Mark Goes to Vienna

© 2013 by a horse charity and the author

Mark is a young lad, like any young lad … he likes football, soccer and basketball. He lives in a small town where life is easy and you can pretty much do what you want to do for fun.

His sister, Stormy, is always ranting about her horse riding, running around in tight riding breaches and tall black riding boots. She rides often and likes to show off by making the horse jump over logs and barrels.

She does a lot of fussing about and bragging about her horse and her blue ribbons from many contests.

Mark says he wants nothing to do with all of this horsing around. “Give me my soccer game and leave the horsing around to Stormy,” he says.

One day, Dad takes the family to Oakbrook to see a horse polo game.

“Seems like this is a lot like hockey or soccer, but played on a horse, says Mark. No girls are riding today, but the ponies are small compared to Stoney’s horse. They can cut and turn much faster. They sweat like crazy from the constant running.

After each period of play, called a chucker, Mark notices that the rider gets a new, fresh horse. The one ridden is cooled down by wringing big sponges of cold water over their bodies.

Maybe Mark would go again to see the polo matches, but without his sister, Stoney.

When they got back home, Dad had an announcement to make at the dinner table. He was being called to a special assignment in Switzerland for the coming summer. He would take mother along, but his sister would have to spend the summer with Aunt Margaret in Boston. So where would Mark go?

Dad gave him a choice of going along to Boston with Stoney or going to a special camp in northern Wisconsin. It was called Camp Arrowhead on Trout Lake and was more than 400 miles from home. There would be many activities at Camp Arrowhead, including fishing, camping, hiking, nature stuff like learning about snakes and raccoons.

Mark decided camp was better than going to Boston.

When school ended some bags were packed with clothes and a couple of books. Included in the luggage was two new pair of boots. One was for hiking and the other he hardly recognized: ugh! Black riding boots like Stoney’s, only in a young boy’s size and style. What was this all about he wondered.
Well, dad explained, there would be several kinds of horseback riding available: trail riding, barrel racing, pleasure riding and just plain simple events with some jumping. He said Mark could choose any or all kinds of riding, except he had to agree to try each kind at least twice before he made his final choices.
Ugh! Just like sister Stormy, he thought, riding horses and getting a sore butt. Well, at least there would be snakes and fishing. Maybe he even would see a wild bear!

So off they went to Wisconsin …. It was an awfully long trip and they stopped for lunch along the way in Stevens Point. Finally they arrived.

Everybody shared a tent with one other camper. The tent was raised up on a wood platform and had two cots for sleeping. There also were cabins for bad weather days. Up on a hill was the Grand Hall where everybody would meet for meals and stories and such.
When the summer ended, Mark had learned more about outdoor live. He had learned all about fishing and tracking wild animals in the woods.
He even learned how to barrel race and do special events riding a horse.
Didn’t seem so bad when he was the one commandeering the horse. Eventually he got to like how he and the horse seemed to understand each other.

So back to civilization and regular soccer he went. There were no more mosquitoes and no more fish. Horses again were for Stormy. But Mark kind of missed his horse.
And so the next summer, Dad had to go to Vienna. But this time Mark would go along and Stormy would stay home with Mom.

Dad was busy all day long in Vienna which was a wonderful, Old World kind of city in Europe. Flying there was fun, but also took a long time.

While dad was conducting his business, the lodge concierge found some activities for Mark. He was escorted around the city and discovered some very old, small carriages each drawn by a team of two horses. He inquired about these carriages and was told he could learn to drive them.
To Marks amazement, he was able to talk to the horse with ease and soon was directing the horse about town. So Mark decided he liked this and asked if he could hang with them for the summer.
Mark was so good at handling the horses that they asked him if he would like to drive each day that he came. He did and met a lot of new people from all over the world who visited Vienna, Austria.
Turned out, this was better than fishing in northern Wisconsin.

When Mark returned to his home at the end of summer not one of his friends had such an exciting story to tell. Even his sister Stormy did not top his stories. She had won blue ribbons in contests with her horse, but she did not drive a carriage in Vienna with passengers from all over the world.
So Mark decided that horses are alright.

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