what you are about to see is easily frightened’. Amy was so nervous. What was she going to see and more importantly was she going to be frightened herself! Charlie began to hum an Indian chant in a voice that was almost a whisper and while he did so Pepin and Gata twitched their ears backwards and forwards listening. There was a rustle of the bushes in front of them.

‘Here he comes’ said Charlie, and slowly out emerged the most beautiful creature that Amy had ever seen. He was unlike any horse that she had ever seen. His coat was the colour of bronze and his mane and tail silver. He was big and strong with a delicate concave face that had hazel eyes and large nostrils. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. She wasn’t frightened at all and she was so quiet because there were no words in her mouth to express what she was seeing. Charlie got off his horse and walked towards the creature who stayed still watching him approach. Charlie stroked his neck and the animal nudged him with his nose.

‘Amy, come and touch Sakima’. Amy got off her horse slowly without making any sudden movements that might scare him (just as Charlie had always taught her). He felt like velvet to touch and seemed to be so gentle despite his size. ‘Amy, this horse is very special and he can become your friend just as he has become mine. I have called him Sakima which means ‘KING’ in the dialect of the Indians and he is truly a king of all horses. I found him two years ago just before you came to live with us after he had been beaten and starved and left abandoned at the edge of the woods. He was in a terrible state and at first didn’t want to trust anyone but with lots of patience and kindness I got to be able to get close enough to treat his injuries, and he now has a very strong bonding with me’ Amy carried on stroking his neck while her grandfather spoke to her about Sakima.

‘I come to visit him nearly every day. He lives here in the woods and when he hears the Indian chant he comes to me. Sometimes I ride him but even if I don’t ride him just being with him gives me such peace’. With that Charlie got hold of Amy by the waist and raised her up onto Sakima’s back. ‘How does that feel?’ Come on Sakima, take Amy for a short ride’. Amy grabbed hold of his long silver mane and Sakima began to walk on. After a little while, when the horse was confident that Amy felt comfortable and safe on his back, he broke into a gentle canter that was like floating on a cloud. His hooves hardly touched the ground and his mane and tail flowed like ribbons through the air. Amy felt like she was in a dream. When Sakima took her back to Charlie, Amy leant forward and hugged his huge neck and then leapt off him. She then ran to her grandfather,who she adored, and gave him a big hug too.

‘You see Amy, in life there are bad things that happen like when you lost your parents in that horrible car crash and like the limp that you have in your leg and I know that it is very hard to accept but unfortunately it is a part of life – things don’t always work out as you plan or hope they will. But then, there are also beautiful things that happen like Sakima which is the surprise that your grandmother and I had for you. He will help you when you are sad, just hug his neck and his tranquility and peace will enter into you. And when you are really in trouble he has a secret that you will find out for yourself’.

‘What is his secret?’ asked Amy eagerly. ‘No, Amy I can’t tell you because it’s up to him to decide when to show it to you and not me. When he does show it to you it will be because he knows that you really need his help’.
Charlie and Amy patted Sakima goodbye and rode back to the farmhouse while Sakima watched them leave. When Amy got home she couldn’t wait to tell her grandmother what happiness she was feeling. Joanna laughed.

‘We knew that this would make you very happy but your grandfather didn’t want to show him to you until he was sure that you were ready to appreciate him and had truly learnt how to feel for animals’. That night Amy dreamt that she was galloping through the woods with Sakima, jumping over streams, soaring up hills and racing against the birds. She slept like an angel.

Chapter 2
Amy had to go to school every other day and Charlie would take her in his truck as the nearest town was about 50 kilometres away. She didn’t like school as there were some other children in her class that were always trying to be nasty to her and making fun of her leg which had been damaged in the car accident. Although Amy was a pretty girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes and she was always kind to everyone, it seems that children don’t always see those good points and just pick on any weakness – her leg. She didn’t tell her grandparents about this as she didn’t want to worry them but this was the reason why she didn’t like going to school.

Today was going to be especially tough as they had organized a sports day and Amy had been picked by Miss Martinez to run in a relay team with 3 of her class mates Clare, Jane and Sammantha, who in reality were her 3 worst enemies. Amy couldn’t understand the thinking behind Miss Martinez! Everyone knew already that she was not going to be able to run as fast as the others and that if that meant that the bullies didn’t win the event, they would all take it out on her. Miss Martinez was calling them all to begin the race and Amy wished that she was anywhere else in the world but here. She then thought of Sakima and a smile came to her face – whatever happened at least she had him. She got up and stood in line waiting for her turn.

