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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

High Horse

BOOK: High Horse
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TROUBLE ON THE TRAIL

Phil and his horse, Teddy, were off, trotting past a gathering of ferns and crossing a field. Phil was definitely trying to avoid Stevie.

“All I wanted to say,” she yelled, “was—” But at this instant Teddy broke into a canter. Stevie could hear his hooves thud on the brown winter grass.

Abruptly there was a flash of white ahead. A fawn darted across the road in front of Teddy, its tail high.

Without warning Teddy reared, giving a whinny that sounded to Stevie like a scream. Phil’s arms were around Teddy’s neck, his knees high. Then, as Stevie watched in horror, Teddy lost his balance and fell with a thud. Phil flew off the horse and landed in the rocks beside the trail in an awkward position.…

RL 5, 009–012

HIGH HORSE

A Bantam Skylark Book / April 1994

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 trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller. The Saddle Club design / logo, which consists of an inverted U-shaped design, a riding crop, and a riding hat is a trademark of Bantam Books
.

All rights reserved
.

Copyright © 1994 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
.

eISBN: 978-0-307-82515-5

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
.

v3.1

I would like to express my special
thanks to Helen Geraghty for her
help in the writing of this book.

Contents

“O
NLY NINE CLAWS
,” Stevie Lake muttered to her best friends, Lisa Atwood and Carole Hanson. “She’s practically defenseless.”

Veronica diAngelo was standing in the center of the ring at Pine Hollow Stables, holding her right hand so she could look at the fingernail she’d just broken. It was a clean break, so now she had nine sharp red nails and one stump.

“You poor
thing
,” Betsy Cavanaugh said to Veronica.

Carole rolled her eyes, and Stevie looked to see if Betsy was kidding, but she wasn’t. Betsy’s face was screwed up into an expression of sympathetic woe,
making Stevie realize that there were some members of Horse Wise who would do anything to get in good with snooty Veronica, even cry over her broken fingernail.

“Maybe you could get it wrapped,” Polly Giacomin said.

Stevie groaned. Then she immediately realized that she’d groaned louder than she should have, because all the riders in the ring were now staring at her.

“Of course some people have no nails to lose,” Veronica said, looking at Stevie’s short nails.

The next thing Stevie knew, everyone was staring at her fingernails. Stevie felt her face turn pink. She had no desire to have long fingernails. There was no way she could groom Topside or keep his tack clean if she was worrying about her nails. But still, right this minute, she wouldn’t mind having two-inch-long claws so she could—

“Horse Wise, come to order,” Max Regnery said, interrupting Stevie’s thoughts. Horse Wise was a Pony Club that met Saturday mornings at Pine Hollow Stables to learn everything there was to know about horses. This morning Veronica and Peter Allman were going to give a Big Sister/Little Brother demonstration of the fine points of horse grooming.

Max Regnery was the owner of Pine Hollow Stables
and the head of Horse Wise. Right now, after listening to Veronica go on about her fingernails, his blue eyes were twinkling. Stevie realized that it was no accident he had assigned Veronica the subject of horse grooming. Max was expecting this to be an interesting morning.

“In a minute Veronica and Peter are going to give a grooming demonstration,” Max said. “But first, there’s bad news.”

The members of Horse Wise groaned.

“We may not be able to go on the Mountain Trail Overnight,” Max said.

The three members of The Saddle Club exchanged worried glances. This
was
bad news. Last year’s MTO, or Mountain Trail Overnight, had been absolutely wonderful. Their days had been filled with riding along the beautiful trails in the mountains of Virginia. At night they had slept out in the woods under the stars, and in the morning Max had prepared Max’s Morning Madness, a special breakfast feast. Everything about the MTO had been perfect, and the Saddle Club girls were expecting this year’s to be just as thrilling, perhaps even better.

Carole noticed that two of the younger riders, Jackie and Amie, looked as if they were about to cry.
This was going to be their first MTO, and they had been looking forward to it for months.

“Adam Levine has a strep throat,” Max went on. “As you know, we were counting on Adam to help load the horses into the vans and supervise the temporary paddock. We can’t go on the MTO unless we can find an experienced rider to replace him.”

“The rest of us could work extra hard,” Carole chimed in quickly. Lisa and Stevie quickly assented with nods. After all, they had originally formed The Saddle Club because they were totally horse crazy. They were willing to work all day and night if that’s what it took to go on the MTO.

