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Authors: Janet Rising

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BOOK: Pony Rebellion
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We all sat around morosely in the tack room. It was the Saturday before the extravaganza, and the mood was one of gloom, gloom, gloom.

“It's just too cruel,” complained Katy. “We've all worked so hard—including the ponies—and now the activity ride is grounded. I'm so disappointed, I could, I could…”

“What?” asked James. “Tease Twiddles?”

“Of course not, James!” Katy snorted. “Honestly, you've so got to get over that cat!”

“I can't. He's like some kind of feline dictator. He needs to be taken down a peg or two.”

“What are you getting for Christmas?” I asked Dee, trying to change the subject.

“What? Oh, I've asked for the most fantastic sequined top from Urban Outfitters, but I think Mom will get me what she usually does—some new showing gear,” Dee told me glumly.

“I've asked for a new cell phone,” said Bean.

“So have I!” Cat said. “My one has never been the same since I dropped it into Bambi's water bucket.”

“Imagine that!” remarked James.

“There must be something we can do!” moaned Katy.

“About what?” asked Bean, poking a cobweb with her whip.

“The activity ride! What do you think?” Katy yelled.

“It's not going to happen, Katy,” Cat told her. “Accept that.”

“Except that what?” asked Bean. Nobody bothered to put her straight.

Leanne came in for Mr. Higgins's tack. “You all look like you've been condemned to death,” she told us.

“Yeah, well, you know,” Dee said, shrugging her shoulders.

“It's not the end of the world,” Leanne told us as she disappeared with her tack. Dee pulled a face after her.

“Will you leave that cobweb alone, Bean?” Katy asked her, annoyed. “That's the second spider you've forced to come out of that thing.”

“Where?” I asked, moving away. I hate spiders. Suddenly, Mrs. Bradley appeared with a huge smile on her face.
I hope she's not going to be all happy
, I thought. I didn't think I could stand it.

“Hello, everyone!” she said, closing the door behind her and beaming at us all.

We grunted in reply, not really sharing her mood.

“I've been thinking,” said Mrs. Bradley, her eyes sparkling, “and I have the perfect solution.”

“To what?” asked Bean.

“The activity ride!” said Mrs. Bradley. “James must ride Henry!”

Talk about a bombshell! That got everyone's interest. We suddenly gave Mrs. B. our full attention.

“I won't take no for an answer,” she continued, sticking out her chin.
Like anyone was going to argue
, I thought. “Henry will love it, and it will be such a nice change for him. It's the perfect solution!” she repeated. “And I'd love to see him perform,” she added, grinning.

“Oh, it is the perfect solution!” exclaimed Katy.

“Totally!” agreed Dee-Dee.

“That means the ride goes on. Hooray!” yelled Cat.

“That's so nice of you, Mrs. Bradley,” added Katy.

James said nothing. Then he gave Mrs. Bradley one of his most devastating smiles (which I'm always hoping he'll throw in my direction, pathetic as I am) and leaped over to plant a kiss on her wrinkly cheek.

“Mrs. B., you are an angel!” he told her solemnly. Mrs. B.'s face turned bright red under her gray hair, and she looked like she might explode. If I'd known James was going to be so grateful, I'd have lent him Drummer—even though I know that wouldn't solve anything, but you know what I mean.

“Let's give it a try out right now!” said Cat. “Where's your mom, Dee?”

“I dunno, doing something in the stable, I think,” muttered Dee.

Dee disappeared to drag Sophie away from cleaning the kitchen cabinets in the stable, or some other dreary task she was doing to take her mind off the nonevent that used to be the activity ride, and we all galloped off to saddle up the ponies. Meeting us at the school, Mrs. Bradley puffed up with pride at seeing James dashing on her “magnificent” black horse, also known as Henry.

