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Not Quite my Rodeo.

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“Pidge you physically shouldn’t be able to do that.” Keith watched in horror as Pidge -Voltron Stable’s resident trick rider- just grinned and bent herself over even farther on the mats in Voltron’s main barn, managing to put her hands flat behind her heels.
“Keith chill out. This isn’t even the farthest I can go. Besides you know Viridi makes it so that I have to go at least twice this far to do even a basic trick.”
I shook my head and swung a little on my cinch swing, only Pidge would name her horse in latin. “Okay but seriously if we don’t go inside and clean our tack before the competition tomorrow we’re dead.”
Pidge finally sat up and unfolded herself, “You’re right. Hunk would murder us.”
“Hunk? Nah, he’s too nice. It’s Shiro that we need to worry about. He would destroy us for not cleaning our tack ‘properly’ Why do we need to have our tack look perfect anyways? It’s not like anybody that cares is gonna show up to watch us ride.” I snorted in a way reminiscent of my blanket appaloosa, Red, and started to the overstocked tack room, pausing before I went to far and saying hi to the previously mentioned horse.
Hunk and Shiro are the ones who keep everything going around here. Shiro runs the finances and keeps the place running in the funds department as well as giving lessons and training us in his spare time. Hunk is the muscle of the place; he feeds the horses and mucks out their stalls in the mornings and evenings in exchange for being let to stay at the house with Coran and Shiro.
“Oh haven’t you heard? Coran’s expanding the stable to include English Riders™ and they’re coming to see us ride tomorrow.” Pidge gave me a smug smirk and narrowed her eyes slightly. She pulled out her phone and showed me the calendar. Surprisingly, even with how often she got her phone filthy while attempting new tricks on viridi, it was spotless.
I stopped in my tracks and grabbed the phone from her. “He’s doing what?! How did I not hear about this?”
“You’re kidding? Coran’s been telling us about them for two weeks! They came and toured the facilities last week!” She grabbed her phone back from me and dusted it off.
“Pidge, you know that I hate people and always take Red out when they come to visit!” I whined. Voltron’s located on over 100 acres of riding space, so getting away isn’t difficult.
“Chill Keith. They’re not that bad. Lance can be a bit high strung but he’s nice enough. And Allura can be kinda, blunt, but they’re both really sweet.” She wiggled her eyebrows at me.
“They’re english riders. No matter what they’re going to be stuck up, snobbish, fools with no love for horses.”
Pidge rolled her eyes and scoffed at me, “That’s a bit biased, don’t you think?”
“No. I know english riders. If they’re anything like the Galra and co then they’re going to be exactly like that.”
“Whatever Keith. But just don’t screw up tomorrow. Coran is counting on us to qualify for regions.” She opened the door to our tack room and went to grab her rodeo saddle and bridle, leaving me to mope about tomorrow.

***

“You’re kidding me.” I let my mouth fall open in shock as I sat upside down on my horse
“Lance, get off of Azula before you fall on your head.”
“C’mon Llura! Azula doesn’t mind! Do ya girl?” Lance looked to his shagya arabian bay who snorted and shifted quickly to the side causing Lance to fall off and onto his butt, “Rude.”
“That’s what you get for being dumb. But in all seriousness, yes, we are going to the rodeo tomorrow and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
“You want me, the best show jumper in all of Washington to go to a country hick rodeo and watch some cowboys run around because we’re moving to their stable. No way, not doing it. Not gonna happen.”
“Lance be nice about this. We need somewhere to go. Besides my uncle’s so excited to see us! It’s a new state full of new possibilities!”
I finally got off the ground, “Just because I like the way you say my name princess, doesn’t mean that I’m going to do it.”
Allura glared at me from over the back of her horse, a white arabian by the name Reina, “Do it or I’ll shorten all your stirrups to the final notch and hide your helmet.”
I gasped, “You wouldn’t dare!”
She cocked her head to the side and tossed her hair, “Wouldn’t I? Do you really want to risk that Lance? Your favorite helmet, gone. Poof.”
“Ugh. Fine! I’ll go, but I won’t like it!” I groaned and leaned into Azula’s furry coat.
“Good boy. Now. I’m going to put Reina away and go to bed. You can feed tonight. And stop calling me princess would you? It’s annoying.” Allura un-tied Reina and started walking to the temporary pasture that we had set up until we moved to Voltron Stable.
I stuck my tongue out at her as she walked away and turned to Azula, wanting nothing more than to just climb on her back and ride away into the sunset.
Instead of doing that I just put her away and and fed them both, mentally preparing myself for the next day.

