The very first Ballyloch Story
I’m excited and, quite frankly, dead nervous about finally announcing the release of my series of short stories on Kindle.
The Ballyloch Stories are based around the clients of a fictitious riding school, Ballyloch Riding School. My intention was not to write ‘horsey stories’ so much, but to write stories about the lives of the people connected to a riding school. While all of the stories have a horse connection of sorts, some of them are more horsey than others – but you’ll figure that out yourselves.
Lucky in Life is not the first one I wrote, but it’s the story that should be told before all the others. It tells the tale of how Liz O’Brien finally realises her dream of opening her own riding school on her parents’ farm near Cork, Ireland, and it sets the scene for the all of the other stories in the series. It’s available to purchase on Amazon.com and I’m giving a free sample of it here, so you can decide if you want to buy it or not.
What I would really, really appreciate from you guys is to share the hell out of this post! Facebook, Twitter, Google+, reblogging… whatever! And, if you like the story, please please please visit Amazon and leave a review. My dream is to build up a following for the Ballyloch stories and ultimately to release a collection of the stories in book format – a real book! One with pages and everything!
No more waffle. Here we go. I truly hope you enjoy it and those that are to follow.
Lucky in Life
A Ballyloch Story
I closed the feed room door and stood for a moment, listening to the soothing sound of my horses as they munched their way through their evening feed. My horses! After sixteen years of looking after other peoples horses, I finally had my own horses, in my own stables, on my own land. Ballyloch Riding School, MY riding school, was ready for business. An old barn on my parent’s farm had been renovated and extended, so that it now contained fifteen stables, with a brand new indoor arena tacked on at the side. A much larger outdoor arena was under construction and my thirty acres of grazing was neatly fenced into a series of horse-friendly paddocks. There were forty clients on my books, waiting to start riding lessons and I’d already received several enquiries from prospective livery clients. I felt like the luckiest person in the world as I slid the big barn door shut, and I couldn’t stop a smile from spreading across my face.
How lucky am I, I thought, as I clipped the padlock shut on the door.
I’ve always had more than my fair share of luck. I was ‘that kid’ out show-jumping who would rattle the hell out of every single jump on a course, but still leave all the poles up. People used to ask me if I had a particular technique to make it happen. I would smile and say “That’s a trade secret” but the reality was, it was pure, dumb luck. It was the same with everything. If I bought a scratch card, I’d always win – never much, but I’d always break even – at worst. It was the same with raffles, card games and even betting on horse-racing – I’d never come out at a loss.
People noticed, of course. My Mam took to shaking her had sadly whenever I announced I had won another five euro on a scratch card.
“Lucky in life, unlucky in love,” she would say with a disapproving sniff.
Despite her disapproval, I had cruised serenely through my teens and early twenties, with life throwing opportunities my way at every turn. Sure, I had made some bad choices – doesn’t everyone? Like my first job, when I finished school at seventeen. I’d thought that working for a racehorse trainer would be my dream job, but it turned out to be a nightmare. Never mind the insane hours I was expected to work, or the grim reality of sharing a dingy caravan with three others in the middle of an Irish winter. No, those things were par for the course for anyone working with horses in the nineteen eighties. What broke my heart was the way the horses were treated. I hated the relentless pressure to perform; hated their closeted lifestyle; hated the callousness with which the ‘failures’ were discarded. I quickly came to the conclusion that there was more to horsemanship than this and I quit after three months. I was lucky enough to be accepted as a working pupil by a well-known English riding school, where I did my British Horse Society exams. Two years later, as a newly qualified Riding Instructor and Stable Manager, I packed my bags, flew to Belgium and literally walked into an amazing job as head groom in a dressage yard. It was the first place I tried; I went in on spec to ask if they were hiring; the boss glanced briefly at my qualifications, said that his head girl was leaving in a week, and the job was mine!
After five years, I had seen an ad for a yard manager and travelling groom for a German show jumper. A phone call was enough for me to be offered that job, and I had stayed with Wilhelm Schmidt for four years, before being poached by a wealthy American business man for his show-jumper daughter. Florida sunshine, a generous salary, free accommodation and sponsorship for my American Green Card – who on earth would turn that down?
Six years later, here I was back in Ireland. And luck – stupid, dumb, idiotic Luck, was responsible once again.
I switched off the lights and made my way along the path to my newly built bungalow, remembering the night I got the phone call…
The phone in the hallway was ringing insistently. I looked at the clock beside my bed. It was four in the morning. Four in Florida, but nine in Ireland and ten in Germany. This phone call was probably from Europe and was almost certainly not good news. As I swung my feet over the side of the bed, I heard Markus’ bedroom door open and the thump of his bare feet as he ran to the phone. I sat and listened, heart pounding. Was it for him or for me?
“Okay, I get her,” he said.
I leaped from the bed just as he knocked on my door.
“Liz! Liz! It’s your Mam!” he hissed.
My legs felt a little shaky as I went out into the hall. If Mam was ringing then something must have happened to Da, I thought. Markus handed me the phone with a sympathetic look and tactfully withdrew into the kitchen.
“Hi, Mam?” I began. “What’s up?”
Ten minutes later, I hung up the phone and fumbled for a cigarette from the pack on the hall stand. I lit it, inhaled, and stood for a moment, trying to absorb the news. The door to the kitchen opened and Markus looked out at me, his kind brown eyes full of anxious concern, a steaming mug in each hand.
“Tea?” he asked.
To find out what happened next, click this link to Amazon.com where, for a mere €0.99, you can download Lucky in Life to your Kindle or Kindle app.
(The Ballyloch Stories are based around the clients of the fictitious Ballyloch Riding School, near the non-fictitious city of Cork, Ireland. Each story is intended to stand alone, but the reader may prefer to read Lucky in Life first, as it describes the beginnings of Ballyloch Riding School.
Although the stories are inspired by the author’s experiences during her time running a livery stables near Cork, all of them are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. None of the human characters are intended to resemble any person, living or dead, and any such resemblance is entirely coincidental. Some of the equine characters depicted are based on real horses the author has known over the years but are always presented in a fictitious way.
Copyright 2015 © Martine Greenlee
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.
Trademarked names may appear in this story. Rather than use a trademark symbol with every occurrence of a trademarked name, names are used in an editorial fashion, with no intention of infringement of the respective owner’s trademark.)