Author's Note: This is not a "lost episode". It's just a vignette in which I've tried to show something about the young(er) Mrs Peel. I don't know whether or not it's worked. Mail me and tell me. I've used my imagination as to where Emma lives please don't write and tell me it's implausible. As far as I'm concerned, Sir John commutes from London to spend weekends/holidays/special occasions with them on the farm. What else do I need to say? Erm, thanks to Anne McCaffrey for unknowingly letting me borrow her title. I promise the plot isn't borrowed but the phrase just seemed so apt that I really couldn't resist it. Accurate people might feel tempted to point out that Pegasus was most likely a male horse. I've used artistic licence and made her female as it suited my purposes better. Oh yes, I also used artistic licence with the locations and mixed up/rearranged Polurrian and Church Cove.

Finally, I'd like to show my gratitude with something more permanent than carrots so I'm dedicating this story to Briar, Perran, Spectra, Murphy, Jasper, Dandini, Dunstan and Sammy.


To Ride Pegasus
  by Young Avenger

Emma stood by her mother impatiently. They had kept horses on the farm for as long as she could remember but her father had insisted that she couldn't have one of her own until she was eleven. When she was old enough to go to boarding school, she would be old enough for a horse. Today was her eleventh birthday and she was desperate to know which horse she was to have.

Her neighbour, Paul Croft came to the mounting block with Babushka, looking like the cat that had got the cream. "You've seen my horse," she accused as she came round to hold his stirrup.

He nodded his head gleefully then swung himself into the saddle.

"Give me a hint," she pleaded. "Is it a he or a she?"

He smirked and shook his head. "Stand on the block so I can blindfold you," he ordered. Emma scowled at him then acquiesed. Paul relented slightly. "It comes from a stables near your London apartment and your father didn't bring it down with him until this weekend. You don't know it."

Before she could badger him for more information, they heard the clatter of hooves. "I'd better move off. Stand quietly now," he teased.

Emma listened carefully. She could hear her horse go forward into trot. Then it halted. What were they doing? It wasn't close enough to mount yet. Her parents came to stand beside her. She could feel her father undoing the blindfold. "Are you ready, Emma?" he asked, whipping it off. "Her name is Pegasus."

Emma's mouth fell open. Pegasus was beautiful. At least sixteen hands, she was a sleek, powerful bay. "Shall we bring her round?" asked her father. She nodded wordlessly.

Up close, Pegasus was bigger than she'd thought. At 5'2", Emma was tall for her age but even she was going to have to step up into the saddle. Pegasus stamped her foot and nuzzled the stable hand. "Get on quickly, miss, before she kills me," he joked. Emma roused herself from her reverie and leapt into the saddle. Eager to be off, Pegasus started forward in trot.

Her father hurried to take the reins so she could do her girth and stirrups. Her mother came up. "Where are you and Paul going to take them?"

Paul answered as Emma had her hands full with Pegasus. "We thought we'd go through the fields to Polurrian and race on the beach. We shouldn't be more than two hours."

"Be careful then, Emma," warned Sir John. "Pegasus is full of the joys of spring so she's very lively." He let go of the reins momentarily to make his point. Pegasus started dancing about. "Don't wind her up and don't get too close to 'Bushka when you race."

"I know that, Father," protested Emma. "I never get too close to 'Bushka - she doesn't like other horses."

"I just thought you might need reminding in your excitement," he answered. "Your mother and I will go to the top of the cliffs and watch so if anything happens you'll know where to find us."

Paul became bored with the conversation. "Let's go then," he cried. So saying, he wheeled round and trotted out of the yard. Emma flashed her parents a smile then followed.

Lady Knight turned to her husband worriedly. "Pegasus is very high-spirited. Shouldn't you have chosen a smaller horse, one Emma might be able to hold?"

Sir John watched his daughter trot after Paul then shook his head. "They're kindred spirits. Emma will learn a lot from Pegasus."

