Earl Norris, a former U.S. Olympic Equestrian team member and world-class show jumping rider, left his comfortable fame on the East coast show circuit to follow his bride, Bebe Tattersal Norris, back to her Texas roots. His vision of the horse world beating a path to his stable door in Mesquite Grove never materializes and he is forced to construct a new kingdom, drawing on local minions and Texas money. Earl fights the oppressive Texas heat and stifling lifestyle with the aid of anti-aging concoctions, an addiction to fine Venezuelan chocolate and boundless self-absorption, tempered by an occasional softhearted, albeit clandestine, gesture.
Mimi is the large-bottomed daughter of a former Texas governor, wife to a Texas oil, cattle and high-tech entrepreneur, Big Jake, and mother to twin boys, Billy and Bobby. With life so full of distractions, Mimi finds it hard to focus seriously on riding as a discipline and instead enjoys the more intriguing aspects of the sport, such as socializing at horse shows and the additional shopping venue these events provide. She is Earl’s wealthiest, and therefore, best customer.
A Mesquite Grove native and gay cowboy turned equestrian, Guy is the Xanax to the dysfunctional anxiety that is Mesquite Grove Stables. As the barn manager by default, he uses his diplomatic skills to serve as an intermediary between his bosses, their clientele and the Latin stable hands. Fluent in Spanish, it is in the role of translator that Guy’s normally well-hidden passive-aggressive retaliations on Earl’s abuse become most obvious, as he adds his own amusing twist to Earl’s directives.
All About Mi, or Miko, as he is known around the stable, is the outrageously expensive warmblood horse, imported by Mimi Cartwright at Earl’s request. Trained to perfection as a show hunter, Miko is often maddened by Mimi’s lack of riding finesse, as well as the lack of decorum displayed by some of his equine competitors. He can be condescending to the streetwise lesson horses, but he is effectively humbled by the lead mare of the lesson horse herd, Dalai, and her rapier wit.
Bolo, a Venezuelan stable hand, has been at Mesquite Grove Stables for over twenty years, observing all. A stoutly-built, Rico Suave-type, he pretends to understand very little English, though in reality speaks five languages and has E-Trade bookmarked on his hidden computer. Bolo, the occasional object of Tinka’s misguided seduction, is also the mysterious secret source for the Venezuelan chocolates that Earl craves.
Billy, demonic son of Mimi and twin brother to Bobby, is the only thing on earth that Earl truly fears. Billy’s possessive, protective attachment to his mother makes him resentful of Earl’s disdainful treatment of Mimi, but his greater concern is Mimi’s harmless attentions to Earl. His life has become a quest to defend his mother’s honor and send Earl, maimed, to an early grave.
Prior to her vows, Sister Peg excelled in a career as Maya Moochatatas, an exotic animal trainer of the big cats in Las Vegas. A freak accident involving an unfed tiger mistaking her shapely calf for dinner created the need for a prosthetic leg, changing her life forever. Her love of riding and Mesquite Grove Stables tempts Sister Peg to occasionally neglect her sisterly duties while encouraging a conflicted attraction to the handsome MGS farrier (horseshoer), Shane, who somehow reminds her of a priest she once knew.
Tinka has the fair-skinned beauty of a Bavarian princess with the voice of a chain-smoking truck stop waitress. She originally came to MGS answering Earl’s ad for an experienced trainer. Although Tinka thinks her Germanic affectations lend credibility to her claim of being a successful German equestrian, the inconsistency of her intonation makes this suspect. An acrimonious split with Earl and MGS prompts Tinka to open her own facility, becoming Earl’s nemesis at local horse shows, where she is often seen brandishing a riding crop in an Eva Braun-like manner.
Dalai is Bebe’s retired show pony from childhood and the reigning lead mare of the MGS lesson horse herd. Her rotundness and wise nature make her seem the equine reincarnation of a Tibetan monk, especially when she expounds Confucius-like wisdom for the other horses. However, in true Mesquite Grove fashion, the Zen hits the fan whenever Dalai decides the human pupils are not absorbing the nuances of their equine teachers’ instruction, and she impatiently signals the horsemaster to dump its rider. A diehard Game of Thrones fan, Dalai has been affectionately dubbed Dame of Thrones by her peers and admirers, and her intense satire has even earned its own nickname of Needle.
Bebe, wife to Earl, was a well-known rider in her youth. She received her initial training from her father, Col. Tattersal, but as her talent developed, the Colonel took her back East to school with the highly respected trainer, Morris Moore. While living on the East Coast she met the dashing young Earl whom she married and brought back to her family’s stable in Texas.
