Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Veronica brought her horse, Danny, to a square halt. She looked down at Emily with an expression of smug satisfaction. “You know, this is what
riding is all about.”
Stevie moved closer to Emily. “Let’s go,” she whispered. “She isn’t going to change.”
Veronica either didn’t hear or pretended not to. “You might want to come watch us compete next weekend,” she continued. “It’ll all be real riding—a lot different from those pony rides they take you on at Free Rein.”
Emily flushed red. “I ride,” she said.
Veronica smiled. “I’m sure you do,” she said. “You should try to come next weekend. Then maybe you’d understand.”
“Come on,” Stevie whispered fiercely, her hand on Emily’s elbow. “Don’t listen to anything she says.”
Emily nodded and turned back to the stable, but The Saddle Club could see that their friend’s eyes were full of tears.
RL 5, 009–012
A Skylark Book / March 1996
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 © 1996 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
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
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
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
for her help in the writing of this book
I would also like to give my sincere thanks to a number of people who helped with ideas, information, and most of all inspiration for this story: Joyce Mabry and the Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia; Patty Pryor at A Leg Up Riding Center in Abingdon, Virginia; the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association; and the Agape Therapeutic Riding Center of Cicero, Indiana
With a last-second flurry of whispers, the members of Horse Wise, the Pony Club at Pine Hollow Stables, hurried to find seats on the office floor. Stevie Lake dashed in late and looked around the room for her two best friends, Lisa Atwood and Carole Hanson. Lisa waved Stevie over to the seat she and Carole had saved.
“Thanks! I knew I could count on you!” Stevie said. “Won’t this be fun? I wish we were riding, but still—”
“Horse Wise, come to
,” Max Regnery said again, with an amused glance in Stevie’s direction. Stevie grinned but quit talking. Max ran Horse Wise in addition to owning
and running Pine Hollow Stables. Max was the boss, and he hated it when his students didn’t listen to what he had to say. Fortunately for the students, what Max had to say was usually very worthwhile. It was usually about horses.
Stevie, Lisa, and Carole were united by a common love of horses and riding. They’d met and become best friends at Pine Hollow, and they spent most of their free time there. The three girls had even formed The Saddle Club, which was devoted to learning more about riding. There were only two rules: Members had to be horse-crazy, and they had to be willing to help each other out.
Of the three, Carole was considered the best rider. She was crazy about horses and planned to spend her life working with them—whether as a rider, trainer, or vet, she wasn’t quite sure. Stevie had no idea what she wanted to do when she grew up—she was having too much fun right now to worry about her future. Stevie’s love of practical jokes sometimes landed her in serious trouble, but her creative solutions—and her two best friends—usually got her out. Lisa was older, and more serious, than the other two. She hadn’t been riding for as long, but she was working hard to catch up.
“First things first,” Max continued, and the three girls, along with the other twenty or so members of Horse Wise,
sat up straight and listened. “Thank you all for being so willing to give up your mounted meeting today. We’ll also have an unmounted meeting next weekend, but after that … well, I’ll make it up to you.”
As with most Pony Clubs, Horse Wise usually alternated between mounted—on horseback—and unmounted—classroom—meetings. Today they would have had a mounted meeting, but instead they were joining several other nearby Pony Clubs, hunt clubs, and riding clubs to work on Volunteer Day at Free Rein, a local center for therapeutic riding.
“There will definitely be a mounted meeting two weeks from now,” Max went on. “Let’s just say that those of you who haven’t been riding much this winter might want to make an effort to get back in the saddle before then. Let’s just say,” he paused, looking around the room at the rapt faces of his riders, “that there might be prizes involved.” He grinned.
Like a cat in the cream
, Carole thought. It was a typical Max expression.
“Prizes!” squealed May Grover, one of the younger riders. “He means a horse show!”