“It's so strange seeing you on Henry instead of Moth,” remarked Bean. I knew what she meant. Henry was built like a tank and had feathers flowing from his knees and hocks down over his hooves like skirts. I don't think Mrs. Bradley had ever pulled his mane or tail, and he had a beard and whiskers that would have done Santa proud. Unclipped, he looked like a big, black, hairy yeti next to our clipped and trimmed ponies. Henry also being about twice as wide as Moth, James looked a lot smaller on him than he did on his own chestnut mare.

“If this works, Henry is in for a substantial makeover,” Katy hissed to me, steering Bluey past Drummer.

“You're not kidding,” I replied. “He needs a complete overhaul.”

“Now, Henry,” I heard Bambi begin, “it's very simple, this ride. Just watch and learn and copy what we do. You'll catch on quickly.”

Good
, I thought. Henry was going to have the benefit of the other ponies' experience. He'd soon be up to speed. I hadn't bargained on Henry's attitude.

“Get lost!” he replied. “I'm not doing this stupid ride thing with you lot of roll-over-and-do-whatever-the-humans-want ponies.”

“Oh, come on, Henry, do the decent thing for once,” Drummer said impatiently. “You know this ride helps the RDA. We're all doing it, and it won't kill you to get on board for something worthwhile for once.”

“No way,” Henry replied. “I, unlike you all, have trained my human, and she does what I want, not the other way around. I'm not part of your pathetic, so-called team. I'm not giving up my cushy life, thanks!”

Bluey shook his head sadly. “Honestly, Henry,” he said, “you miss out on so much with that outlook on life.”

“Pah!” replied Henry rudely. “Go preach at someone else.”

My heart sank. We'd got the other ponies on board so successfully, and now we had Henry to convert. Why was nothing ever easy?

“Dear Henry is refusing to play ball,” I whispered to Katy.

She rolled her eyes in despair. “You're kidding!” she said.

I shook my head.

“Well, James is no Mrs. B.,” Katy said thoughtfully. “He might just persuade Henry otherwise.”

That was true. James wouldn't be asking Henry if he minded, ever so, please, to trot like Mrs. Bradley did. James would drive Henry on with strong leg aids and keep him between his leg and hand, so Henry wouldn't have much choice in the matter. My mind flew back to the image of James urging Henry at the field fence. And Henry being his usual, unresponsive self. It didn't give me a reason to share Katy's confidence.

“OK, let's take it slowly until Henry gets the idea,” Sophie suggested. “Go in your usual position, James, and we'll see how things go.”

Things went badly. Despite James's experienced and firm riding, Henry found plenty of ways to ruin the ride.

He cut corners. He was inattentive at the jumps. He went too fast when he should have slowed down. He went slowly when he should have sped up. He jumped crookedly, he stopped abruptly on landing, and he tried to pull the reins out of James's hands by thrusting his nose to the ground. All in all, he was a total pain, just like our ponies had been during their rebellion. He disrupted the entire ride, upsetting all the other ponies, who were furious.

Mrs. Bradley was mortified.

“Oh dear,” she said, crestfallen. “I suppose you're just not used to my Henry, James dear. I'm sure when you get to know him, everything will be better.”

I caught James's eye and shook my head. No way was it going to get better, and it wasn't James's fault.

“Can't you make Henry toe the line?” Sophie said quietly to James.

“He's a nightmare, totally unschooled and disrespectful,” James explained, his shoulders sagging as he dismounted. “I really need to sort him out, but I can't be horrible to him with his doting mom, Mrs. B., sitting there watching me. The pony has no respect at all. He just ignores my instructions completely.”

“Mmmm,” mused Sophie, lost for words, for once. Her cell phone rang, and she turned away, lost in advice to her friend about a horse the friend was thinking of buying.

The ponies were having their own discussion.

“We have to do something. Henry's wrecking the ride,” said Bambi.

“It's not fair,” complained Tiffany. “I've bumped into him three times when he just stopped for no reason. It's no fun having your nose shoved into Henry's tail,” she said, wrinkling her nose up in disgust.

“I think he needs a kick,” suggested Drummer.

“How will that help?” asked Bluey. “We've already got Moth out of action.”

