"Heels down, eyes up, hands in front of the saddle Zala." The voice of Herr Jonas rang through the halls. Zala had changed into tan breeches and a black tunic, and now sat atop Libya, a young mare used for advanced lessons at the School. Doing figure eights was a boring, methodic procedure, but it was a good opportunity to work on her seat and cues. Normally she sailed along, blending with her mount so that they moved as one being, but this morning she was off. Waving her to the center of the ring, Jonas reached for the reins and grabbed them, down by the horse's chin. Looking up at her, he sighed. "What is wrong Zala? You are better than this. I am reminding you of things that I have to tell my first- years."

Shrugging her shoulders, Zala looked down, unsure. "I-I just have my mind on other things. That's all."

"What kind of other things Zala? Dignitary visit go ok?" Jonas sounded genuinely worried.

"Oh no, the French were so kind, the matter was settled within a mere seven day. It's just-" Sighing, she continued. "Today has been weird. I had an enormous fight with my father and Moheinert last night. They say I spend too much time with the horses, not enough time doing 'worthwhile' things like sewing and directing servants. I had to sneak out this morning, and knocked a stable bo into tomorrow." She rubbed her palm, remembering the look on his face.

Jonas chuckled, then tried unsuccessfully to look stern. "Zala, what did you do?"

"He said that I knew nothing about horses." The look on Jonas's face told her that he knew there had to be more; she took much more than that on a daily basis. "And he called me by my middle name."

"Ah." That explained it. He was sure it had to be the new one. All of the others learned long ago not to mess with Zala, and some had become quite close to her. "Well, I want you to forget that, and think of the hunt this afternoon, the hunt which you cannot go on until you finish your 'duties'-"

"And my duties must wait until I get everything right." She sighed and rolled her eyes. As much as she loved Jonas, who had been like an uncle to her since she could remember, he got on her nerves sometimes with his quiet way of getting you to do as he asked. Gathering the reins, she waited until he had stepped back, then closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, released, and squeezed ever so slightly in an invisible signal for Libya to move forward. Thinking of the hunt, she felt herself relax, and that brought her in tune with her mount, and she smiled. Jonas was right. She hated that. Oh well. Moving with Libya, Zala felt her body respond to her mental commands, felt the slight change as Libya changed leads every three steps, now every two, now every step, so that it appeared that the chocolate mare was skipping. Bringing her to the center of the ring, Zala pushed with her legs, but kept the reins taut, using both signals and felt pride as Libya performed a flawless piaffe, Libya's trot flowing as it always did, she just seemed to be frozen in time, flowing smoothly into a beautiful passage, the elevated trot. Having performed that in a figure eight, she came to the center of the arena, in front of Jonas, and leaned slightly forward, and smiled as the brown mare lifted into a powerful levade, coming rather abruptly to earth, but Zala sat it, and cantered smoothly on the left lead to a halt three feet from Jonas, and made a motion as if tipping her hat, and smiled.

"Very nice Zala, the landing was a little shaky, but that was Libya, not you. I do think you leaned a little too far forward on the take off though." His voice was kind, his eyes soft.

"Yes I know, I just wanted to make sure she got the signal. Other than that, it was flawless. Come on Jonas, you know I am ready for the stallions. I can do the movements on the ground, I need to do something new." The tone of her voice was pleading, but not quite whining. She learned long ago that whining with Jonas gets you nowhere, fast.

Nodding, the gangly stable-master smiled. "Alright Zala, next lesson you can ride a stallion, but I think we should start with Orion, Jupiter is still a bit green."

"Thank you Jonas, I have to go now." Dismounting, she led Libya into the courtyard, handing her off to a stable boy with a pat. Normally she would groom and cool the mare herself, but she was running late this morning, Jonas would understand. She could not wait for the hunt this afternoon. Moheinert detested horses, or any animals save his nasty crow Klicor, and her father reveled in the hunt, so it was a chance to spend real time with him, without that rat of an advisor hovering about. The thought of four hours of freedom made sitting through lessons almost bearable, she simply tuned out the drone of Herr Franz's voice, and imagined green pastures and Lippizan foals. Hoping they would take the route that would bring them past Piber pastures.