Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Carole took a step back. She swallowed hard. “I …” She stopped. She couldn’t think of a single thing to say. She was in utter shock over what had just happened.
had been given a lecture about riding. And by a girl who had arrived at Pine Hollow
five minutes ago.
Who the heck did Andrea Barry think she was?
“Listen …,” Carole began again. She still didn’t know how to put it into words. How could she tell Andrea that she was the best junior rider at Pine Hollow? That Andrea ought to be listening to her—and would be, very, very soon?
RL 5, 009–012
A Bantam Skylark Book / April 1997
Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 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 © 1997 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller.
Cover art copyright © 1997 by Paul Casale.
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.
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada.
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 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.
I would like to express my special thanks
to Caitlin Macy for her help
in the writing of this book.
intently as the horse and rider flew over the course of jumps. The pair took a brush fence at the end of the ring and turned toward home. “Easy, Prancer, don’t rush now. Come on, Lisa, keep her collected,” Carole murmured.
It was almost as if Lisa Atwood could hear Carole’s advice. She sat back in the saddle and steadied the bay mare for the final fence, a three-foot vertical. Prancer swiveled her ears back and forth, slowed almost imperceptibly, and met the jump in stride. When she landed on the opposite side, Carole could hear Lisa’s joyful exclamation. “Good girl, Prancer! Good girl!”
Carole grinned as Lisa came trotting up to the group of horses and riders. “Nice going, Lisa!” she called.
It always made Carole happy to see her friends ride well, especially her
friends, Lisa and Stevie—short for Stephanie—Lake. The three girls took riding lessons at Pine Hollow Stables from the owner of the stables, Max Regnery. Max was notoriously stingy with compliments. But except for a couple of minor errors—coming too close to the brush, letting her reins get sloppy in the air—Lisa had put in an excellent ride. Even Max would have to acknowledge it, Carole thought.
“All right, everyone, comments for Lisa’s ride?” Max demanded, walking over to the side of the ring to address the group. Max often asked his students to critique one another’s performances as part of their lesson.
“I thought it was perfect!” Betsy Cavanaugh gushed.
A couple of students echoed her comment.
Max looked impatient as he nodded. “Yes, yes.… Anyone else?”
Stevie spoke up. “I think it’s finally dawned on Prancer that it’s not the fastest horse that wins!”
The group laughed. Prancer was a Thoroughbred that had started out as a racehorse on the track. It had
taken her a while to adjust to being a lesson horse for Max and a Pony Club mount for Lisa. Sometimes she rushed but got lazy at the same time. Then she jumped flat and ran the risk of knocking poles down with her feet.
“Anybody have some constructive criticism?” Max inquired. “A word of advice that might help Lisa and Prancer in the schooling show?”
“The schooling show!” Stevie exclaimed, clapping a hand to her mouth. “I completely forgot!”
Carole grinned. Only Stevie could get so preoccupied with her scheming and pranks that she would forget about the Annual Spring Schooling Show at Pine Hollow.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me, Stephanie?” Max asked dryly. Having taught most of the girls for several years, Max was well aware of their personality quirks.
Max’s schooling shows were a Pine Hollow tradition. A schooling show was a low-key competition, hosted by the stable and open to anyone who boarded a horse at Pine Hollow or took lessons there. Some locals and friends were also invited, and Max would usually ask a colleague of his in the horse business to do the judging. It was a great way for the riders to practice competing without the pressure and expense of going to a real show.
Carole could feel Max looking at her. As the most experienced of the junior riders, Max counted on her to catch mistakes that the others might miss. She took a hand off the reins of her horse, Starlight, and held it up.
“Yes, Carole? Do you have some suggestions for how Lisa could improve her ride?”
“Just one or two little things. If she had steadied Prancer before the brush jump instead of after, Prancer wouldn’t have had to pop it. Also, since the horses always get strong once they’re headed toward the barn, checking her earlier might have counteracted that,” Carole suggested. She glanced at Lisa and saw that her friend was nodding seriously.