The Saddle Club smiled. Winter was over, but barely. The horses still wore their thick winter coats, and the riders usually did, too. The paddocks were muddy from melted snow and cold winter rain, and the horses were often
muddy from rolling in the paddocks. Stevie, Carole, and Lisa were more dedicated than most of the other riders at Pine Hollow, but when the indoor arena was being used for lessons, and the trails and outdoor ring were hock-deep in slick, half-frozen mud, even The Saddle Club couldn’t possibly ride. They were eager for spring. A horse show would be a fantastic change of pace.
“Well,” said a snooty voice from the back, “we know who’ll win the championship, don’t we?”
The Saddle Club didn’t have to look to know who
was. Veronica diAngelo, their least favorite rider of all time, had gotten a new horse named Danny for Christmas. At least, Danny was what people called him. His registered name—his show name—was Go For Blue. Stevie also had her own horse, a mare named Belle, and Carole had a bay gelding named Starlight. They were both fantastic horses, but their show names were Belle and Starlight, and even Stevie and Carole had to admit that in terms of equine perfection, they didn’t come close to Danny. He was like a Greek god: aloof, impeccable, flawless. And Veronica, who’d always attached tremendous importance to money and prestige, was a real brat about him.
Lisa leaned over to whisper to her friends. “The worst part is, she’s probably right.” Carole nodded grimly, and Stevie made a face. On her bad days, Veronica had temper
tantrums, but on her good days she rode very well indeed. She and Danny would certainly go for blue—for the blue ribbon that would be first prize.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Max said, startling The Saddle Club, who weren’t sure if he was talking to them or responding to Veronica’s comment. “This—er—event may be a little—umm—different.” He paused, then shook his head, still smiling. “I’ll tell you all the details next week. Meanwhile, I hereby challenge all of you who’ve been stuck in the winter doldrums to shake the wind out of your sails, turn over a new leaf, put your noses to the grindstone, and—” Max seemed to get lost in his metaphors—“and anyway, let’s have a quick review before we head off to Free Rein. Who read the pamphlets I sent home with you last week?”
Every hand went up. Max seemed pleased. “Very good. Then tell me, when did therapeutic riding begin in this country?”
Meg Durham answered. “In the late 1960s. It started in Europe before that.”
“Right. And what is therapeutic riding?”
Adam raised his hand. “Riding done by people with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. It helps them become stronger, like physical therapy. And it helps them learn new skills.”
“And it’s fun,” Carole added. “They get to ride horses.” To her, that was the most important part. Carole couldn’t imagine her life without horses, and she knew how much they had helped her emotional state in the terrible months just before and after her mother’s death.
“Right,” Max said. “Now, today at Free Rein we aren’t going to see any riding, and we may not see much of the horses. But just remember why we’re doing this: so someone else gets to ride.” He clapped his hands together. “Let’s go! We’ve got work to do!”
Laughing and talking, Horse Wise piled out of the office and into the cars that were waiting to take them to Free Rein. The Saddle Club headed for Carole’s father’s station wagon. Colonel Hanson was a Horse Wise volunteer.
“We can take a few more people!” Carole called. Meg and Polly Giacomin came running. “Veronica?” As soon as she said that, Carole wished she hadn’t. Even if Free Rein was only a few miles away, the last thing Carole wanted to do was spend those miles in the same car with Veronica. But Veronica was heading—alone—to her family’s chauffeur-driven Mercedes.
Veronica stopped and turned. “My family supports the poor by generous financial contributions,” she informed Carole. “We don’t feel the need to get
“Of course,” Carole responded numbly, stopping in her
tracks. Veronica smiled and climbed into the Mercedes. The chauffeur closed the door for her.
“Of course,” Carole repeated, getting into the station wagon with a shake of her head. “She’s Veronica.” Colonel Hanson pulled out of the drive.
“She isn’t coming to Free Rein, is she?” Lisa asked.
“She called them ‘the poor,’ ” Carole said, still amazed.
“They can’t be poor. They’re riders,” Stevie said.
“I thought Max said no one at Free Rein had to pay for lessons,” Meg said.