Dark haired Sammantha was standing behind her and nudged her in her back. ‘You’d better not let us down or else …’ Amy swallowed the frog in her throat and got ready as Clare came charging towards her to throw the baton into her waiting hands. Amy set off and tried to concentrate all her power in her weak leg but it was only worse and after a few yards she tripped and fell. Most of the crowd let out a sigh of ‘Ohhhh ..’ out of pity, but her three class mates let out the biggest ‘Booooo …’ that they could. Amy got up and carried on until the end, knowing that the race was already lost. When she got back to where they were all standing, Miss Martinez gave her a pat on the back saying ‘Well tried’ but her three class mates just glared at her and stormed off.

Amy felt quite beaten and very low and slowly went back to her locker to get changed but when she opened the door she found that all her things had been messed up. Shampoo had been poured all over her clothes, her school shirt had had biro scribbled all over it and her favourite photo of Pepin had been cut up into little pieces. Amy could no longer hold back the tears and went to lock herself up in the bathroom where she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. She not only cried for what had happened now, she also cried for the loss of her parents, for the loss of a good leg and for not understanding how some humans can be so cruel just for the sake of it. It often happens that when one thing upsets you, you end up remembering all the other things that have upset you in the past as well and you cry for everything in one go.

When she had got all her tears out of her she went to wait at the school gates for Charlie to come and pick her up. She was very quiet when she got in the car and just stared at the passing countryside. ‘What’s happened to you my lovely, you don’t look very happy at all?’ asked Charlie. ‘Grandpa, can we go and see Sakima when we get home, I need to have some of his peace?.’ Charlie stroked her cheek knowing that she had had a hard day. ‘We’ll go and see him straight away’.

Chapter 3

When they arrived at the woods, Charlie hummed his Indian chant and sure enough within minutes Sakima was there. This time he was more confident of Amy and went straight up to her nudging her neck with his nose. It was as if he knew that she was the one who needed more attention today. ‘Isn’t he lovely Grandpa!.’ ‘He sure is’ said Charlie with the knowing smile that adults have. Amy put both her arms around his neck and just kept them there, while Sakima kept perfectly still letting her get comfort from him. ‘I know it’s late, but can I ride him again?’. Charlie understood that this would help her.

‘Okay, up you go’ he said, while lifting her up. Sakima immediately began to canter off, knowing already that Amy was comfortable on him, and soon he began to gallop so fast that Amy’s eyes were watering with so much wind against them. They went further into the woods than Amy had ever been, in fact she had never realized how large an area the woods covered. Sakima began to slow down when up ahead they saw a large clearing with a lake and a cascading waterfall. Sakima stopped, turned his head round and nudged her leg with his nose. Amy saw that he wanted her to get down and look at something. She got off and walked beside him towards the edge of the lake. He looked into the water and so did Amy. At first she could see nothing, but then images began to appear and they were not the reflections of themselves.

Amy saw her 3 school mates messing up her locker and then running off in fits of laughter. Sakima looked at her and then looked back at the images in the water. They then saw Sammantha, Clare and Jane in the shower rooms covered in (permanent) blue ink that they were having great difficulty in getting off. They were having to use the scrubbing brush that the cleaning lady used to clean the floors and they were making a big fuss as the brush was scratching their skin a whole lot. Amy couldn’t help but feel a bit of a smile come onto her face. She wasn’t happy that they were in trouble but she couldn’t help but feel a little better. She looked at Sakima and said ‘Thank you’ and then Sakima stretched his front legs out as far forward as he could in order to make himself lower so that Amy could climb back onto him.

This time the journey back to Charlie was much more relaxed and as Amy gently rocked with the movement of Sakima’s graceful walk, she was able to look around the woods in more depth. They seemed to be as magical as Sakima. There were flowers of all colours all around seeming to be closed but as soon as they were approached they would open up and let out their perfumes. They passed a wild cat that was lying down and grooming himself while a rabbit nibbled at grass beside him. Amy saw that all the wild life in these woods were in peace and harmony with each other and nobody needed to eat anybody here, they had plenty of grass and nuts all around. If only the rest of the world could be the same. Looking back on the day it hadn’t been that bad after all.!

Chapter 4

The months went by and her school ordeals continued with her three class mates continually trying to make Amy’s life difficult for her but then at the end of the day she always had Sakima who would make it all seem better. Then at the end of the summer term she was told that she had to go to a summer camp for the month of August. Amy didn’t want to go as she would miss Sakima but Charlie and Joanna decided that it would be good for her to go as she had to learn to try and become a bit tougher if only for her own sake.

On her last evening at home she ran to the woods to find Sakima. Charlie had already taught her the Indian chant and so now she was able to call her friend on her own. Sakima came trotting towards her having picked up the urgency in her voice.