Max was nodding, too, his eyes approving. “And how could Lisa keep Prancer from rushing, Carole?”
“She could keep her reins more organized over the fences instead of throwing her hands forward,” Carole replied promptly.
Max nodded again. “Those were the two comments I was hoping to hear.” Carole felt a rush of pride. “Do you understand, Lisa?” Max went on. “You’ve got to ride her
the fences as well as before and after them, all right? And Carole’s right about the barn: We all know by now that every horse in the world is going to speed up when he’s ‘going home.’ Got it?”
“Got it,” Lisa said with confidence. “It all makes sense.”
“Good. All in all, though, Lisa, a good course,” said Max gruffly.
Lisa beamed, and Carole and Stevie grinned at her. “Thanks, Max,” Lisa said lightly. “And thank
Carole!” she whispered, as Carole tightened up her reins in preparation for her ride.
“Wait a second, Carole,” Max said. He waved to Red O’Malley, the head stable hand, who was waiting down at the end of the ring. When Max caught Red’s attention, he called, “Raise them six inches!”
Carole smiled as she walked and trotted Starlight to wake him up before jumping. It was just like Max to raise the fences for her, to give her a more challenging course. It was also just like him to rely on her to provide the comments he was waiting for. Carole was aware of her status as the best junior rider at Pine Hollow. She had the highest Pony Club rating of Max’s students, as well as the best show record.
Luckily, Carole thought, she didn’t have the kind of friends who were jealous. Stevie and Lisa understood that Carole’s success as a rider was a result of many things: talent, hard work, and an unwavering dedication to horses.
All three girls were horse-crazy. That was one of the
main requirements for joining The Saddle Club, the group they had started. But Carole was the horse-craziest of the three of them. She lived and breathed horses, 100 percent of the time. She might forget school tests, doctor’s appointments, or plans she had made with her father, Colonel Hanson; but she would never, ever forget about the upcoming schooling show, not for a second.
“Okay, Carole, whenever you’re ready!” Max called.
Carole tightened up her reins and cantered toward the first jump, a white picket fence. Starlight’s ears were pricked: Jumping was what he loved best! To Carole’s delight, he soared over the picket, then the two oxers, the coop, the ditch, the in-and-out, the brush, and, finally, the vertical rail. The lesson group broke into spontaneous applause when she rejoined them.
“Starlight looked great!” said Polly Giacomin. “I love the way he snaps his knees up over the fences.”
Carole smiled. She had trained Starlight, so any compliment to her horse was like a compliment to her.
“Okay, who wants to start?” Max asked.
Carole was just the tiniest bit surprised. She’d thought that there was a chance—granted, a very
small chance—that Max wouldn’t criticize her course at all. Starlight had jumped like a pro.
“But Max, Starlight looked like he was ready to go to the American Horse Show!” Stevie protested.
Max nodded, a hint of a smile on his lips. “Ye-es … I agree. Starlight has an excellent, natural jumping form.”
Carole frowned slightly. “Natural jumping form” didn’t say much about her training abilities. And why was Max smiling?
Betsy Cavanaugh stuck a hand up. “I thought Carole kept him at a good, steady pace throughout the course,” she volunteered. A couple of others murmured concurrence.
Now Max looked truly amused. “That’s a good point, Betsy.” He glanced around. “So nobody has any criticism whatsoever for
Carole was starting to feel defensive. Did Max have to
them to criticize her? Normally Veronica diAngelo would have jumped in with a lot of problems that she’d made up—out of sheer jealousy. But with the rich, snobbish girl away on one of her many vacations, Carole had been anticipating more praise than criticism.
Then, out of the corner of her eyes, Carole saw
Lisa’s hand go up tentatively. She turned to listen. Even though Lisa hadn’t been riding nearly as long as Carole had, she was a good observer.
“Do you mean criticism for Carole apart from Starlight?” she inquired.
“Yes, Lisa, that’s exactly what I mean.”
“Well, this is really picky, but I noticed her reins getting a little long,” Lisa said. “Just like mine,” she added hastily.