I woke up early on the day of the Horseback Riding challenge so I could spend some time with Smoke before the event. When I got to the arena, Teresa was already there with her horse.
Then I noticed Smoke’s tack: pink saddle, pink bridle and reins, pink saddle blanket. What had Ashley and Sianne done to him?!
I walked over to Teresa and asked playfully, “You didn’t do that to him, did you?”
Teresa grinned at me. “I’m not that mean, am I?”
She rubbed Smoke’s neck. “Are you ready for the Horseback Riding challenge?” she inquired.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I replied, offering Smoke my hand for inspection. “It’s not like if I don’t do a good job, Charlotte and I will lose The BFF Wars.”
Sianne, Venus, Ashley, Jules and Charlotte came out of the ski-lodge building and into the arena just then — the final challenge was about to start.
Teresa threw the reins over Smoke’s head and patted the saddle. “Saddle up, Tori. You’re going first.”
I mounted Smoke and took a deep breath. Winner takes all. Teresa put her hand on my leg and smiled up at me. “Don’t worry,” she said soothingly. “You go get ’em, Hot Shot!”
I rode Smoke at a trot to the start of the Horseback Riding course, sitting back in the saddle.
Smoke hopped over the first jump easily.
We zigzagged through the course, clearing each jump.
On the last jump, the tallest one, I leaned low on Smoke’s neck, becoming one with the horse.
I did great until that jump. We jumped early, and Smoke’s foot grazed the bar. I held my breath — would the jump be knocked down? It rattled around, but didn’t fall. Phew!
I circled back to the starting place on Smoke, and Charlotte started to rush out to me, and then thought better of it. She walked calmly toward me and the white horse, but I could see the excitement in her eyes.
Teresa followed Charlotte.
“That was perfect, Tori!” Teresa told me. “Other than that part at the end, it was perfect!”
“I’d like to see Team Jules top that!” Charlotte added. We waited for either Jules or Venus to come into the arena.
“I’d like to ride Smoke,” Jules said to Venus. “I–“
“Nope!” Venus cut Jules off. “I’m riding the horse. I don’t care if he’s just a dirty, smelly beast, but I bet you’d totally mess up if you went, and I have to win The BFF Wars. You can’t go!”
“Hey!” I yelled at Venus. “You can’t talk to Jules that way.” It didn’t matter that Jules didn’t want to be my best friend anymore (or did she? I wasn’t sure.); I had to stick up for her. It wasn’t right for Venus to treat her like that.
Venus and Jules both stared at me. Venus glared, hate in her dark brown eyes, and Jules smiled gratefully at me. It made me feel like a hero.
“Anyway,” Venus continued, “I’m riding.”
“Venus, I’ve–” Jules tried to plead.
Venus stalked out toward Smoke, head held high, turning her back to Jules.
“–taken riding lessons,” Jules finished with a sigh.
Venus mounted Smoke sloppily and perched on his back, tense. Her anxiety telegraphed down the reins to Smoke, and he trotted a few steps forward. She pulled back on the reins and Smoke jerked his head up. It was obvious that Venus had never ridden before.
She rode Smoke toward the first jump, slipping back and forth in the saddle. Venus tugged the reins back when Smoke tried to jump, so they ran right through the jump.
After Venus went through the course, knocking down every jump but one, Teresa ran out to her horse and stroked his mane, whispering sweet nothings into his ear.
Once Smoke was calmed down, Venus and I stood on either side of Teresa and her horse and waited for her to announced the winner of the challenge, though it was pretty obvious.
Teresa turned to me, a huge grin on her face. “I’m proud to say that Tori is the winner of the Horseback Riding challenge! She has a way with horses.”
I mounted Smoke and rode him into the winner’s circle, smiling crazily and waving at the cameras.
As Teresa entered the circle of daffodils, carrying two things, I slid out of Smoke’s saddle.
Teresa draped a wreath of hot-pink flowers around Smoke’s neck,
and a gold “1” medal around mine.
I waved at the cameras again.
“Ready to find out who won The BFF Wars?” she asked me.
My body started shaking, and my legs felt wobbly. Was I? I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.
Sianne, Teresa, and Ashley stood up on a stage together, three best friends forever.
Teresa started her speech. “During the eight days you’ve been here, you’ve showed your strengths and weaknesses to your teammate, through various challenges, from fashion to survival. Maybe you can start a fire and do first aid, but can’t put together a fashionable outfit.
“Today, you’ve made it through all the challenges. But sadly, there can be only one winner of The BFF Wars: the team that won the most challenges. Now, the winner of The BFF Wars is . . .”
To be continued . . .
Yes, that’s right! I ended this part at THAT HISTORIC MOMENT! Someone give me an award for best cliff hanger!
Check back at 7:30 to find out the winner of The BFF Wars!