***

As they rode through the fields, Emma looked down at Pegasus. Her ears never stopped moving, twitching from side to side with every little sound. Emma liked that - it meant she had an alert horse, one who responded to what was around her. As if listening in on her thoughts, Pegasus glanced round and spied a wooden sign on a gate. She skittered sideways, jolting Emma off balance and nearly landing her on the ground. Emma glared at her horse. "That was not what I meant when I said I liked alert horses." A few minutes later they came to a hose pipe stretched on the ground. Pegasus looked up at her out of the corner of her eye and tried to shy. This time Emma was prepared and kicked her on over the pipe. "Not this time, spooky horse, I've cottoned on to your little game," she said in mock anger. Pegasus eyed her once more and decided to behave...for the time being.

In order to get to the beach, they had to go on the lanes. Emma kept a sharp eye on Pegasus as the hedgerows were covered with cow parsley but she didn't seem inclined to snack. Paul and Emma had been riding along and chatting for a while when Emma heard a car behind them. Seeing that it was clear, she waved it on casually. As soon as her rider put the reins into one hand, Pegasus spied her chance and dived for the cow parsley. Emma hauled on the reins, muttering nasty things about greedy horses. Paul heard her and glanced back in amusement. "Is everything alright?" he asked mischievously.

Emma glowered at him. "My horse is playing Trick Your Rider."

"It could be worse. She could play Throw Your Rider or Bite Babushka or Spook Onto Car Bonnets or..."

"Alright!" cried Emma, a little sulky because her perfect horse wasn't doing what she wanted. "Point taken. Anyway, 'Bushka has hardly been an angel."

"Ah, but I'm enjoying the contest of wills," he answered infuriatingly. Emma pulled a face at him. "Give her something else to do. Overtake me then trot down to the beach."

As Pegasus sprang willingly into trot, Emma began to feel better about her horse. Pegasus was never going to be a boring ride, in fact, she would be fun.

***

By the time they reached the sea, Emma had started to relish the challenge of riding Pegasus. This wasn't a horse that could be ridden by brute strength, but with the brain. Not that she would be able to push her around anyway, reflected Emma. She was learning to watch out for anything Pegasus could possibly take fright at and to enjoy the constant sense of anticipation, the danger of never quite being sure. Every time Emma thought Pegasus must have run out of tricks, she came up with another one. When she asked her to go in the sea, Pegasus pretended to be scared of the water. When Emma finally got her to go in, she kept going until the water lapped around her stirrups. Eventually Emma turned her contrary horse round and persuaded her to stand by Paul and 'Bushka.

"What more can she come up with?" she asked Paul, half in jest. No sooner did the words leave her mouth than Pegasus started pawing the water, soaking Paul and 'Bushka. Babushka promptly started pawing as well, soaking Emma and Pegasus.

Paul just looked at her. "You shouldn't have asked that," he commented dryly. Shaking himself like a dog, he headed for one end of the beach. "Want to race?"

In answer, Emma kicked Pegasus into trot and tried to catch him up. Unfortunately for her, her mount spotted a sandcastle and stopped dead. Giving up on this race, Emma steered a course which would let her take in the end of the beach on a curve. As she trotted up to Paul, she called out. "Back again?" He waited for her, expecting her to drop out of trot as she approached. Babushka wasn't having it. Seeing Pegasus picking up canter and circling round behind her, she took off in gallop, nearly throwing Paul. Fortunately he stayed with her and brought her back down to a canter. Emma wasn't so lucky. Pegasus had just gone into canter when 'Bushka accelerated off at right angles to her. Getting competitive, she turned midstride, speeding up and depositing Emma on the ground as she did so. After a pace, however, she noticed her lack of rider and stopped, looking down at her curiously.

***
Sir John and Lady Knight had been watching their antics from the top of the cliff. As soon as she saw the accident, Emma's mother started to rush down the path. Sir John grabbed her arm. "Wait, see what she does."

"What do you mean?" exclaimed his wife frantically. "She might be hurt!"

