Read A Horse for Mandy Online

Authors: Lurlene McDaniel

A Horse for Mandy

Solana heard the noise first. The little horse pricked up her short, sensitive ears and gave a nervous snort.

“What is it, girl?” Mandy asked. She strained to hear what Solana was hearing.

There! It sounded like a moan, Mandy thought. No. ..just the creek. No.. .it
was
a moan! Mandy began groping along on her hands and knees in the wet, thick undergrowth. The banks of the creek rose steeply. She could see the edge of the trail above whenever she looked up.

Mandy’s hand touched something soft. And at the same time, she saw a bright patch of cloth.
It’s Laura!
she thought.

Text copyright © 1981 by Lurlene McDaniel

All rights reserved. International copyright secured. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means— electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., except for the inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

Darby Creek

A division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

241 First Avenue North

Minneapolis,MN 55401 U.S.A.

Website address:
www.lernerbooks.com

McDaniel, Lurlene.

A horse for Mandy / by Lurlene McDaniel.

    p. ; cm.

ISBN 978–1–58196–011–2 (pbk. : alk. paper)

Summary: Mandy realizes a dream when she receives a horse, Solana, for her thirteenth birthday. But, now that she has Solana, her best friend, Laura is acting strangely. What is going on?

1. Friendship—Juvenile fiction. 2. Teenage girls—Juvenile fiction. 3. Horses—Juvenile fiction. [1. Friendship—Fiction. 2. Teenage girls—Fiction. 3. Horses—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.M4784172 Ho 2004

[Fic] dc22

OCLC: 54845604

Manufactured in the United States of America

1/15/11

eISBN: 978-0-7613-7394-0 (pdf)

eISBN: 978-1-4677-2779-2 (ePub)

eISBN: 978-1-4677-2780-8 (mobi)

My deepest appreciation to Doug and Glee Jones,

without whose help this book could not have been written.

Also thank you to Tina Tucker, Laura Cammeron,

Roger Smith, and of course, to Kathy Carter

and her “flying fingers.”

One

“C
AN you believe it?” Mandy shouted into the phone. “My very own horse!” She could just imagine Laura Callahan’s face on the other end of the phone. Rich, proud Laura Callahan—who had grown up with a whole stableful of beautiful horses. But today, on her thirteenth birthday, Mandy Wilson’s dream of owning her very own horse finally had come true.

“Isn’t Dad terrific?” Mandy asked. Then she hurried on, not waiting for an answer. “Isn’t that the neatest birthday present ever? I mean, I had no idea. He just surprised me.”

Mandy stopped for a breath and Laura asked, “What breed? A Tennessee Walker, like Diablo?”

Mandy thought of Laura’s big red-gold Tennessee Walker. How often she had longed to have him for her own. “No, not a Walker. Her name is Solana. Dad says she’s a Paso Fino.”

For a minute, Laura said nothing. Then, “Oh, one of
them
.” Something in the sound of her voice made Mandy angry. But she swallowed hard and said nothing. She wasn’t about to let Laura spoil her birthday!

“Anyway,” Mandy continued, a little less eagerly, “we’re heading out to your house and stables in a few minutes so I can see my horse. I—I thought you might like to meet us down by the stalls.”

“Well, of course, I would!” Laura’s voice changed and she once again seemed her old friendly self. “When will you be there?”

Just then Mandy’s father stuck his head into her room. “Ready?” he asked.

Mandy nodded her head excitedly. “We’re leaving in just a few minutes. Meet you at the stables in half an hour,” she said into the phone.

“You bet!” said Laura and she hung up.

Mandy leaped off her bed and threw her arms around her father. “Oh, Dad, thanks! It’s the best present in the whole world.”

Bud Wilson ruffled his daughter’s sandy blond hair and tapped her turned-up nose. “Anything for you, Princess,” he said. Mandy reminded him so much of her mother. Blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, full of life and love ... he shook off the memory. It was hard to believe that Mandy’s mother, Ruth, had died more than eight years before.

“Dad?” Mandy asked.

“Huh?”

“You looked so far away. I said, ‘Could we go now?’”

“Sorry, honey. Sure. Let’s go see your birthday present.”

During the ride, Mandy thought about the summer. June was her favorite month. Not just because it was her birthday month, either. Because school was out and she could spend every waking hour at the Callahan stables. She could ride, groom the horses, and help her father with his veterinarian duties whenever he needed her.

Mandy couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been around horses. But now, to have her very own horse was almost more than she could stand. Her dad had always promised her one. “When I feel you’re old enough to have the responsibility” is what he’d always told her. So today she was doubly proud. Her dad trusted her to care for her very own horse.

A half hour later she got out of the car. She swung open the big gate leading to the Callahan home and nearby stables. Mandy felt like running ahead. Instead she scooted back into the car and rode the rest of the way up the Callahan driveway. But when they both got out and began to walk over toward one of the stable buildings, Mandy could wait no longer. She ran forward eagerly.

“Wait for me, young lady!” her dad called after her. “You don’t even know what stall she’s in.”

“Oh, Dad!” Mandy cried. “You’re so slow!”

“I’m so OLD!” he laughed. “It’s the third stall over, honey. But slow down. Don’t scare her to death.”

Mandy looked inside at her horse. Solana de Omega. Mandy was sure that she had never seen anything quite as beautiful. Solana had all the fine lines of the Paso Fino breed: short inward-curved ears; large, wide-spaced eyes with a gentle expression; and a thick, arched neck—all of the finest features. She was a buckskin, too. Creamy yellow in color, with a black mane, tail, and stockings. “Oh, Daddy,” Mandy whispered, “she’s SO perfect!”