But Max shook his head. “That’s a help,” he said, “but we really need an experienced rider.”

“Hmmmm,” Stevie said, running her hand under Topside’s mane and scratching him in a spot he particularly liked.

“Get ready,” Lisa warned the others. Stevie was notorious for coming up with ideas that were bombshells.

“This is possibly the best idea anyone ever had,” Stevie said.

Lisa and Carole exchanged smiles, because Stevie always thought her ideas were brilliant.

“Anyone with a suggestion can talk to me after
class,” Max said. “Right now Veronica and Peter will give their demonstration.”

“Peter,” Veronica demanded. “Where are you?”

Peter Allman stepped forward. He wasn’t the youngest member of Horse Wise—Amie and Jackie were six, a year younger—but he was the shortest and, at the moment, the most miserable. As Veronica spoke, his ears turned bright pink. Stevie wondered why Max had assigned this poor, defenseless kid to be Veronica’s younger brother. But then, Max had his mysterious ways, and he never did anything without a plan.

“First, we’ll tether Garnet,” Veronica said in a loud voice. She gestured at her Arabian, who stood patiently waiting for her grooming. Garnet was a beautiful horse, alert, with a small head and big dark eyes. In The Saddle Club’s opinion, Veronica didn’t appreciate Garnet nearly as much as the horse deserved.

“Please tether Garnet, Peter,” Veronica commanded.

Peter’s ears got even redder, but he took the lead rope and tied it to a post in the paddock fence.

“Aren’t we forgetting something, Peter?” Veronica said.

“She didn’t give the poor kid a chance,” Stevie murmured.

Peter reached into the grooming-kit bucket and
pulled out another lead rope. He clipped one end to the opposite side of Garnet’s halter and then tied the other end of the rope to a post.

“Does anyone know why we use a double tether?” Veronica asked.

Peter opened his mouth, about to answer, but before he could get the words out, Betsy Cavanaugh said, “For extra security. So the horse can’t drift.”

“Very good, Betsy,” Veronica said. “And now for the next step. Peter, get the dandy brush.” Peter picked the largest brush from the kit bucket.

“I suppose you can reach Garnet’s fetlocks, Peter,” Veronica said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

Peter turned even redder, because this was a reminder of how short he was. He put his left hand on Garnet’s shoulder to warn her that he was about to touch her leg. Then he leaned down and brushed Garnet’s right front hoof and leg with the dandy brush.

“Very good, Peter,” Veronica said. “Now you can do the same with Garnet’s other three legs.”

“Like Peter doesn’t know how many legs a horse has,” Lisa said. She couldn’t help it. Veronica was being such a pain. When Amie and Jackie heard her remark, they fell into a fit of giggles.

Peter cleaned Garnet’s left rear leg and moved to
the other side of the horse, so that now only Peter’s legs and feet could be seen.

“I don’t mind the Big Sister/Little Brother program,” Veronica said, looking at Peter’s skinny legs on the other side of Garnet, “but do little brothers have to be so
little
?”

This time Betsy Cavanaugh and Polly Giacomin broke up, as if this were the wittiest thing that anyone had ever said.

Peter came out from behind Garnet and put the brush into the bucket.

“Body brush and currycomb,” Veronica said.

Peter pulled a smaller brush and a currycomb from the pail and handed the brush to Veronica.

“Why do we use the body brush?” Veronica asked, sounding more like a teacher than a thirteen-year-old girl.

“To get rid of scurf,” Betsy said.

“Very good, Betsy,” Veronica said. “And, for our younger riders, what is scurf?”

“Horse dandruff,” Betsy said.

“And why would we want to get rid of horse dandruff?”

Stevie couldn’t resist.

“So the horses can get more dates,” she said. Amie and Jackie exploded with laughter.

“Stevie,” Max warned.

Veronica shot Stevie a nasty look.

“I will now use the body brush,” she announced imperiously.

It’s a first! Stevie wanted to say, but she bit her tongue.

Veronica ran the brush down Garnet’s gleaming chestnut neck, but almost at once there was trouble. Veronica stopped, muttering to herself and fussing with her fingernails.

“Now we see why serious riders don’t have long fingernails,” Carole whispered. The long red nails of Veronica’s left hand were snagged in Garnet’s mane.

Veronica worked her nails loose and handed the body brush to Peter, who cleaned it with the currycomb.

“Water brush,” Veronica snapped. Peter handed her a small, damp brush and she went to work on Garnet’s mane.

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