The embodiment of the quintessential, patient Southern woman, Bebe has nevertheless been known to crack the proverbial bullwhip to motivate her husband or a recalcitrant horse when either exceeds her limits of tolerance. Her love of a frosty, crushed-ice Coca Cola and Earl are legendary; however, her greatest show of affection is reserved for Rafe, the mutt, and her herd of dachshunds, which swirl like a cloud of fur around her feet.
Roy and Slim are brothers who own the ranch next to Mesquite Grove Stables. They have a birds-eye-view of much of the action at the stables as well as a distinctly cowboy interpretation and opinion of what they see. They function as a Greek chorus for the comedy and tragedy that surrounds Earl and his entourage with Roy offering succinct vaquero summations and Slim grunting his agreement.
Shane, the good-natured farrier is a confidante to all. He is able to blend easily with the Western crowd as well as the English. Everyone feels comfortable baring their souls to him and appreciates his attentiveness to their stories while ignoring the fact that, because he’s shoeing a horse, he cannot possibly escape them.
His status is enhanced almost to the level of spiritual advisor by his propensity to dress in black jeans and black shirts with a white T-shirt peeking out at the neck. As people enter or leave his presence they frequently sense they may have heard a Gregorian chant and pause quizzically in their uncertainty. His dark, smoldering good looks make him attractive to many, especially Sister Peg and Guy.
Winnie’s ever-sullen attitude makes her nearly unapproachable yet her talents as a professional braider place her in great demand at the horseshows. She started riding at Mesquite Grove Stables at a very young age and rumor has it that she was quite good, with a natural talent. No one has seen her ride in a very long time, but her sour demeanor makes it difficult for anyone to ask her why.
Her annoyance with Earl’s habit of calling her Whiney instead of Winnie is compounded by having been picked up by some of the wags at MGS. The mystery of Winnie is further exacerbated by her outrageous Gothic attire. She is now an employee of MGS and along with a pretend attraction to Shane, harbors a secret and genuine crush on Guy.
Rafe is a seemingly hapless mutt that Bebe found abandoned at a horse show. The Dachshunds look down their long noses at his lack of blue blood, but Rafe ignores the slight. When people ask, “Hey, Rafe, whatcha doin’?”, Rafe silently mutters, “Pretty much whatever I want.”
Barnard wandered onto the MGS property, took a tour and decided to let the stable adopt him. He was so often referred to as “that damn barnyard cat” that he assumed the name Barnard. While his main duty was supposed to be rodent control, he defers that task to Helmuth the snake and spends most of his time conspiring with Rafe on ways to annoy the Dachsunds and frustrate Earl.
The Dachshunds are a herd of six litter mates that move like a flock of birds, running and turning in unison. When they feel Bebe is being threatened in any way, their group mind becomes a conglomerate Rin Tin Tin in their heroic mission to defend her.
Maximus IX is the patriarch of the dachshund siblings. Bebe fondly refers to him as Maxi and the special cushion she keeps for him on the golf cart as Maxi’s pad. He is Bebe’s ego mirror, and curiously, the only full-sized sibling from his litter.
Ivy Gabbinger believes that if you look good your riding will follow. She takes pride in wearing cutting edge equestrian fashions and owning the most recent European-fad saddle. Ivy is a suck up to Earl and to whomever she perceives as a member of his inner circle, expressing her shallow compliments to the inners as well as denigrating remarks about the outers in an Orwellian manner, according to her perceptions of the political landscape. She is affectionately known as Poison Ivy behind her back.
While Ivy’s cotillion training gave her a flair for correct table etiquette, her education didn’t seem to extend to courteous behaviors in public toilets. Her habit of hovering over the loo then leaving the outcome to the next unsuspecting occupant earned her another nick name, Point and Shoot.
Bailey Verboso is an old soul living in a youngster’s body. She is a fearless tomboy who takes everything in stride and is willing to learn from each lesson horse assigned to her, including the ones that buck her off occasionally. She is frugal with her speech and has a deep, monosyllabic way of talking using a lot of yeps and sures to suffice for more lengthy communication. Her parents are not wealthy, but they are supportive of her dreams of becoming a great rider. Bailey is very captivated by Winnie.
Connor Elliot always dresses in proper English attire, whether it’s just for schooling or the show ring. His fastidiousness about his dress makes it quite frustrating for him when he is either thrown from a pony or steps in horse do-do. He is obsessed with rules and orderliness yet he is drawn to Bailey’s carefree nature and harbors a secret crush on her. Connor’s life goal is to be the first black equestrian on the U.S. Olympic team.
Emmeline Patel, or Emma, is the antithesis of Bailey. She complains throughout the lesson, starting with her horse assignment (which is never the one she wants) and ending with having to clean up after her horse in the wash rack. Her petulance is made more irritating by the whistling sound her whining makes as it passes through her braces. Emma refuses to put any effort into her riding and would probably be just as happy playing dress up with toy pink horses as riding real ones. She comes from a moneyed British-Indian family who has always ridden and is pushing Emma to follow the tradition.