***

“Ay Pidge. Is your boyfriend showing up today?” I turned from grooming Red and asked her.
“Umm. No Sendak won’t be there. He’s busy.” Pidge slightly curled into herself and focused more on brushing Viridi,, her voice fading a bit.
I should have known better than to bring up Sendak. He’s Pidge’s boyfriend of two years, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he treats her; always putting her down when she does well and making her feel invalid when she messes up. I’ve been urging her to break up with him but she claims that she doesn’t want to start anything.
“Sorry for bringing it up Pidge. Let’s just focus on doing really well today and having a great time. Besides, today we get to do single stake and the big T! Your best runs!”
“We’re also doing a star pattern Keith. The actual worst pattern of all time.” Pidge had to jump up over Viridi’s back to glare at me properly because of how short she was, causing Viridi to look back at her sharply and take a step to the side.
“Okay, okay! I was just trying to cheer you up a bit! Jeez. Are you pmsing or something?” I teased her with a grin knowing fully well that she could stab me in my sleep if she wanted to.
“Ask me that again and I’ll murder you in your sleep tomorrow.” She gave me a flat look over the top of Viridi’s back.
“Sorry. Sorry. Shutting up now.”
We worked quietly for a bit occasionally dancing to the music that we had playing from a speaker of Pidge’s. It was our get ready playlist; even the horses knew what it meant, a combination of show tunes that she had done routines to and some rodeo music that they would be playing today.
Our pre-rodeo routine was pretty boring. Get there at 5:00, have all tack and feed loaded into the trailer by 6:00 groom the horses and have them ready by 7:00 and be out of there by 7:30. We were expected to show up dressed and ready on our own time, in a pair of cowboy boots, a long sleeved shirt tucked in with a collar, jeans, and a cowboy hat. Any time from 5:00 to roughly 3:00 was dedicated to the horses. Coran and Shiro come out at about 7:00 and Hunk shows up at the same time we do. Rodeo day is always the most chaotic day of the year for us. Because Pidge and I aren’t the only people who ride at Voltron (We are the oldest though) we’re expected to be ready slightly early so that we can help the younger kids get ready. Voltron has about twenty horses ranging from the ages 3-24 so our hands are always pretty full.
Only ten of the horses are going today but that still makes for an exciting morning. So far today I’ve fixed 3 broken cinches, two missing bridles and who knows how many spooked horses. Most of our riders are still pretty young, ages 9-13 give or take, me and Pidge are currently the oldest riders, I’m 19 and Pidge is 18. So we get a lot of responsibilities around here.
“Keith. Stop daydreaming and pay attention to Red.” Shiro told me finally coming out of the house to say good morning.
“Sorry, dad. But you do have to admit that her muscle tone’s really gotten quite defined. We’re almost ready for the ARC!” I turned away from Red and gave Shiro a smirk.
Shiro laughed, “I sure hope so! Because you’re never going to guess what came in the mail this morning!” He held up a letter and I died.
Not literally. But it was really exciting, the ARC stands for the Altea Regional Championships, the most difficult to qualify rodeo in the state of Texas. It also has a english circuit that it’s pretty well known for but the rodeo championship is what I’m the most excited for.
“Have you opened it yet? Did we get in?” Both Pidge and I had entered for our respective talents back in the fall and had been waiting for the return letters for months.
“I was hoping to open in with you both. But that’s going to have to wait until Pidge exits her state of shock.” He looked to Pidge who had frozen a moment ago with her brush mid stroke and was yet to unfreeze.
I walked over to her, carefully avoiding Red and Viridi’s butts and nudged her, “Pidge! Stop panicking so that we can open the letter!”