"She's alright. Look, she's getting up," he replied calmly.

"She's never fallen off before, John. She might be too afraid to get back on."

"Of course she will be afraid," came the reply. He turned to face his wife. "But the fear will be good for her. She came off because she wasn't afraid enough to be cautious."

"Please let me go down. At the very least she'll need a leg up. Paul won't be any help, not with 'Bushka," she pleaded.

Sir John looked back down at his daughter. "She won't always have one of us to solve her problems. She must learn to conquer her fear."

***

Emma lay on the sand for a moment, wondering what had happened. She had come behind 'Bushka, 'Bushka took off, Pegasus had followed then...She groaned to herself. Next time I'll give Babushka more space, she thought ruefully. Her reflections were interrupted by two large brown eyes peering at her. Pegasus. She probably wasn't used to having her rider on the floor. Emma stood up carefully and tried to take the reins back. Pegasus had her foot in them. She patted the startled horse soothingly and persuaded her to step off the reins.

At this point Paul realised he had lost his friend and came thundering back. "What happened, Emma?" he asked, concern in his voice.

"Pegasus and I parted company," she said dejectedly.

"Can you get back on? Do you want to get back on? I can go and get your parents, they're only at the top of the cliff."

Emma looked up at her parents, then at Pegasus. She couldn't see what they were doing, but they must be able to see that she was off. They were just standing at the top of the cliff, watching. She sighed. "No, don't do that. I'll manage. I'll take the stirrup down."

The first time she tried to remount, Pegasus danced away from her nervously.

Paul looked at her apologetically. "I'd help, but I don't think proximity to 'Bushka will make things easier."

"It's alright. Pegasus just needs some reassurance. Maybe if you took 'Bushka away..." He complied immediately. After several more failed attempts, Emma succeeded in mounting from the ground.

Seeing that she was back up, Paul came over. "What now?" he asked with false cheeriness. "Walk home?"

Emma shook her head. "Another race. A controlled one this time. One where we reach canter via walk and trot."

Paul studied her carefully before nodding. "Along the beach and back?"

Emma looked back up at the top of the cliff. "No. Along the beach then straight up the track at the far end. Winner is the first one past my parents."

Rather than reply, Paul simply began walking slowly to the starting point. Emma followed. She could feel Pegasus beneath her, begging to be allowed a trot. Emma sat deep in the saddle, refusing to let go until both she and Paul were facing in the right direction. When they had turned round, Paul looked over at her. "Ready?" She nodded and stroked Pegasus' neck. "No overtaking once we're on the track," he warned.

She took a deep breath. "Let's go then!" Nervously, she urged Pegasus into walk. She was stiff-legged, desperate to go faster. Emma could feel Babushka behind them. Then Paul and Babushka overtook. The horses pulled faces at each other and Pegasus went forward into trot. Within strides, Babushka copied. Not wanting another mare-fight, Emma moved Pegasus away. That was better, Pegasus was calmer now - she hadn't tried to throw her. A few metres away, she could see Paul make the canter transition. Pegasus wanted to as well. They were nearing the end of the beach. If she wanted to win she would have to overtake now. Apprehensive, she sat to the trot. Pegasus didn't need any more encouragement, rearing back slightly then leaping forward, passing Babushka rapidly. Emma relaxed and stood up, giving Pegasus her head. As they galloped up the track, everything seemed to go silent, nothing audible apart from the wind.

A few seconds later they approached the top of the track so Emma slowed to canter. She could see her father and mother standing at the side, watching her proudly. She called out to them excitedly. "I did it, Father! I won!"

They smiled and waved as she went past. "Yes, my daughter," he whispered quietly. "You won."

 
©  Young Avenger 2002
No aspect of this story may be used elsewhere without the expressed prior written consent of the author. These stories may not be altered in any way or sold; all copyright information must appear with this work at all times. Please read disclaimers and warnings on top of each story. Feel free to send constructive comments to the author.. :o)  

 
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