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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Sidesaddle

BOOK: Sidesaddle
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PRETTY IN PINK

Stevie crossed her stirrups over Belle’s saddle and followed Max’s instructions. She was used to this exercise, and she was good at it. She also knew it was extremely useful and effective. She only wished they had more time to work with it.

Instead, the class had been spent paying a lot of attention to Miss Pink Jodhpurs and her “li’l ole horse.” Sure, she knew what she was doing, but what was the point? Nobody rode sidesaddle anymore. Why would anyone want to?

Stevie recognized the darkness of her own mood, but there seemed little she could do to lighten it up. The fact that the rest of the class was oohing and aahing at Tiffani’s ability to ride sidesaddle without a stirrup didn’t help at all.

The end of class couldn’t come soon enough.

Special thanks to Sir “B” Farms
and Laura and Vinny Marino

RL 5, 009–012

SIDESADDLE

A Bantam Skylark Book / July 1999

Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere.

“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller.

The Saddle Club design / logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books.

“USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511–8462.

All rights reserved.

Copyright
©
1999 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller.

Cover art copyright
©
1999 by Alan Kaplan.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

For information address: Bantam Books

eISBN: 978-0-307-82590-2

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.

v3.1

In memory of Neil

Contents

“D
ID YOU BRING ANY
carrots?” Lisa Atwood asked Stevie Lake, one of her two best friends, as they walked together toward Pine Hollow Stables. It was a summery Saturday morning in the spring, and that meant they were on their way to a meeting of Horse Wise, their Pony Club. Any trip to the stable meant a visit with horses, and horses loved carrots.

“Oh, I’m sure I did,” Stevie said, digging into the pocket of her riding jeans. Her fingers found the carrots there, all right, but the fact that they were rubbery gave her the sinking feeling that they’d been there since the last riding class—on Wednesday.

“Well, sort of,” she said, adjusting her previous answer. She drew two limp orange sticks out of her pocket. “I think I’ll spare the horses that joy.” She
tossed the carrots into the tall grass at the edge of the street that led to Pine Hollow.

“I guess it’s a good thing I remembered some fresh ones,” Lisa teased, pulling a bag of carrots out of her backpack. “Be nice to me and I’ll let you give some of these to Belle.”

“I’m always nice to you,” Stevie said. “In fact, I’m always nice to everybody.” Her hazel eyes sparkled mischievously in the morning sunlight.

Lisa laughed. If there was one thing about Stevie, it was that she was
not
always nice to everyone. She was almost always nice to people she liked, but if someone irked her, she was more than capable of playing practical jokes that were anything but nice.

However, Stevie
was
usually nice to her two best friends. She and Lisa, along with Carole Hanson, were nearly inseparable. As soon as the three girls had discovered their common bond, they’d formed a group they called The Saddle Club. It had only two rules. The first was the easy part: Members had to be horsecrazy. The second rule was that they had to be willing to help one another out. Quite often that meant that Carole and Lisa found themselves supporting one of the wild schemes that Stevie was inclined to invent. Sometimes it meant helping her get out of the hot water those wild schemes often got her into.

Stevie was simply irrepressible. Once she set her mind to something, there was little that could stop her,
and her friends had long since discovered that their weakest weapon against her imagination was common sense.

Common sense was something Lisa was loaded with. Compared to Stevie, she was the national repository of common sense. She used a logical approach to problem solving, rather than Stevie’s emotional one. She was clearheaded in almost any situation. These qualities tended to balance Stevie’s in their friendship. They also gave Lisa the tools she needed to be a straight-A student. Everything about Lisa was calm and logical. Her light brown hair was always neatly combed, while Stevie’s hair seemed to evade every attempt she made to capture it. Lisa’s clothes were always clean and neatly pressed, while Stevie’s apparel was more frequently retrieved from her closet’s quasi–laundry pile. Lisa’s clothes were fashionable and carefully coordinated—she’d be likely to wear a navy blue sweater and a white blouse with a blue-and-white-checked skirt. Stevie’s outfits tended to be coordinated with whatever was on the top of that laundry pile—she’d wear her patched blue jeans with her older brother’s cast-off T-shirt and a pair of socks stealthily borrowed from her twin brother. Stevie was definitely not fashionable. The best her mother could usually come up with to say about her wardrobe was “interesting.”

