Relaxation. An absolute cornerstone in dressage and one of the most fundamental principles of working the horse, from fresh under saddle all the way to grand prix. Karn Evil was on the right track – although young and unbalanced still, he carried himself in a manner that practically emanated attentiveness and relaxation.
Simon Kvark on the sideline, however – while attentive, he was anything but relaxed. He was still and quiet but the way his jaw was set and the way his shoulders tensed gave him away. He realized he was biting into one of his fingernails and made a conscious decision to stop that immediately - no need to ruin a perfectly fine manicure over this.
Absent-mindedly he let his fingers stroke over the silky fur of his small dog instead – something said dog did not mind in the least – but he kept his eyes glued to the arena… or, more specifically, to Karn and Steinadler.
Why Gideon had been left in charge of Karn Evil was beyond him. The young stallion, judging from the talent he already showed, had a most interesting potential in dressage. Simon had taken note of the horse from his very first work day at Zdarloch – he had in fact already offered the Zdarloch owners that he personally make use of the horse's potential by taking over the reins in order to prepare the zlesdin for next year’s Young Horse Championate. An offer which had unfortunately been rejected on no other grounds than the sentimental notion that ‘Gideon should be allowed to be in charge of his favourite horse when he was ready to return to the stable’. Simon had of course smiled and accepted this under the guise of ‘agreeing entirely’ that it would be a beautiful notion - in reality he considered it a small wonder the stable had only been on the verge of bankruptcy if that was how they made their decisions. Such sentimental rubbish…
It seemed like a waste of good horse. Already the stallion's education had been delayed a few months on account of Gideon’s stay in the hospital. Then the plan for Gideon to personally educate the young horse despite his crippling injury would set the stallion even further back compared to his age. There was no way he would make it to the Championates next year – especially now that Gideon had fallen out with Phuong and would have no way of re-training his lost function until they cleared things up.
…or so Simon had thought until today. Because it turned out to be Stein who would be given primary reign over Karn Evil to get him up-to-date. And Gideon? Why, he had meanwhile been saddled with a certain 'Monty', Stein's 20-something year old now-retired former Grand Prix partner - the very same horse Gideon has ridden his first Grand Prix on so many years ago. As this horse was a perfect gentleman he would now serve as the perfect schoolmaster for Gideon once more. And that suddenly changed everything...
Kvark took a sip from his soda can, as if he was trying to get a taste of the situation that put him in. Gideon and Stein were a strong team; they always had been. Without Stein Gideon was nothing - she was the backbone and driving force behind his success. If she believed he and Karn would be ready for the Championate next year, then it would be so. And how far could they make it in two years? Far enough, Simon feared, that the Zdarloch owners would hire him to be Sagadir's rider once more. Not because he was better, of course (come on! Nobody was better, right?!) - but on the same ridiculously sentimental grounds that they had insisted Karn Evil should be reserved for him. It would not matter that Sagadir thrived and blossomed with his new rider - what mattered was old friendships and nepotism. Just like 'new money' were not held in the same high regards as 'old money' in certain circles. And if there was one thing Simon despised it was established conventions, conservative snobbery and adherence to meaningless tradition.
'Hey dad - you know, that Zdarloch contract with the new horse you secured me? That really expensive one? Yeah, I let the former guy waltz right back in and reclaim it. I watched quietly and politely as it happened, like a good sport.'
Yikes. He would not want to ever have to say those words. Last year had been bad enough with Spiegelau's injury and his father's repeated inquiries as to why Simon was not bringing home victories for the months it lasted. This would be even worse. It would effectively leave him without a horse to compete with at all, since Spiegelau only had 2-3 more showing seasons left provided he remained injury-free, of course. That would be a devastating development. Just like that time when --
...nono. Better not dwell on that. The point was that there was just no way he would roll over and accept that fate. Not again. Never again.
This training Gideon and Stein were undertaking could only mean one thing: they were plotting to undermine him. But that was the thing about plotting - the better you are at it, the worse off it leaves you. To squash resistance you have to hit first and hit hard.
,,So are you going to actually do something or just sit around and watch?”
Heh. Yes, exactly the question he was asking himself, albeit Steinadler probably had another reason for asking. He looked up from his thoughts and returned her rather cold glare with a radiantly charming smile of his own.
,,Why Stein, you batty old spinster, I thought you just told me to ‘wait’.” He proclaimed in a silky voice, leaning casually against the barrier. ,,You were all, ‘don’t disturb us by training your own horse right now; young Karn and young Gideon both need a peaceful training environment’. So, you know, I have nothing better to do than to hang around, watch and wait for my turn to be ‘allowed’ into the arena.”
Stein’s expression did not even budge an inch.
,,Use more lube.”
,,You’re acting butthurt.”
Urgh. If there was another thing he could not stand it was jokes made at his expense.
,,Succumbing to vulgarities is so very middle class, sweetheart." he retorted, casting a glance to his nails. ,,But fine. If my presence makes you so self-conscious about your riding..."
That emitted a smile from Stein. It cut across her face not unlike the way a lightning strikes, but Simon did not wait for her reply. Instead he made his way back towards the stable to pay a visit to someone who did appreciate his presence while his own plot was starting to form inside his head:
It was his right leg. The question Gideon had refused to answer had answered itself through Phuong. So gullible, she was; so trusting of Simon’s concerned inquiries about an old friend’s health… But while she provided him with useful gossip about the various stable folks over at Zdarloch, he made the majority of observations himself. In the case of Gideon's leg, some meticulous observing of the way he walked, stood… even rested had told Simon everything he needed to know. Gideon always avoided putting too much weight onto that right leg – except, of course, when mounting a horse where he had to rely on it for a brief second.
Maybe a small scare would be enough to convince him he should not get too cocky about his riding just yet. A small reminder that in the saddle – or the mounting block - he was only as safe as his damaged reflexes allowed him to be. And more importantly, it would remind the people of Zdarloch that Gideon was fragile and not physically fit to answer the demands of riding anything even remotely strenuous just yet. If he played his cards right he might even be able to convince them that this observation was grounded purely in goodwill and genuine concern for his old friend's physical and mental health... He had already succeeded in spreading doubts about Gideon's credibility around the stable. The accusation that Simon used fishy training methods had surely painted the picture that Gideon was governed by jealousy. That setup had almost been too easy and the result quite interesting.
...And, on the topic of interesting discoveries: Gideon… you really shouldn’t leave your medication lying around so easily located. Someone with sinister intentions might find it hard to resist a peek.
To be continued ~
Next: 3.10: Squirrel
...oh wait, you thought Simon was actually a decent fella? :')
Hehe. Heh. Heheheheh... maybe.
Welcome to the paranoid world of Simon Kvark.
Kvark, Con, Stein, Monty and ZS Karn Evil reside with me
Own ground texture
Wood texture from cgtextures