Note that I am also writing a physics review monograph, which is a bit slow. However:
“Yes, Snapdragon! You, too!” I took the other pony in my arms, the first Appaloosa pressing close beside the second. For a few moments the three of us snuggled together. It was wonderful to be back home, back with the wonderful creatures that so completely loved me.
A horse head leaned over, poked me firmly in the stomach, then snuffled sideways, questing again for coat pockets and their unspoken treasures.
“Oh, all right. Both of you.” I pushed the ponies apart, enough to jam a hand into each pocket, withdrawing a pair of Golden Delicious apples. The slightest trace of concentration quartered each fruit. Palms and fingers flat, I presented the apples, which were neatly taken up, crunched upon, and swallowed. A further search of coat pockets produced another pair of apples, which rapidly followed the first, and two large lumps of maple sugar, all of which disappeared amid snorts of appreciation. Additional snorts greeted my attention, one horse at a time, with brush and curry comb.
Daffodil tickled the back of my neck, took my coat collar gently between equine teeth, and tugged gently towards the open field.
“You want to be ridden, don’t you?’’ I asked. I cuddled Snapdragon, who viewed being ridden as something to be taken or left, and patted Daffodil’s nose again. “Okay, okay!”
The ponies held still as nylon halters went over their heads; lead lines followed. Setting one hand firmly on Daffodil’s shoulders, I vaulted onto the gelding’s back. Without prompting, Daffodil turned for the out-of-doors, the mare pacing a few steps behind. I felt my hair, confirming that my hat was solidly in place, its tie firmly under my chin. The math said someone flying nearby could pick out my hair color, at least under perfect conditions; blue-white blonde was rare enough that a hundred tons of Manjukuoan gold might prompt that someone to investigate. Tomorrow it was back to the hair dye.
I made the lightest of mindscans. No one else was on the property, nor in line of sight outside. Bareback riding at full gallop distracted some of my neighbors, even when the ponies had perfectly proper halters and reins. I could, I thought, dispense with reins, using telepathy to show the ponies exactly what I wanted, but guiding a horse by telepathy was like arguing with a small, good-tempered child who has recently discovered the `no’ concept and always likes to experiment with it. I nudged Daffodil, who responded eagerly with a canter, then, clearing the paddock, with a full-winded gallop.
Much later, two contented appaloosas and their exhausted mistress returned to the barn. The ponies scented food and forgot their rider, who gratefully dismounted, separated them from their harnesses, and headed for home.
I hung my clothes on the bathroom door. The water was now hot enough for a good bubble bath and subsequent shower. Hair dried, wrapped in nightgown and down-filled bathrobe, I raided the refrigerator. Milk, soda bread, and roast chicken made a delightful meal. Surely Daffodil and Snapdragon wouldn’t begrudge my one apple? I needed a nap. Bathed, fed, at long last secure in my own bed, I snugged the quilt around my shoulders, tucked my head into the pillows, and fell into dreamless sleep.