Stevie and Lisa were as different from one another as they were from Carole. Decidedly the horse-craziest of
the three girls, Carole was totally organized when it came to horses and more than a little flaky when it came to everything else, Carole always knew exactly where her riding clothes were, but she might not be so certain about her social studies homework. She could answer complicated questions at Horse Wise about the seasonal changes in equine diet, but she might forget that she’d promised her father she’d make brownies for dessert.

A horn honked behind Lisa and Stevie just as they arrived at the stable driveway. They turned to see Colonel Hanson’s station wagon delivering Carole to Pine Hollow. Colonel Hanson stopped his car and let Carole out, giving her a quick kiss, so that she could join her friends for the last part of the walk to the Pony Club meeting.

The girls began chatting easily on their favorite topic: horses.

“Max said there was going to be something special today,” Lisa said.

“What can be so special at an unmounted meeting?” Stevie asked. She loved learning all there was to learn about horses, but she was always happier when she was learning it in a saddle.

“Unmounted meetings aren’t so bad,” Carole said, barely acknowledging that her father was driving off. “I mean, remember how interesting all that stuff was about pesticides last time?”

Only Carole would find pesticides interesting
, Stevie thought. Oh, sure they were important, necessary, even essential. But interesting? Not in her opinion.

“I don’t think he meant more pesticides,” Lisa said. “It’s something else. And it has to do with the class, too.”

The Horse Wise meeting on Saturday morning was usually followed by a picnic lunch and then a riding class. That meant that almost all of Saturday was devoted to horses. To Lisa, Stevie, and Carole, that meant that almost all of Saturday was pretty special, particularly when they could follow it up with a visit to their favorite ice cream shop and a sleepover at one of their houses.

“Well, then, we’d better hurry,” Carole said, picking up her pace.

“Morning, girls.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Reg,” they said, greeting the stable manager, who also happened to be the mother of their riding instructor and Pony Club director, Max Regnery.

Mrs. Reg had a look in her eye that said there were chores to be done. It was, actually, a look she almost always had in her eye, because at Pine Hollow, as at any stable, there were always chores to be done, everything from feeding, watering, and grooming horses to mucking out stalls and cleaning tack. Horses were a lot of work, and the riders at Pine Hollow were never allowed
to forget that. They learned that looking after their horses and ponies was every bit as important as riding them. Everyone was expected to pitch in. It was a way to learn. It was also a way to keep costs down so that the riders’ families could have some relief from the expenses of riding and maintaining horses.

“We don’t want to be late for the meeting,” Lisa said, hoping that might get them out of a dirty mucking job.

“This’ll just take a minute,” said Mrs. Reg.

Lisa and Carole were invited to bring a bale of hay down from the loft. “And Stevie, can you help the new rider rinse out the trough in the ring?”

“Sure,” Stevie said. She didn’t mind. Everybody helped. Well, almost everybody. Pine Hollow had one rider who thought she was too good to help, that she didn’t need to help, that other people had been born to perform her chores: Veronica diAngelo. If Mrs. Reg asked Veronica to do something, she would always agree sweetly and then turn around and give the task to someone else. Her favorite victim was Red O’Malley, the head stable hand.

As far as Stevie was concerned, it was too nice a morning to let anything get her down—including thoughts of Veronica. She’d rinse the trough in ten minutes, and that would leave her ample time to get to Max’s office for the start of the meeting.

As these thoughts flashed through Stevie’s mind, the words Mrs. Reg had actually said began to register: “the new rider.” Making her way through the barn to the ring, greeting the horses she passed on her way, Stevie began to wonder.

Pine Hollow was in Willow Creek, Virginia, about twenty miles outside Washington, D.C. Because of the high turnover in government jobs in Washington, people were always moving into and out of Willow Creek, so there were often new faces at Pine Hollow. Stevie liked meeting new people. She had a natural rapport with all kinds of people. So she wondered about the new rider.

BOOK: Sidesaddle
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