Rozlyn Hashanah is a most timid rider who nonetheless insists upon pursuing the sport because of her love for horses. Her timidity is a constant source of frustration for her instructors because the majority of her lessons are spent sitting on the horses in the middle of the ring, rebuffing all attempts to convince her to participate in exercises with her classmates. Rozlyn appears to be from a well-to-do family as she always arrives at MGS in the latest E-Class Mercedes prompting Earl and his staff to cater to her every whim. Rozlyn, along with Emma, are the most likely candidates for future horse purchases and the resulting A-level competitions, and must be handled with kid gloves.
Chico is a new groom who recently arrived from Mexico. He does not speak English and relies on Bolo to interpret what the two of them overhear, which Bolo does to his own satisfaction. He is often baffled by the seemingly outrageous behavior of the Mesquite Grove elite, but he is a hard-working hand who also works hard not to be terrified.
Big Jake is the 5’4″ nerdy husband to Mimi. Although his family came from cattle and oil, he increased the family fortunes by starting a successful high-tech company. He likes to dress in classic formal cowboy attire (western suits, Stetson hats and Lucchese boots), but his large, Buddy Holly-like bifocals detract from any true cowboy image. His large ears and manner of speaking make him somewhat reminiscent of H. Ross Perot. He adores his big-boned gal and assumes that all is well with his strange twin boys, Billy and Bobby.
Bobby is the silent-from-birth twin to Billy. Mimi says he is a late bloomer. He has a peculiar attraction to the hot wire surrounding the paddocks at MGS. He seems to satisfy this attraction by either touching the wire and smiling dreamily or encouraging children new to the stable to touch the wire. He once blistered his lip while spitting a loogie onto the wire. He has, so far, resisted peeing on the wire.
The Colonel is the father of Bebe Norris and was her childhood riding instructor. He achieved personal fame as a rider in the military and competitor in the Pentathlon. He has not surrendered control of MGS or Bebe to Earl yet, at least not in his mind, while missing the reality that neither he nor Earl is really in charge anyway.
Mamie is a former governor of the great state of Texas and adoring mother to Mimi Cartwright. She is glad Mimi married well, even if a bit small. Mamie has never found a reason to change from her huge beehive hairdo and refuses to be seen in public without her silver foot lapel pin.
Mamie schedules an occasional riding lesson at Mesquite Grove Stables in an effort to have some quality mother-daughter time with Mimi. She has a custom made beehive helmet to accommodate her big hair and favors a tight-fitting white leather jumpsuit over the more traditional riding attire.
Willie is a lover of Latin or at least caveat emptor. He is a legend in the horse-trading world for both colorful and infamous reasons. Sometimes he outsmarts his buyer, sometimes his buyer outsmarts him. This gives rise to his second favorite saying, “sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”
He relishes imparting his wisdom about los caballos, as he likes to call them, as well as his life experiences to anyone who didn’t see him coming first. He multi-tasks showing a horse, spinning a tale and spitting tobacco, some of which finds its way onto his trademark sweat-stained T-shirt. His favorite stop is Mesquite Grove Stables where he thinks the people have more money than sense and where he can sell his horses at premium prices.
The veterinarian’s wavy blonde hair, gleaming smile, 6’4″ height, generous chest and tiny hips, snugged into tight Wranglers, bring to mind a Dudley Do-Right type character. His traditional cowboy manners and frequent tips of his cowboy hat to the ladies add to his stereotype.
Zola St. John’s holistic education was obtained from reading about natural remedies in the tabloids while standing in line at the grocery store. She is currently studying for an advanced degree in herbal medicines and aromatherapy while standing in line at the health food store.
Zola lovingly administers her new age concoctions to any equine that will tolerate the slathering applications of all natural ingredients, with a simultaneous serenade performed by her drum circle of one. Guy and the veterinarian often spend the following day applying the appropriate antidote to counter the side effects of her holistic remedies.
Stew is the even more diminutive best friend and business partner of Big Jake Cartwright, completing the other half of their Mutt-and-Mutt duo. Earl, of course, mispronounces his name, calling him Mr. Buffalo. Big Jake finds this quite funny and contributes Buffalo Stew as an another name variation. Stew is very attracted to Tinka and tries to impress her with his fluency in the German language. Tinka rebuffs his advances and his attempts to engage her in Germanic conversation by going to extreme lengths to avoid him.
Kent Mann is a sports reporter who agrees to interview a former equestrian star for the “Where Are They Now?” series, airing on the American Horse Show Network. He finds that he has been duped into an interview with Earl Norris at a horse show in Paris, Texas, not Paris, France. From the moment he arrives to the heat and dust of the show grounds, he is frantically trying to complete his assignment so he can return to civilization and a hot shower.
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