‘Sakima, I’m not going to be able to see you for a whole month and I’m going to miss you so much’ whispered Amy into his ear as Sakima held his head low in front of her. Sakima stretched out his front legs, as he always did for, and she climbed on. They galloped towards the lake of images and Amy could see that Sakima wanted her to see something. As they peered into the water the images began to appear. She saw the day when she had been locked up in one of the cupboards of the classroom by the three bullies, well it was always them that did these sort of things to her, and as she suffered from claustrophobia she got into such a panic attack that she couldn’t even get out a scream. Well all of a sudden she had felt that the wall behind her had been shifted and because of this the frame of the door also shifted allowing the door to become unlocked so that she could get out. And then she saw in the images that it had been Sakima who had been by the outside wall and had kicked it in. So she realized that he had a telepathy with her, as she had never screamed out! and that he would always be there to try and help her out of difficulties and no distance was going to change that. That night while she packed her suitcase Charlie came to sit by her bed and speak to her.

‘Don’t worry my sweet, I’ll keep an eye on Sakima while you are away, and besides you already know that he will be keeping an eye on you as well’. Amy gave Charlie a big hug and one little tear escaped from her eye. She really wasn’t looking forward to this trip at all and her heart was breaking at leaving them all behind. As she slept she dreamt again of flying through the clouds on Sakima and while she dreamt there was a gentle smile on her face.

Chapter 5

The idea of a summer camp was for all the children to learn and experience new things out in the country and also hopefully for them to all make good friends. Amy had already become friendly with a girl in her class called Mary and so at least she had a bit of moral support against the three bullies, Sammantha, Clare and Jane. All the children and teachers mounted the coach that would take them to the camp which was about a three hour drive away high up in the hills and forests, and everyone sang songs, played cards or just watched the passing scenery and finally fell asleep. They arrived late in the afternoon to the camp which consisted of various log cabins scattered along the edge of a lake and all around were mountains filled with pine trees. It looked and smelt quite lovely. There was a pier with canoes, rowing boats and small sailing boats tied up to it. There was also as a shed which contained fishing rods, fishing nets, kites to fly, footballs, a badminton table and lots of board games. They were obviously not going to get bored.

Each cabin slept six and Amy was to share with Mary and four other girls who seemed to be quite friendly. They were all told to settle themselves down in the cabins and then after they would be having a supper consisting of sausages and baked potatoes round a camp fire and they would be told the plans for the following day. The three bullies had managed to get a cabin just for themselves which was beside Amy’s and all she could hear were fits of laughter from inside. She shuddered to think what they might be planning next. After the camp fire dinner it was announced that the next day they were going to do a trek through the mountains and Amy and Mary had been drawn to go with Sammantha, Clare and Jane. She just couldn’t believe her bad luck, it seemed that she was always being thrown with them. They were given a map of the area and had to try and get to the other side of the mountains by the evening where there was another camp set up for them. They all had knapsacks with necessary provisions such as sandwiches, water, penknives, ropes and first aid kits.

Amy’s group decided that they would take the route through the highest point of the mountain and set off with the three bullies racing ahead knowing full well that Amy would not be able to keep up with them, and most probably get lost, but at least Mary stayed by her side. ‘Don’t worry Amy. I know how to get to the other side of the mountain without them, we’ll be alright as I’ve got quite a good sense of direction’. Mary was really quite sweet and her only problem was that she was very shy and so sometimes when you are like that people think that you are not friendly. So the two girls struggled on with Mary helping Amy every time she seemed to be about to trip up and sure enough after a very short time Amy and Mary could no longer see the three other girls who had disappeared into the thick trees and bushes that were all around them.

Each group had decided to take a different route so they didn’t see or hear anyone else, all they could hear were the sounds of birds or the occasional rustle of a rabbit diving in to the bushes to hide himself away. It was quite a difficult hike as well as most of it was uphill and there were some parts where Mary would go on ahead to tie a rope to a strong tree and then throw it down to Amy so that she could use it to haul herself up.

Chapter 6

The two girls continued their hike chatting away as they walked and becoming very good friends, laughing at funny things that had happened to them in the past and comparing their likes and dislikes. It was turning out to be a really nice expedition and Amy was feeling really happy when suddenly they heard some screams in the distance up ahead of them.

Mary ran on ahead to find that the three bullies had decided to be clever and had found a cave to hide in where they had probably planned to ambush Amy and Mary when they went past, but unfortunately the rocks around the entrance had broken off and there was a huge one that was blocking their exit with only a tiny little hole at the side which was barely big enough to poke a finger through. ‘Don’t just stand there’ shouted Sammantha, ‘Go and find some help to get us out of here, this place is tiny and we’ve hardly any air left !!!.’ Mary and Amy didn’t know what to do. It could take hours to try and find the others as it would need masses of people to shift those rocks so they couldn’t even begin to try themselves and what was more was the danger that there were a whole lot more rocks above that were threatening to fall down and if that happened nobody would be able to get them out ever.

