Thundercloud Chapter III

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Thundercloud was placed in a corral with plenty of water and food. May Magee came to the corral, and stood there looking at the large stallion. Her father and mother had decided that the stallion would belong to her. His coat was dirty and shabby, and his mane filled with burrs, but May dreamed of the day she would be able to tame him and make him look beautiful.

Thundercloud snorted and shook his head when he saw May. He perked his ears and watched her. He switched his tail, as a small warning.

May opened the corral’s gate and slipped in. She closed it and walked to the center of the corral. She had a lunge whip with her. She clucked and tapped the ground behind Thundercloud with the whip.

Thundercloud bolted, and galloped wildly around the corral. May did not urge him any more. She just watched him in awe, as the powerful stallion pumped his muscles and as his mane bounced on his powerful neck as he galloped. Thundercloud finally slowed and snorted. May tapped the ground again, but this time Thundercloud kicked his hind legs out toward the whip, sending up dust as he again bolted.

He finally stopped and looked at May. May took a few steps toward him, and then retreated a step backward. Thundercloud considered running again, but he didn’t as May backed up.

May clucked, but did not tap the ground. Thundercloud bolted, but soon slowed to a lively trot. May noticed that he did not sweat, and concluded that he had a lot of stamina.

May stopped clucking and watched him. “Easy boy,” she said calmly. The stallion slowed down, and finally stopped and looked at her. May could tell that he was listening to her cues.

May’s seventeen-year-old brother Willard then came up. “Hey, how’s Thundercloud?”

May looked at him surprised. “Thundercloud?”

“Yeah, Dad found out he is Thundercloud, and has contacted his breeders. His breeders said that they had auctioned him off, but had forgotten to give the buyer the papers, so they still have it. It also appears that the buyers were going to send him to slaughter.”

May’s eyes opened wide. “Thundercloud? I think that’s a nice name for him.”

“Hey, how is he doing?” asked Willard, looking at Thundercloud who was calmly sniffing the ground.

“He’s doing great. He seems to be listening to me.”

“Just don’t get too confident. He may have been abused before and may be waiting his chance to exact revenge,” said Willard, heading back to the house.

“Thundercloud, you won’t hurt me will you?” said May, looking at Thundercloud. “We’re going to be friends, right?” Thundercloud lifted his head and looked at her. As if to tell her that he wasn’t a friend yet, Thundercloud snorted, and shook his head proudly, holding it high.

“Oh, come on,” said May, tapping the whip gently on the ground behind him. Thundercloud took off in a slow canter, holding his head high and snorting every once in a while.

For the next few weeks, Thundercloud was kept in the corral, and May lunged him without a lunge rope every day. Every day Thundercloud became more comfortable with her, and using treats to coax him, May eventually was able to touch him. As he became more comfortable, May decided that he was ready to be haltered.

May walked into the corral, with a carrot in her hand. Thundercloud nickered, but did not come toward her. “Hey, when will you stop being aloof!” she scolded. She held the carrot out to him and he daintily accepted it. Then she walked to his side and stroked his neck. She slipped the halter’s rope over his neck, and then slipped the halter on. Surprisingly, he did not fight it. “He’s been halter-broken before,” she thought.

She clucked and began walking forward. Thundercloud began to prance forward, throwing his head up and down. “Easy!” said May as he half-reared. “You need to learn some ground manners,” she scolded him.

As time progressed, so did Thundercloud. He came to be more obedient with May. May was finally able to bridle him, and then saddle him. As she worked more with him, she knew that the time would soon come when she would need to ride him.

Thus, on a bright spring morning, May walked into Thundercloud’s corral. She bridled him, and then placed the saddle on him. Thundercloud endured this patiently.

May then, using a mounting block since Thundercloud was so tall, slipped her foot into the stirrup and swung herself on. Thundercloud flicked his ears backward, and tensed his body. May then dismounted and praised the stallion.

When he was relaxed, May again mounted him. Thundercloud did nothing, only listened for her cues. A few days later, May mounted him then clucked, squeezing her legs into his sides. Thundercloud suddenly tensed up, and May, sensing this, quickly spoke soothing words to him. He soon calmed down and began moving out at her cue.

Within the next few months, Thundercloud proved to be a willing partner, though he always had a streak of wariness to him. May continued training him, and finally thought he was ready to race against other horses in the stables. She had taken him to the track earlier, but without any other horses.

May bridled Thundercloud and saddled him up. Willard rode up on Purim, and the horses Cosmonaut, My Typhoon, Rebellion, Icy Atlantic, Remarkable News, Excellent Art, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Kip Deville, Trippi’s Storm, Silent Name, and Jeremy, joined them. May led Thundercloud to Stanley, a young jockey, and he mounted the stallion. Then all the racing horses with their jockeys rode slowly to the gate.

The clanging of the gates was heard and the Thoroughbreds rushed out. Thundercloud galloped forth with an early lead. However, Remarkable News began to gain ground and finally passed Thundercloud. May watched worriedly as Thundercloud began to drift away from the fence. She knew that he would have a harder time if he did not hug the fence. She noticed the Stanley was urging Thundercloud toward the fence, but the stallion seemed to have his own mind.

Excellent Art came up behind Thundercloud and passed him, and Cosmonaut soon followed. May watched as Stanley finally got Thundercloud closer to the fence, just as they began going through the first turn. They passed the second turn, with Thundercloud being passed by Nobiz Like Shobiz. As they approached the second turn, May watched as Thundercloud picked up speed. His legs were pumping like pistons and his muscles rippled under his shining black coat. He soon passed Nobiz Like Shobiz and began gaining on Excellent Art, who had dropped behind Cosmonaut. Excellent Art had begun to tire, and Thundercloud soon passed him.

Next came Cosmonaut, but Cosmonaut sped up and soon passed Remarkable News. Cosmonaut sped ahead as Thundercloud inched his way passed Remarkable News. He galloped after Cosmonaut, closing the gap as his strides lengthened. Cosmonaut was the pride of the Magee Stables, and he was showing Thundercloud that he would not be easy to beat.

His legs pumping and the wind whistling through his mane, Thundercloud gained on Cosmonaut. Soon his head was aligned with Cosmonaut’s back. The finish line loomed close, and Thundercloud inched his way forward, until the two racing Thoroughbreds were neck to neck. The finish line was suddenly there, and Cosmonaut’s nose hit the invisible line a scant few inches before Thundercloud’s.

May ran toward her stallion and hugged him. “You did well on your first race!” she praised the stallion.

Thundercloud was soon registered in an official race. He was three years old, and ready to start his racing career. The day before the race, Stanley, the jockey, confided to May that he was going to take a chance with Thundercloud, a chance that could make this race or break it. He said that he would push him to top speed at the beginning of the race, usually a grave mistake. “But,” he told her. “He has more stamina than I’ve ever seen in a horse, and he may just leave all the other racers in the dust.”

May knew it was a chance that would not work for most horses, but she had confidence that her Thoroughbred from the wild horse herds would not fail her.

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