Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Stevie shrieked as her horse gave a sideways leap and whirled, then stood with muscles trembling, ears pointing toward the fence. “What was that for?”
The other horses jumped, too. For a moment Carole felt her balance slipping. She grabbed her horse’s mane and stayed on.
“Oh, no!” Lisa’s voice rose high in panic. Suddenly the riders could see what had spooked their horses—a lone horse, a skinny, haggard-looking, almost-white horse, plunging toward them across four lanes of traffic!
A huge semitruck blared its horn. The horse leaped onto the grass median, ran in place for a stride, then dashed onto the other half of the highway. A passenger car slammed on its brakes, swerving around the horse. The horse raised its head and squealed desperately.
“He’ll be killed!” Carole screamed.
RL 5, 009–012
GOLD MEDAL HORSE
A Bantam Skylark Book / May 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.
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.
Special thanks to Jane Atkinson, Director, Equestrian Events (Rolex Kentucky); Michael Etherington-Smith, course designer for the Kentucky Rolex Three-Day Event; Willie May, Executive Assistant, Equestrian Events; and Jo Whitehouse, the United States Combined Training Association, for their most generous assistance.
I would like to express my special thanks
to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
for her help in the writing of this book.
popped wide open. She covered the bottom of the phone with her hand. “Southwood is trying out for the Olympics,” she squealed to her two best friends, Stevie Lake and Carole Hanson.
Carole and Stevie shrieked at the same time.
“Not the next Olympics, either,” Lisa continued breathlessly. “This one! This summer!”
Carole and Stevie shrieked again. Stevie jumped to her feet and began pacing.
“Best of all”—Lisa’s face lit with excitement—“Drew says Dorothy and Nigel have invited us to come along!”
“We’re going,” Carole said instantly. Her brown eyes shone. “When do we leave?”
Stevie threw herself back on Lisa’s bed, stunned. “The Olympic tryouts?” she repeated. “The Olympics!
Lisa uncovered the phone receiver. “We’re pretty excited,” she said into it. “Now, tell me all the details.” She leaned back into her armchair and tucked her feet beneath her.
all the details!” Stevie said. She drummed her heels impatiently into the thick pile carpeting. It was a rainy day in early April, and Lisa had chicken pox. Stevie and Carole had come to visit her. Feeling sick and scratchy for a whole week had depressed Lisa’s usually bubbly spirits. Now, looking at Lisa’s pox-covered but excited face, Stevie thought that the phone call from Drew was exactly what Lisa needed.
“Where are we going?” Carole asked, pulling on Lisa’s sleeve to get her attention.
Lisa, murmuring, “Uh-huh, sounds great—sounds
” pushed Carole’s hand away gently and held up one finger.
“We can’t wait a minute,” Stevie grumbled. “Southwood in this Olympics! Quit chatting and tell us.” Patience was not one of Stevie’s strong points. Persistence, determination, a love of practical jokes, and an even
greater love of horseback riding were Stevie’s characteristics.
Carole rolled her eyes. “If we were at your house, we could use the speaker phone,” she said to Stevie. Stevie’s parents were lawyers, and even their home phones were loaded with gadgets.
“If we were at my house, Lisa wouldn’t be there,” Stevie said. Lisa was almost recovered, but she wasn’t allowed to go outside yet.
“If we were at your house, and Lisa wasn’t there, then we’d already know what was going on. Lisa wouldn’t be able to hog the phone.” Carole gave Lisa another impatient grin. Normally Carole was relaxed, but the words “Southwood” and “Olympics” had her burning to know more. Carole loved everything about horses, and someday she wanted to be a professional something-with-horses (a rider, a trainer, a vet, or a breeder, she wasn’t quite sure). She especially loved Southwood, a beautiful bay Thoroughbred owned by their friends Dorothy DeSoto and Nigel Hawthorne. She had ridden Southwood in one of his very first shows.
“Yeah,” Stevie agreed, “but if we were at my house, and Lisa wasn’t there, then I’d have to be talking to Dorky Drew.” She said it quietly so that Drew, who was on the phone with Lisa, wouldn’t overhear. Drew was a dork, but he was nice, and besides, he worked for Dorothy and
Nigel. Stevie didn’t want to insult him—at least not to his face.