Amy suddenly began to hum the Indian chant. ‘What on earth are you doing’ shouted Clare ‘This is no time for singing, hurry up and get us out!!. Mary looked at Amy and also wondered what on earth was she doing at a time like this, but Amy carried on humming with her eyes closed. Suddenly there was a rustle and everyone looked towards some bushes. They began to move and part and there in front of them was Sakima. ‘Wow’ exclaimed Mary ‘Where did he come from.? Amy ran up to Sakima and gave him a big hug and knew that he would know what to do. Mary was still staring with her mouth wide open. ‘Don’t worry’ said Amy ‘I’ll explain everything to you later, but now we need to hurry’. Amy rushed to get the rope from her knapsack and tied one end round the biggest rock that had fallen and then tied the other end round Sakima’s neck. ‘Come on Sakima, pull the rock away’. Sakima rounded his proud neck and began to walk in the opposite direction using all his weight to pull. The rock was easing bit by bit while Amy stayed by Sakima’s side giving him encouragement and guiding him.

Samantha Clare and Jane were taking it, in turns, to watch everything through the little hole and couldn’t believe their eyes. Where on earth had Amy found such a beautiful creature and who on top of it seemed to understand her. Eventually the rock came away with all the other smaller rocks falling away as well leaving the three girls free to scramble out. As they made their way out they were very silent and the three of them looked at each other in shame. Jane was the first one to speak. ‘Thank you Amy. If it hadn’t been for you and your horse I think we would never have got out’. ‘Yes’ said Clare ‘and we realize that you helped us in spite of us being so nasty to you’. ‘We’re really sorry Amy for everything that we’ve done to you and we want you to be our friend’ said Sammantha as she put out her hand for Amy to take. Amy shook her hand and smiled. She was so happy that they had at last accepted her but she also smiled knowing that Sakima had helped to make all this possible.

Chapter 7

As the now happy group made their way towards the other side of the mountain, Sakima walked alongside them as if he was going to make sure that they didn’t get into any more trouble while Amy, filled with pride, told them all about Sakima. The girls were amazed that there was actually telepathy in the world and even more so that it could exist between a human and such a magnificent animal.

The sun was beginning to go down and they knew that they were at last nearing the other side of the mountain because they could hear the laughter and chatter of the rest of the group who had already arrived and were beginning to light a camp fire. Sakima nudged Amy in the waist and she looked at him and knew that he was telling her that he was going to leave them now as he was sure they were at last our of danger. All the girls gave him a last pat and he disappeared as silently as he had appeared. Amy had asked the girls to keep everything a secret, but somehow she sensed that that was not going to be possible and sure enough, as soon as they arrived Clare just couldn’t wait to go running to tell the whole story to one of the teachers. Well Amy was getting wise also and half knew what the reaction of the teachers would be ‘O’h come on Clare, you’ve got to try and stop making up stories or else no one will believe you when something really does happen’. Clare looked aghast. ‘But Miss Martinez, it really did happen’.

‘Okay, Clare, if you say so’ said the teacher in a bored tone as she patted Clare on the shoulder and walked off. ‘They don’t believe us and we have nothing to prove that it happened’, said Sammantha in a, not like her, defeated voice. Amy looked at Sammantha and the others. ‘We can’t do anything to prove it, but what does it matter, you and all of us know that it happened and it will always stay our secret. Sakima is something special and if we ever let other people who haven’t got good hearts know about him they might take him away to do awful tests on him and that would ruin his life, and we don’t want that ever’. The three girls looked in horror.

‘Don’t worry Amy, we will never tell anyone else again about him, but do you think he would help us if we needed him?’ Amy stayed silent for a while thinking …………………….’I think that if your hearts grow softer and kinder then he might well help you one day when you need him’.

Chapter 8

The girls all enjoyed the rest of their time in the summer camp and all got to be good friends having lots of fun rowing on boats in the lake, going on paper chases and all sorts of other events. Jane was the first that was really making a change in her attitude towards Amy. She would always save a place for her round the lunch table and would think of little details like helping Amy climb over the bench with her stiff leg. Soon after Samantha and Clare were also seen to do things that could only be called ‘very kind’ and life was much better for Amy and everyone all round and Amy smiled to herself – she was really happy. And there were still many more things that were to happen that would surprise her!!

In memory of my father ‘charles stagnetto’ who taught me the love of horses and something  very special which is unconditional love

Contributing Story Teller   Amanda Stagnetto, is an English living in Spain. She has been writing since I was 18 years old (I am now 55)

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