Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Chloe came back down the aisle with a big grin on her face and Max at her heels. “I’m in!” she said. “Max said okay. My dad said okay. We’re all set.”
“Good!” Carole replied. It would be awful to prepare for a ride like this and then not be able to go.
“And don’t worry about anything,” Chloe said earnestly. “I’m only doing this as a prep for the Old Dominion Hundred-Mile Ride in a few weeks, so I really, honestly, truly don’t care how I finish. I’ll be able to teach you guys a lot.”
Lisa blinked. Her overall impression of Chloe was not good. First Chloe had laughed at her, and now she was almost saying that she expected The Saddle Club to do poorly. How could she say that when she didn’t even know them? How could she draw instant conclusions like that? Lisa was insulted.
Looking at the faces of her friends, Lisa could see that they felt the same way.
RL 5, 009–012
A Bantam Skylark Book / August 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
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 Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for her help in the writing of this book
ISE AND SHINE
, beautiful Belle, I’ve got some oats for you,” Stevie Lake sang to her horse. At the magic word
, the bay mare swung her head over the partition of the temporary stall she was in. Stevie and her two best friends, Carole Hanson and Lisa Atwood, laughed. Belle whickered eagerly as Stevie poured the oats into her feed tub.
“And Max says horses don’t understand English,” Lisa said with a shake of her head.
“It’s hard to believe sometimes,” Carole agreed.
“But it’s true; they don’t.” Max, the girls’ riding instructor, came down the dark aisle bundled in a hooded sweatshirt. In the Virginia hills, it sometimes grew chilly at
night, even in the summer. “They understand breakfast,” he explained. “Belle can smell the oats, that’s all.” An eager grin lit his face. “Do you guys feel ready for today?”
This was the day all of them, including Max, were going on their first endurance ride. Endurance riding was an offshoot of English riding: The point was to cover fifty miles of rough trail in twelve hours, with a healthy horse at the end. Endurance rides were races. The fastest horse that finished in good condition won. The girls, however, were not at all worried about finishing first. They just wanted to finish.
“Sure,” Carole replied. “We did our last hill work on Wednesday, as you know, and Starlight’s heart rate and respirations—”
“Stop!” Stevie cried. She put her hands over her ears. Carole had been talking like this for weeks. “I know all this technical stuff helped get Belle in shape, but I absolutely can’t listen to another word of it. Riding a horse is an art, not a science!”
Stevie was certainly more artistic than scientific. Her favorite kind of riding, dressage, was almost like a dance between rider and horse. Stevie’s personality was artistic, too. She showed incredible creative flair, both at getting herself into difficult situations and at getting herself out. Life was never boring with Stevie around.
Carole blinked. “I suppose you’re right, Stevie. All the numbers we’ve been paying attention to do make riding seem like a science.” She turned back to Max. “Let’s just say we’re ready, that’s all. I think we’re really ready.”
Of the three of them, Carole was the most dedicated rider. She planned to spend her life around horses somehow. She loved learning anything new, and training for endurance riding had been fun to her. Carole had read books on the subject, and she and Max had plotted a training regimen that they all had carefully followed. Starlight, Carole’s horse, was in the best shape of his young life. So was Carole.
“Fair enough,” Max said. “I feel ready, too.” He turned and went down the aisle to the stall where Barq, an Arabian gelding, was waiting for his breakfast. Barq was a lesson horse from Pine Hollow Stables, which Max owned and where the three girls usually rode.
“I don’t think Prancer’s ready,” Lisa said mournfully, shaking her can of oats outside Prancer’s stall. “She doesn’t even smell the oats. She’s still asleep.”
Lisa didn’t have her own horse, but if she could have had one, it would have been Prancer, a beautiful Thoroughbred Max had bought from a racetrack. Prancer’s willingness to learn had enabled her to become a good saddle horse in a fairly short period; likewise, Lisa’s hard work had
enabled her to learn about riding quickly. She was still a little behind her two best friends, but she was catching up fast.
