Chapter 1: The Orchid Garden
Hello! My name is Lilly, but you have most likely heard of me as Flying Orchid, the top tier pony girl racer and the winner of last year's Grand UPGA finals. I would like to think of myself as an attractive blond woman, but men have always been intimidated by my 6’2” height and athletic build. Anyway, enough of that, let me tell you how I became a premier racer pony.
I have always dreamed of being a pony girl but my parents were not on board with that idea, and instead sent me to a Uni.
“Lilly Turner, you are a smart young lady and you will not participate in this awful new trend!”
Fine, maybe they didn’t sound like that, but that was the message. My parents were old fashioned and strict but it still hurt me beyond words when they died in a car crash 12 years ago.
Stricken with grief I dropped out and after some soul searching decided to invest a sizable sum of my inheritance money into a startup idea that I’ve had with some university friends.
Our new business blew up and I was making more money then my admittedly simple lifestyle could ever require, but I was still unhappy. The dream of being a pony girl was still burning deep inside of me and would not let me go.
So when a large corporation offered to buy our company I was the first onboard with the idea and soon had a very large fortune to my name.
Now, before we go any further I have to clarify that to become a pony girl you have to find a stable that would take you in and sign a contract. You would become a property of that stable for the duration of the contract and will be taken care of by an assigned trainer and helpers.
All stables operate under the United Pony Girl Association (UPGA), mostly for-profit, and have their own rules as long as they follow the UPGA regulations/guidelines.
A pony girl is an asset. They participate in races, shows, and other events. They can also be rented out for private and public functions. How to use their pony girls is up to the management of each stable, but the regulations make sure that they keep their girls safe and healthy.
Rich and prominent stables tend to have a lot of staff tending to 10 and more pony girls, but most stables are smaller operations consisting of one owner, one trainer (often the same person) and 2, rarely 3 ponies.
Regulations state that no trainer can take care of more than 3 pony girls, and hiring a second one can be too expensive.
Now at 25 I was too old to even hope to sign with any stable, but that didn’t stop me.
If you wanted to open a stable you had to make an application to the UPGA board and present them with a business plan, so an idea came to my mind.
When I presented my case to the UPGA board, the initial reaction was shock.
“You can’t do that!”
“This is unheard of!”
“What about safety?”
The room was heating up, until an elder silver haired gentleman spoke up.
“Ladies and gentlemen enough. This is unbecoming of you!”
His calm voice projected unquestionable authority and the whole room fell silent.
“In the thirty years that I have served on this board I have never heard anything like this. However I also don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible. There is nothing in the regulations against a pony girl owning her own stable, and with mandatory checks we can ensure compliance.”
Finally a kindling of hope for my case, but the battle was still far from over.
“What if she is mistreated and the check up fails to recognize that? Our inspectors are only human after all, and it would be easier to fool them without owner oversight!” The lady who spoke up was Samantha Richards, an ex-pony girl star who now owned a stable herself.
The elder gentlemen once again came to my rescue. “It will be no different to the stables where the owner trains their ponies themselves. Actually it would be better. Ms. Turner would have to attend stable owner meetings, as a human of course, where no trainer could have an influence on her. And she would be able to provide valuable insight as well.”
Finally the sound of approval was drowning out the remaining naysayers and it was time to make the final decision.
“I, Graham Williams Dawson, the chair of this board, call for a vote. All in favor of approving the application, please raise your hand.”
I could not believe my eyes, the majority of board members had their hands in the air. My application was approved! Of course a lot of work was still to be done afterwards but the biggest obstacle was overcome!
The following month was a blur of signing forms attending meetings and stable owner training (mostly going over regulations), but it was all finally over and all paperwork was done.
I have purchased myself a nice ranch with a decent house and a lot of surrounding land. I have planned a top notch stable with all state of the art technology I could afford. The house would be for the trainer and any possible helpers. After some guidance from Mr. Dawson I have also made myself an office and a small bedroom for when my owner duties would draw me out of the barn.
A new sign over the gates read “Orchid Garden Stable” an official name of my new business.
My long time friend and accountant Felicia would be handling all of the finances since I would have a hard time managing them while being a pony.
Finally there was another matter to settle. I was getting frustrated but none of the candidates so far were worthy of being hired as my trainer. Many turned away simply because of an unorthodox arrangement of working for someone you were supposed to be in charge of and the rest were simply incompetent or creepy.
Today was promising to be different. Fellow stable owner Samantha, who was initially against my idea, and still questioned the whole arrangement, put me in contact with a trainer, Kate, when she heard of my struggles. Supposedly she was very good, but was out of work due to some unfortunate turn of events, Samantha refused to tell me more.
With construction going all around the house I have decided to conduct the interview in a small gazebo by the creek, the weather was nice and it would allow for a less formal conversation. I have instructed the construction workers to show the candidate where to go, and left to prepare myself.
With so many rejections one might think that my standards were too high, but for the salary I was willing to pay, I don’t think I was being too picky. All I wanted was for a girl around my age, with at least some experience, and not being too heavy on the eye.
So when Kate arrived it was one out of three already. She was a 5’1 cute, brunette, about perfect size for a jockey with very fine lines in her facial features.
“Hello, my name is Kate Johnson, I am here for an interview.”
Her voice was calm and quiet, a bit too quiet for someone who was supposed to take charge. Her posture was reserved, almost shy.