She finally seemed to wake up and get it together and looked to Shiro impatiently.
He laughed at both of us and pulled a letter opener from his pocket and opened it.
“Dear Keith Kogane and Pidge Holt,
It is my greatest pleasure to inform you that your skills and passion for horses has qualified you for the preliminary rounds in the ARC rodeo and trick riding circuits-” Pidge cut him off with a shriek and jumped into his arms smiling ear to ear. Shiro caught her easily and chuckled lightly into her ear.
The moment was strangely intimate and made Keith feel out of place. It was no secret that he was touch starved, and that he felt out of place when faced with pda but this was worse than usual. This wasn’t even PDA, it was Pidge giving Shiro -his older brother- a hug. Nothing that should set him off.
He shook his head and focused on brushing Red, perhaps a bit more forcefully than necessary but if she noticed she didn’t react.
The moment was ruined when Viridi gave a loud snort and startled Pidge from his arms. After Shiro and Pidge finished celebrating and Pidge finally went back to getting Viridi ready, Shiro started running through the rodeo morning checklist with Keith.
“Water buckets?” Check, “Leads?” Check, “vet wrap?” Check, “What about the extra helmets for the kids? Do we have the extra halters? What about the feed?” His voice sped up with every item, rising in pitch and panic.
“Shiro chill. Everything is already loaded up. Tack is ready, breakfast in the cab, vet kit packed already, Hunk’s already taken the first load of kids and horses over to the arena.”
Shiro groaned and leaned into Red’s side, “What would I do without you guys?”
“Forget that you’re riding today too and not be able to ride because you forgot to get Kosmo ready.” Pidge offered from behind Viridi.
Shiro’s face dropped, “Oh, I guess that I did forget that I was riding today…”
“Good thing that we didn’t!” Pidge dropped her metal curry comb into the nearest brush box and took off.
Shiro stared after her with a soft look then turned to me, “So? How’s it feel to be entered into the ARC?”
I grinned at him and turned away from Red for a moment, “Honestly? Not that different? I mean, yeah I’m excited but I don’t feel all that different? Is that weird?”
“Not at all Keith. You’re one of the best barrel riders I’ve ever met and your bond with Red is really strong. So I’m not all that surprised that you don’t feel any different. It’s the sign of a good rider.”
I nudged him, “Like you know anything about that. Mr. my girlfriend had to get my horse ready for me!”
Shiro turned bright red, “She’s not my girlfriend! I just have a deep respect for her riding abilities. She just also happens to be very pretty.”
Pidge chose that moment to come back, riding Kosmo bareback with his leadrope as reigns. Her 5’3 frame dwarfed by all of Kosmo’s 19 hands. She rode him up to Shiro and looked down upon him, “You know Shiro, you look awful short from up here.”
“Oh shush Mrs. five foot one inch of sass.” He smirked a little and grabbed Kosmo’s lead.
Pidge slid off Kosmo and spent a good three seconds in the air before hitting the ground lightly. She barely seemed to care about the fact that she physically shouldn’t be able to land things like that without some kind of injury.
Shiro wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and took a deep breath, “Know what Pidge? Go deal with Viridi and load her up.”
“Will do Shiro!” Pidge bounded over to Viridi and untied her before vaulting up and riding off toward the trailer.
Shiro turned to me, “You too Keith. You’re gonna miss registration if you don't leave within the next ten minutes.”
“I’ll make it! But the other kids need help getting ready. I’ll leave with the last group.”
Shiro gave Kosmo an affectionate pat on the shoulder and looked at me with his patented dad look, “Keith, I may be missing an arm but I’m still perfectly capable of getting a few schoolies ready.”
I winced, “Sorry Shiro. I’ll just go and trailer up Red with Viridi. You know that they hate to travel apart.” Laughing I grabbed Red and ran out of there.