Chapter Fourteen: The Plan

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        When Ms. Holt comes back, she's holding a saddle, bridle, saddle pad, girth, and jumping boots. "Girls, I have a plan. Does Raquel know any tricks?"

        "Yeah, she knows a bunch. Why?" I ask, holding Raquel defensively.

        "Does she know limp, fall (down), rear, or how to throw her head on command?" Ms. Holt asks.

        "Yeah, but she's not too good at throwing her head on command," I reply.

        "Okay. Here's what we will do. This tack will make it look like you're still using your original tack. I'll be talking to Jess and Sara about our lesson, and you will ride Raquel up to me. When you're almost to me, make it obvious you're putting pressure on Raquel's noseband or adjusting yourself in the saddle. Then have her rear 'in pain' and fall to the ground. You should try and 'fall off' when she rears. Then Maggie, give Reagan Moom's reins and help Cami up, and lead Raquel 'to the vet'. But in reality, just lead her to the barn until you hear the announcer call for Cameron Taylor, then Cami, you mount Raquel at the barn and rush back to the course, run your round, and win," Ms. Holt explains. "And please, just call me Lynn."


Jessica's POV

        It's 7:30. One hour until I try out for the cross country team. One hour until Cameron Taylor's beloved horse get mysteriously injured.

        "Hey Sara," I say. She moves in her bed.


        "Do you think the plan will work?" I ask, referring to the pins we put all over Cameron's tack.

        "Yes! I'm so excited for this. Then you can become the captain and we can rule the school," she replies.

        It sounds evil, awful, and wicked, but it's for the horse's own good. She needs to be replaced.


Cami's POV

        There's five minutes until tryouts start, and I'm certain that Raquel is 100% pain free. She's using Lynn's tack, and we ran a practice run on the course. She flawlessed it. Maggie told Rea and Mason about the plan. Reagan and Mason are out by the competators, and Maggie is running back to me right now.    

        "Everything's all set," she says. "You're fifth on the list. Sara's fifteenth and Jess is twentieth. Plenty of time for Lynn to get them in trouble. You're supposed to compete in twenty, so I'd go out now. I'll go first and talk to Rea and Mason. He's holding Moon right now because he's not competing for the team."

        I nod and mount Raquel. We practiced out routine many times, and I'm certain it will work. I mastered the emergency fall and I feel very confident about it. I get a text from Maggie and it's show time.


        I walk over to the competition area and Raquel walks like she's in discomfort. Everyone is looking at me.     

        "Cam, something's wrong with Raquel," Mason says, noticing her 'limp'.

        "What?!" I say in a fake scared voice, pulling back sharply on the reins, but not too sharp because I don't want to hurt Raquel. On que, when I pull the reins back, Raquel rears, and I tumble off her back. I fake scream when I hit the ground, and Maggie helps me up. She takes a hold on Raquel, who has greatly exaggerated her discomfort, and leads us to the 'vet'. In the barn, Maggie turns to me.

        "That was perfect!" Maggie says. I quickly do a check on Raquel to make sure she's not in any pain, and she doesn't flinch anywhere I pet her.

        "Oh, thanks," I say, wiping all the dirt off of me. I get a text from Mason.

        They totally fell for it. They were smiling and talking excitedly to each other. 

        I smile, and grab my actual bridle, the one with the needles in them. All of the sudden, I hear the announcer say "Cameron Taylor, competing in three minutes."

        I mount Raquel, holding the bridle, and canter her to the XC course. I smile when I see the confused looks on people's faces and toss the bridle to Lynn, who catches it and grabs Sara's horse and Jess's horse, leading them away to Student Support. Then I start my run.

        Instead of hearing only Raquel's movements on the course like I'm used to in my lessons, people are positioned around the course, cheering and rooting people on. I work harder and harder on each jump, pushing Raquel to work harder than she's ever worked. On every jump, I make sure my eyes are up and my heels are down, my back straight. On the bank down into the water, I lean back so that I don't get thrown.

        On one of the long stretches of flat land, I see my dorm group lined up and cheering for me. I smile and encourage Raquel to run faster. Not only is this my fastest run yet, it's also one of my most flawless. There's only two corner jumps left and we haven't hit a single one, and I expect to keep it that way. I push Raquel a bit further, and she knows the course. She knows the end is near, so she picks up her pace, jumps higher, focuses on me.

        We finish the course in record time.

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