“Hello Ms. Johnson, my name is Lilly Turner, but you can call me Lilly, I will be conducting the interview, please make yourself comfortable.”
Kate sat down still looking reserved and a little out of place. I was about to ask her if she was feeling alright when she spoke up.
“Just Kate is fine. Is it true that you are both the owner and the pony girl I will be in charge of?”
Ah, that question! Most interviews ended on that question and it seemed like this one was no exception.
“That’s the case. If this isn’t something you are comfortable with let's not waste any more of each other’s time.” It may have come out a bit too aggressive, but I was mentally exhausted.
“No, no! It’s fine, just wanted to confirm.”
“Oh, sorry if I came across too harsh, I am just tired of people leaving after that question.”
This exchange seemed to give a little confidence boost to Kate. She straightened up and suddenly looked a lot larger than her petite form could possibly allow.
“Good, now that we have established that I am okay with your arrangement and since I will be the one in charge of you if I am hired, I will be the one leading this conversation.”
Now that left me speechless. How dare she? But at the same time a different feeling was starting to kindle inside of me. After my parents death, I was in charge of myself, of my business. It felt refreshing let someone else take the reins for once.
“I am 24, I have been a trainer for three years, and left my previous stable last December. I am good at speed and endurance training, but lack experience in the show pony side of things. From the way you look I would judge you as the runner type, so I don’t think it would be a problem and we can work on the show staff together.”
“I don’t care if you are the owner, If you hire me, I will be in charge and you will do as I say, or I will punish you accordingly. When you are a pony you are a pony, period.”
That was so scary and exciting at the same time! Finally someone who understood what I wanted and was willing to help!
“Still, you will have owner duties to attend to, and even regular pony girls get some time off at most stables, so how are you intending to split your time?”
Another important question, but this one was easy.
“I want to be a full time pony, released only when absolutely necessary, either because of my duties or if you decide so.”
“Good answer. I prefer my girls in pony round the clock. If this arrangement is to work I request we have at least four meetings a year where I release you, and we talk as owner to trainer to assess our plans and expectations for the future and settle any possible issues.”
My heart was racing now, she is the one!
“That's a good idea! By the way Samantha refused to tell me what happened at your previous stable, could you please tell me?”
Suddenly color drained from Kate's face and she looked like she almost choked.
“…There was an accident… I… I don’t want to talk about it… If that's a problem I will show myself out.”
That was unexpected. Of course it was a problem. But it was going so well. She was the first one to understand me… No, I couldn’t let her leave.
“Never mind. Would you like to look at what I have got so far? The construction is still far from finished, but I can show you around.”
“Thank you, I would like that.”
Not sure if she thanked me for the proposed tour, or not pressuring her for details, I decided to take her to the barn.
“As you can see the stables are in line with the regulations, I have also commissioned a state of the art computer controlled mechanical system that will help you with your job. Should be finished in a few weeks. In fact when it's fully operational it will even be able to take care of me for a few days at a time. That way you could have a vacation without having to release me.”
Fascinated by the advanced mechanisms, Kate still showed her professional side.
“What about fire safety?”
“That’s top priority! The system will have three independent cores. If one was to fail the others take over. Most modern systems release ponies as soon as an alarm goes off, but this one is different. It will make it top priority to lead me to a designated safe area outside without releasing me, unless all cores are down or the system detects that it can no longer ensure my safety.”
I could go on forever about all the cool tech I have already had installed or was waiting for, but we have reached the equipment storage.
“I see you have already purchased a lot of gear.”
We were looking at my shiny new collection of pony girl tack. Bridles, bits, boots, harnesses, you name it I’ve had it all custom made to fit me perfectly. Excitedly I looked for Kate's approval.
“Too bad you were so impatient. You know that rule that only the trainer is allowed to put on and take off the tack?”
“Yes, of course, I am sorry, I was just so excited and shopping helped to take off the stress of the past months.”
Kate further inspected my collection. “Well at least you have so much stuff that we will be able to pick. I hope you at least waited to get a cart?”
Ah yes, the cart. I was so tempted to get one, but it would be way out of line to do so without a trainer. A cart is for the trainer to sit in after all. So I had refrained from getting one.
“No, I haven’t, If you take the job I was hoping we could make a custom one for your liking.”
“I will take care of the carts. I know what we will need and where to get a good deal.”
Did she just say carts? I suppose there would be different ones for different occasions.
Having looked around the stables we have moved on to the house. I offered to let her pick a room but she didn’t seem too interested about where she would be staying so she picked one at random and we went back to the gazebo.
“So will you accept the position or do you need some time to think about it?”
Just like that. I was expecting her to be hesitant or to negotiate the salary, but she just went for it.
“I am so happy to hear it! The construction should wrap up by the end of the month so we can start June 1st.”
“I am starting tomorrow.”
“I am starting tomorrow morning.”
That threw me for a loop. I did not expect her to be so eager.
“Is it because of the money? I can start paying you straight away, but the stable is not ready yet.”
“I want to enter you for the August novice cup, and you don’t even know how to walk in boots yet. We will be starting tomorrow. If you have things to take care of I can release you after four o’clock.”
Unbelievable, she was already thinking about competing!
“But we can’t train here yet, there are construction workers all around!”
“There is plenty of land, and besides you need to get used to being stared at. I will be here at six tomorrow morning and we will begin.”
With that, she signed the contract that I had given her when we returned to the gazebo, and left.