“I can’t blame her,” Carole said, looking over Lisa’s shoulder at the sleeping mare. Prancer dozed on her feet, her eyes shut. “After all, it is only four
Stevie groaned. “Don’t remind me. It’s way too early.”
“You know that horses need to have time to digest their food before they’re ridden,” Carole reminded her.
“I know. And since the ride starts at six, we have to feed them now.” Stevie shook her head. “What I don’t understand is why the ride starts at six.”
“So all the riders can be off the trail before dark,” Carole said.
“But it’s summer!” Stevie protested. “It doesn’t get dark until late! Besides, you don’t really think this is going to take us all twelve hours, do you?”
“It might,” Lisa said. “I’m a little worried. Fifty miles is a long way, and we’ve never done anything like this before.”
Carole put her arm around Lisa’s shoulder. “We’ve trained for it and we’re riding with Max,” she said. “Besides, we’re The Saddle Club. We can do anything.”
Lisa felt better. Long ago, right after she had met Stevie and Carole and they had realized how horse-crazy and utterly compatible they all were, they had formed The Saddle
Club. Members had to be horse-crazy—of course—and had to help each other out. The Saddle Club had had a lot of adventures, and now that Carole had reminded her, Lisa felt sure they could also handle the endurance ride.
They knew that Max would be with them every step of the way. Endurance rides had strict rules about young participants. All riders under the age of sixteen had to be sponsored by an adult rider who would remain with them on the trail at all times.
Lisa rattled her can of oats invitingly. “Prancer … Prancer, darling …” The mare woke up and pushed her nose toward the can of oats. Lisa giggled. “Prancer’s awake.”
“That’s more than I can say,” came another voice that all three girls immediately recognized as belonging to Stevie’s boyfriend, Phil Marsten. Phil materialized out of the shadows, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “I’m really not sure getting up this early is necessary,” he said, “but Mr. Baker and Max say it is, so here I am.” He dumped some oats into a bucket for Teddy, his horse, then rubbed Teddy’s mane while the horse ate.
Mr. Baker arrived on Phil’s heels. “Where’s Max?” he asked. “I’ve got coffee.” Mr. Baker owned a stable near Willow Creek, where Pine Hollow was, and led Phil’s Pony Club, Cross County. At the end of the school year, Mr.
Baker had challenged Max to take part in this endurance ride. The Saddle Club had thought it sounded like fun and asked to come along. When Phil had heard what was happening, he’d asked to ride, too. The Saddle Club had met Mr. Baker many times at Pony Club events, and they liked him.
“This endurance ride was a good idea,” Lisa told him, “but I really can’t believe we’re here.” She looked around at the stables bustling with riders and horses. Not long ago, she hadn’t even heard of endurance riding. Fifty miles in twelve hours sounded like an amazing amount of riding to her, but now she knew that some rides were even longer, up to one hundred miles in twenty-four hours.
Of course, she reminded herself, they wouldn’t do the whole fifty miles without stopping. There were two veterinary checks on the way—places where the horses could rest and be thoroughly examined, and where the riders could grab a quick snack.
Max came back and happily accepted some coffee. Mr. Baker offered his Thermos to the girls and Phil. Carole shuddered. She couldn’t stand the taste of coffee.
“My mother doesn’t like me drinking it,” Lisa said politely. Stevie just grimaced and shook her head.
“No thanks,” Phil said. “I don’t want to stay awake. This is too early! I’m going back to bed.”
“Sorry,” Mr. Baker said cheerfully. “We’re packing the tents before we leave.” Since endurance rides always began early in the morning, riders arrived the night before, checked their horses in, and camped out overnight. This ride started at a fairgrounds, so there were nice campsites and decent temporary stalls for the horses. Because Max sponsored an overnight ride every year, he had tents they were all using.
“Breakfast first,” Max suggested. “I brought Max’s Morning Madness.” This was his famous homemade granola.
Everyone followed Max out to his horse trailer. He rummaged through a plastic cooler in the tack compartment, took out six small plastic bags of granola, and handed them around. They ate standing up. Lisa felt like she was already having to endure hardship. Where were the bowls and spoons? Where was the milk? Wasn’t there anything to drink?