“If it were summertime, and we were in the field at night, we could have a little word with our uncooperative friend and persuade him to embrace teamwork,” Drummer said grimly.

“Well, it isn't, we're not, and we can't,” said Tiffany.

“Hang on a minute…” said Drummer, and he turned to me. “Do you think James could make sure Henry doesn't kick anyone if we put a plan into place?” he asked me.

“I'll ask him,” I said. “What sort of plan?”

“Oh, just a sort of push-Henry-in-the-right-direction plan,” Drum said airily. He turned back to the other ponies. “Do you think you can lean on Henry? After all, he's your partner,” he asked Tiffany.

“Are you kidding?” Tiffany replied, her ears swiveling. “He's twice my weight. He only has to lean back, and I'll cave like a cardboard cutout!”

“True, there isn't much of you,” mused Drummer. “I don't understand it. You eat like there's no tomorrow.”

“Worms,” snapped Bambi.

“Hey!” exploded Tiffany. “It's my metabolism. I'm naturally slender! Not like you!”

“Just what are you insinuating?” demanded Bambi.

“Mares, mares,” soothed Drummer, “can we stay focused, please?” Bambi and Tiffany, truce declared, paid attention as Drummer explained his plan. The ponies were to persuade (Drummer's word, not mine) Henry to cooperate by pushing him along and bouncing him into the right place. “If he stops in front of you, Dolly, you have to nip his rump. If he goes less than straight, Tiffany, it will be your job to straighten him up.”

“But I've just told you, he's built like a tank, and I am
not
!” said Tiffany.

“OK,” said Drum, thinking furiously, “you're more Henry's size, Bluey. We'll have to get you next to him.”

“Me?” asked Bluey, not welcoming the idea. But, being Bluey, he came around. “OK, I'll take one for the team!” he declared loyally.

“Atta boy!” said Bambi.

“And if he gets too close to me,” threatened Drum, “I'll give him both barrels. Is the plan clear?”

“Yes!” chorused the ponies. I half expected to see them give a high five, but being ponies, that was obviously out of the question.

“Er, Drum,” I interrupted.

“What?”

“Don't you think that your plan, well, it's sort of bullying.”

“Oh don't start!” exclaimed Drummer. “Of course it's bullying. You want the ride to work, don't you?”

“Well, yes, but…” I trailed off.

“We've tried to appeal to his better nature by telling him what the ride's in aid of, but stubborn Henry hasn't got a better nature. He refuses to adopt any sort of team mentality. Clearly James can't get forceful when Henry's dear mommy, the ever-so-sweet-but-totally-ineffectual Mrs. B. is in the corner, believing the sun shines from under Henry's tail, so we have to take action. If you've got any other ideas, now would be a good time to tell me about them. If not…”

I shook my head. No ideas.

“OK then!” continued Drummer firmly. “We agree that the RDA outweighs Henry's feelings, and our plan goes forward. It's not as though dear Henry is a shrinking violet and likely to be permanently damaged as a result of a few shoves here and there, is it?”

I shook my head again. It would take dynamite to damage Henry.

“Now you, Pia, have to wangle it so that Bluey and Tiff swap places. And you need to bring James up to speed so he can help. The whole plan now depends on you.”

“Oh!” I said. I could do that, surely? I nodded my head this time, which made a change.

Dismounting and handing Drum's reins to Katy, I beckoned James over to the corner of the school (he left horrible Henry with Mrs. B. fussing over him) and explained about Drummer's plan. “You need to make sure Henry can't kick or bite the others,” I told him. “The ponies are going to rough Henry up a bit. We can't afford any more accidents.”

James looked thoughtful. “You know, I would have a huge advantage if I knew what was coming and could hear what Henry and the other ponies were saying. Will you lend me You-know-who for a while?”

You-know-who was our highly unoriginal code name for Epona. With my little stone statue, James would have a one-up on Henry. It made sense.

BOOK: Pony Rebellion
8.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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