Solana’s natural curiosity brought her over to the door of the stall. Mandy stroked her soft muzzle.

Dr. Wilson looked pleased. He said, “She’s a great little horse, honey. Pasos are very affectionate, you know. Sometimes they act more like puppies than horses. She’ll follow you around once she gets attached to you. They’re very intelligent, too.”

“Can I ride her right now?” Mandy asked eagerly. Then her face fell. “Oh, no. I don’t have any tack.” Mandy knew how expensive saddles and bridles were.

“That’s the best part about Pasos,” her father said. “Solana can be ridden with a rope rein. Here, slip this on her.” He removed a handmade rope rein from a nail next to Solana’s stall.

Mandy opened the stall door, slipped the gear over Solana’s head, and led the horse outside. Dr. Wilson gave her a leg up, and Mandy sat tall on Solana’s bare back. “Go on, Mandy. Give her her head.”

Mandy clucked softly and Solana began a smooth, natural, relaxed gait. As Mandy rode around the yard she marveled at how comfortable Solana’s gait was. There was no teeth-jarring bouncing like other saddle horses, just a smooth, flowing ride.

Suddenly, Mandy saw the familiar form of her friend Laura hanging over the pasture fence. She tugged slightly on the left of the rope rein. Solana responded instantly and headed toward the fence. Mandy pulled her to a stop in front of Laura.

“Well, what do you think? Isn’t Solana just beautiful?” Mandy asked eagerly.

“She’s okay,” Laura offered. “Kind of a runt, though, don’t you think?”

Two

“W
HAT do you mean?” Mandy asked. She felt her cheeks become flushed with anger.

“Oh, nothing,” Laura shrugged. “She seems so much smaller than Diablo.”

“Well, she is a lot smaller than Diablo,” said Mandy. “Pasos only stand about thirteen to fifteen hands high.”

Laura eyed Solana, mentally measuring the distance between the ground and the top of her shoulders. “I guess she’s less than fourteen hands,” she said. “Diablo measures in at sixteen.”

“Do you want to ride with me?” Mandy asked, changing the subject.

“Sure. Let me saddle up.”

Mandy watched Laura trudge off toward Diablo’s stall. Mandy still felt a little hurt by Laura’s attitude. After all the times they’d taken turns riding Diablo, Mandy thought that Laura would be thrilled that Mandy had her own horse. Why would Laura act this way? Mandy wondered. She again turned the problem over and over in her mind.

Mandy remembered all the summers she and Laura had groomed Diablo together, preparing him for the fall circuit shows. And she remembered how proud she had felt when they had brought home the coveted blue ribbons. She also remembered how tall Laura sat on Diablo in the shows . . . how smoothly he went through his classic gaits . . . how thrilled she felt whenever the judges called out Diablo’s name as Best in Show.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Laura riding up on the big red-gold stallion. He snorted and pawed the ground restlessly. Solana responded with her own soft whinny.

Laura looked good sitting high in her Plantation saddle. Mandy felt a little dwarfed on Solana’s bare back. But she clucked loudly and the little Paso Fino responded at once.

Together the two girls rode their horses around the Callahans’ front yard. The Walker shifted into his distinctive running walk and the Paso into her smooth-flowing gait. Mandy felt her spirits soaring. She was certain that this was the happiest moment of her whole life. She was riding her own horse, chasing the wind through a sunlit June afternoon.

When they finally reined in their mounts, Mandy turned excitedly to Laura. “Isn’t this wonderful?” Mandy asked.

But Laura seemed distant. “Of course,” she said. Yet Mandy couldn’t help but sense that something was wrong.

“Listen,” said Laura, “meet me back at the house in a few minutes.” She dug her heels into Diablo’s side and galloped off. Mandy felt hurt and bewildered.

Later, back at Solana’s stall, Mandy groomed her horse expertly. But she couldn’t keep her mind off her friend. She brushed Solana’s buttercolored coat, untangled her black mane, and mulled over her own thoughts.

She had been Laura’s friend since third grade. That was when her father first began practicing in Devonshire and became the veterinarian at the Callahan Stables. She remembered how unpopular Laura had been at school. “Snotty” was what most of the other girls had called Laura Callahan. She was a loner—keeping to herself, her nose in a book. At first Mandy had thought she was just shy. But later she realized that Laura chose not to be a part of the crowd that giggled and whispered together in the lunchroom.

Then, during that first summer, Mandy went with her father to the Callahan Stables. She got to know Laura better. Their mutual love of horses brought them together. They rode and groomed and fussed over all kinds of horses. Mandy realized that Laura had dreams of becoming a real horsewoman. Laura wanted to ride great show animals and collect trophies and ribbons.

When Laura was in the fourth grade, her parents gave her Diablo, a show-winning Tennessee Walker. What fun the two girls had had with him! Laura had never minded sharing her horse with Mandy. She even encouraged her friend to ride him.

That was why Laura’s behavior this morning had been so baffling to Mandy. Didn’t Laura know that now they could have more fun than ever? They could ride together without having to take turns. They could go off on picnics, each on her own horse.

She brushed and brushed Solana’s coat until it gleamed.

“You’re going to brush the fur right off her, if you’re not careful.” The deep masculine voice startled her. She jumped and dropped the grooming brush.

Mandy whirled around and looked into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” the blue-eyed, blond boy said. “My name is David Mannington. Who are you?”

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