Lisa hung up the phone. “Don’t call him a dork,” she said, turning back to her friends. “He’s nice. He’s just a little weird and goofy-looking.”
“Exactly,” Stevie said. “Dorky. Carole, don’t you agree?”
Carole smiled. “Yes, but I can’t believe you’re wasting time talking about it. Lisa! What’s going on with Southwood?”
Lisa hugged her knees. “It’s the best Saddle Club project ever,” she said.
“You’ve said that before,” said Stevie.
“That’s because they keep getting better and better. And this time it’s definitely true!” The three girls had formed The Saddle Club at the start of their friendship, when they’d realized that the things they cared about most were horses and one another. Saddle Club members had to be horse-crazy, and they had to be willing to help one another. Those were the only rules. The Saddle Club had had a lot of projects since it began—most of them horsey, and most of them successful.
“The best project so far,” Lisa repeated. “Even better than our trip to North Carolina.”
In November the girls had joined their friend Kate Devine and gone to North Carolina to visit Dorothy and
Nigel. The two adult riders had been their good friends ever since The Saddle Club had helped arrange their wedding. Long ago Dorothy had taken riding lessons at Pine Hollow, the stable where the girls rode now. Dorothy had grown up to be a championship rider, but an accident had prevented her from competing anymore. Nigel, on the other hand, still competed regularly. He was a championship event rider, and right now Southwood was his best horse. Southwood had Olympic potential.
“Tell us,” Stevie urged Lisa.
“You did say
Olympics, didn’t you?” Carole asked at the same time. “Because, remember, Nigel told us Southwood would try out for the
Olympics—the one in four years.”
Last fall Southwood had belonged to a young woman named Beatrice, who had talent but the wrong attitude about riding. When she hurt herself in a boating accident and then gave up riding, The Saddle Club felt sorry for her, but not for Southwood. Nigel had bought Southwood from Beatrice, and the girls knew that the horse was in the best of hands.
“This Olympics,” Lisa confirmed. “Okay, here’s the story: Nigel has been invited to ride Southwood in the Special Division Horse Trials of the Kentucky Rolex Three-Day Event!”
“That’s a mouthful,” Stevie remarked. “The Kentucky Rolex Three-Day Event? Haven’t I heard of that?”
“I should hope so,” Carole said indignantly. “It’s only the biggest, most difficult three-day event in North America!”
Three-day eventing was the ultimate test of a horse’s skills. Over three days, the same horse had to compete in the three Olympic equestrian disciplines: dressage, cross-country jumping, and stadium jumping. Only the most athletic and well-rounded horses could do eventing.
“Even I’ve heard of Kentucky Rolex,” Lisa said to Stevie. She hadn’t been riding for nearly as long as her friends. Lisa got up, walked to her desk, and pulled a horse calendar off the wall. She flipped to the front cover and showed it to Stevie. “That’s at Kentucky Rolex,” she said.
“Wow.” Stevie stared at the color photograph. A man in a red-and-yellow-striped jersey was jumping a chestnut horse out of a lake and over a huge log in a single bound. “That fence looks even bigger than the ones we saw Southwood jump in North Carolina.”
“Definitely. This is big time,” Carole said. “So … Lisa, I’m thrilled Southwood is going to Rolex. But you haven’t said how we can help. And what’s the Special Division Horse Trials?”
“Drew told me that it’s a special division—”
“Well, that makes sense,” Stevie muttered, “since it’s called ‘Special Division’—”
Lisa ignored her and went on, “—for horses who are under consideration—long-listed, Drew called it—for their Olympic teams. Drew said they were going to jump the same superhard fences as the regular advanced division and ride the same hard dressage test, but not do the steeplechase part of cross-country day. They don’t want the horses to get worn out this close to the Olympics.
“Drew said there were a lot of horses invited,” Lisa continued. “All the top Americans plus Canadians, and a lot of other international riders. Since Nigel’s invited, it means that he and Southwood are being considered for the British team.”
“That’s fantastic!” said Carole. “Nigel must be thrilled! Or …” Carole remembered their trip to North Carolina. Nigel had been very concerned that Beatrice was rushing Southwood. Southwood was talented, but he was only seven years old—still very young to be competing internationally. “Is he? Is Nigel thrilled?”