Authors: Bonnie Bryant
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Special thanks to Laura Roper of Sir “B” Farms
Copyright © 1988 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller.
“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.
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Originally published by Bantam Skylark in 1988
First Delacorte eBook Edition 2012
For my mother, Mary S. Bryant
Lisa Atwood leaned forward in the saddle and tucked her head low, near Pepper’s shiny black mane. She could feel tree branches brushing the back of her neck. When the brushing stopped, she sat upright and drew Pepper to a halt next to Stevie and her horse, Comanche. In a minute their friend, Carole Hanson, caught up with them, breathless and smiling, riding on Delilah.
“Oh, I love this trail!” Carole exclaimed. “But I do wish somebody would trim those branches! Sometimes when you’re trotting, you come up on them so fast that you can ram right into them.”
“Why don’t the horses know to go around them?” Lisa asked her friends. Stevie and Carole were experienced
riders. Lisa had begun riding just a few weeks earlier, but already she knew she loved the sport as much as anything she’d ever done.
“Horses don’t go around the hanging branches because they can tell that they’ll fit under them. They just forget about their riders on top,” Carole explained.
“That’s just the kind of thing you’ve got to know before we go on the overnight trail ride,” Stevie said. “Riding outdoors is really different from riding indoors.”
Lisa could already tell that was true. She’d been riding Pepper since her second lesson and she’d never known the horse to be so frisky.
“Okay, now we can trot here for a while before the trail gets rocky,” Stevie said. “I’ll start, you wait until I’m up to that azalea bush, and then you can follow.” Stevie nudged Comanche into motion. As soon as Stevie passed the bright pink-flowered bush, Lisa signaled Pepper to trot. He obeyed immediately, following Comanche.
Lisa liked to trot. It was fast enough, but not too fast—sort of like jogging. A horse’s next-fastest gait, the canter, was more like running, and Lisa found that scary sometimes; it was hard to keep her balance. While Pepper trotted, Lisa looked straight ahead, watching Stevie in front of her.
Stevie’s untidy dark blond hair trailed out of her riding hat. The sun was shining on her hair and on Comanche’s chestnut coat, making them both gleam
richly. Their personalities, stubborn but playful, were alike. Somebody who didn’t know Stevie well might think that the advantages she’d been born with—a comfortably wealthy family, big house, private schools—might have made her think she was better than other people. That wasn’t Stevie at all. Stevie just liked to have fun, and she usually managed to do it, too—even when fun looked a lot like hot water!
Lisa glanced back at Carole. Carole was a wonderful rider. She’d been riding horses since she was a very little girl on the Marine Corps bases where her father had been stationed. Carole was riding Delilah, a beautiful, spirited palomino. Carole used her legs and reins to signal Delilah so subtly that Lisa could never even see what she’d done. But Delilah knew. The two worked in nearly perfect unison.
Lisa suddenly felt Pepper’s trot quicken. She shortened her reins and slowed the horse a bit. They were approaching Stevie and Comanche. Stevie had slowed her horse to a walk to cool him down. Since the trail was wide, Lisa drew up next to Stevie and they walked together.
“How come Pepper started going faster when we got closer to you?”
“You’ve seen that happen in class, haven’t you?” Lisa nodded. “Well,” Stevie continued, “it happens more outdoors because there’s more room. See, horses are naturally competitive animals. They really love to race and show off to each other. As soon as Pepper got
close to Comanche, he wanted to be
of Comanche. It’s not as important to him when we’re walking as when we’re trotting—and wait until you see what happens when we canter!”
“You know, Stevie, I’ve been wondering,” Carole said as she drew her horse up to Comanche and Pepper. “Why was Max so eager to have us come out on the trail today?”
Max—whose full name was Maxmillian Regnery III and who was the owner of Pine Hollow Stables—was usually reluctant to let young riders onto the trails around the stable without a chaperon or instructor.
“Oh, he didn’t know we were going on the trails,” Stevie said airily. “I told him we were going to check the cross-country course for him.”
“The cross-country course? You’re crazy!” Carole told her.
“Oh, no, I’m not,” Stevie countered. “There’s going to be a horse show on that course this summer, so Max was really glad I wanted us to go over it. And, you’ll remember that I’m supposed to be Lisa’s partner on the Mountain Trail Overnight in three days, and if she doesn’t have any trail experience before we leave, it’ll be hard for her, and for me,” Stevie finished breathlessly. “Now, I’m in the lead, so let’s get going.”
“But why didn’t you just tell him the truth?” Carole asked. Stevie just shrugged and then began trotting again—as if that were an answer.
Lisa followed her, laughing a little bit to herself.
Stevie wasn’t usually a bossy person the way she sounded now. What Stevie usually was was in trouble. Lisa had a sneaking suspicion that she’d be in it as well if she followed Stevie’s orders. But how could she resist?
Carole watched the riders in front of her. She and Stevie had been riding together for two years, as long as her father had been stationed at the Marine Corps base at Quantico. Colonel Hanson had bought a house in nearby Willow Creek, Virginia—the first time they had ever lived off a base—and Carole had started riding at Pine Hollow. Until that time, most of her friends had been “military brats” like herself. Now, her best friends, Stevie and Lisa, were riders. The three of them had formed The Saddle Club. The only requirement for membership in it was to be horse crazy. So far, they hadn’t met anybody as horse crazy as they were, so there were just the three members.
Even though Lisa was a year older than twelve-year-old Carole and Stevie, she’d just started riding. But Carole could tell that Lisa had a natural feel for horses. She’d known it the first time she’d watched Lisa ride in the ring at Pine Hollow. When Lisa and her mother had shown up at the stable, Carole was sure Lisa was just another spoiled rich kid, dressed in fancy riding clothes. Then Max had put her on a gentle pinto named Patch to see if she knew anything about horses. Before she’d walked around the ring twice, Veronica diAngelo (who really
rich kid) had let a door slam loudly enough to frighten Lisa’s horse. Patch had bolted into a gallop. Carole had been sure Lisa was going to fly off Patch’s back and break an arm, or worse. Somehow, though, Lisa had managed to stay on the horse, eventually controlling him. Carole had never seen another rider show such skill the first time out. But no matter how great Lisa’s natural talents were, there was plenty she didn’t know. That’s why this practice at riding outdoors was so important before the three girls went on the overnight ride.