Authors: Bonnie Bryant
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Copyright © 1989 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 1989
First Delacorte eBook Edition 2012
For my trail mates, Neil, Emmons, & Andrew
up the walkway and through the door into Pine Hollow Stables. Her wavy black hair bounced against her shoulders with each step. She hated being late to anything, especially to riding classes. She stomped into the locker room and tossed her knapsack angrily on the floor.
“What’s gotten into you?” asked Stevie Lake, one of her two best friends.
Carole grimaced. She really didn’t feel like giving a long explanation about how her father’s friend Lynne Blessing had insisted on driving her to the stables—and on making her late. “Somebody gave me a lift,” she said. “And I would have been better off on the bus.”
“Oh,” Stevie said, pulling on her boots. “Well, if
you’re already in a good mood, you’ll be glad to know that we’re going to be working on changing gaits in class today.”
“Groan,” Carole remarked.
“What’s the matter with working on changing gaits?” Lisa Atwood asked. Along with Stevie and Carole, Lisa made up the trio that called themselves The Saddle Club. The girls were devoted to horses—and to each other. Although Lisa was the oldest of the three, she had the least experience as a rider, having begun only a few months earlier. Max Regnery, their riding teacher and the owner of Pine Hollow Stables, felt that Lisa had a lot of promise, but she also had a lot to learn.
“There’s nothing wrong with changing gaits,” Carole explained. “Changing gaits is very important. But it’s something I can do pretty well already. I was hoping we’d work on something a little more challenging in class this morning. At least then I would have rushed for a reason!” She smiled ever so slightly. Her anger at Lynne was wearing off. It was always hard for Carole to remain angry for long, especially when she was within a few feet of a horse.
be a challenge this morning,” Stevie said temptingly. She stood up and selected one of the velvet-covered hard hats from a hook on the wall where they were stored. Standing in front of the mirror,
she slipped it on her head and snapped the chin strap tightly. Lisa and Carole took hats as well. Carole didn’t bother to look at herself in the mirror while she snapped the strap. She knew that the hats looked weird and that adjusting them in the mirror wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. But they were required for safety, and even the newest rider knew it was a good idea to protect herself against a possible fall.
“Okay, I give up,” Carole said after a moment. “What makes you think there might be a challenge today?”
Stevie’s eyes twinkled. She was a teaser and a practical joker. She loved it that she’d piqued Carole’s curiosity. “It may be nothing,” she began, “but Max was here a while ago. He was looking for you—”
“Me?” Carole interrupted.
me,” Stevie added. “Said he’d talk to us together when you got here. Ready?” she asked.
In spite of herself, Carole glanced at the mirror. Satisfied with what she saw, she nodded at Stevie. “Come on, Lisa,” she said. “Maybe it’ll be a challenge for you, too.”
“Changing gaits is a challenge for me,” Lisa reminded her friends, but she fell in line behind the other girls. They headed toward the stable area, where the other students were already doing their chores.
As the girls entered the long hallway by the box
stalls, they spotted Max standing next to the largest stall at the end of the row. It housed Delilah, a palomino mare, and her young colt, Samson. Max appeared to be watching Samson, but Carole knew that he was actually overseeing all the chores his students were doing.
“Polly!” he called out to one of the girls. “You must not yank the straps when you’re tightening the girth. All you’ll get for your troubles is a kick!” Polly looked up guiltily from the left side of her horse. She hadn’t known Max was watching.
“Just wait until he breathes out, then you can tighten it easily,” Max advised.
“He’s holding his breath, Max,” Polly complained.
“But he can’t hold it forever,” Max reminded her.
Carole stifled a smile. She knew that there was an awful lot to learn about taking care of horses, but much of it was just plain common sense. Polly would learn these things in time.
“Well, good morning, Carole,” Max greeted her. “Glad you could join us today.”
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help being late,” Carole began the explanation of her exasperating morning. “This friend of my dad’s wanted to give me a ride, but she kept talking to Dad; I
we’d be late, but she wouldn’t stop, so—” Carole stopped talking. She could see that Max didn’t really care why she was late.
He just wanted her to know that he had noticed. Max could be very relaxed about some things, but not when it came to the stable and riding horses. He was very strict about training discipline, and that included promptness.
“I wanted to ask you or Stevie to help me out with something.”
One of the traditions at Pine Hollow, which was located in Willow Creek, Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C., was that all of the students helped with the routine chores. Not only did that help keep their costs down, but it gave the students chances to learn more about horse care. Since Carole’s ambition was to spend the rest of her life with horses—riding, raising, or training them—she was always interested in new opportunities.
“I have a group of tourists who want to take a trail ride. There are about ten riders. Red O’Malley can lead the group, but I don’t know how well trained any of them are. I’d like to know there’s another experienced rider with them. Would either of you be willing to cut class to go out with Red and this group?”
Riding with a group of tourists was not exactly Carole’s idea of a challenge. She looked at Stevie. Stevie’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling. It was clear that she wasn’t too enthusiastic about it either. On the other hand, Carole thought to herself, it might be good experience.
After all, if she was going to be an instructor someday, she’d be working with lots of new riders.
She shrugged. “Sure, Max, I’ll do it,” she volunteered.
“Thanks, Carole. Go find Red. You and he can choose the horses for the group. I told Red to take the hill trail and then come back through Brown’s farm. The tourists will love the pasture. Don’t let them stop by the creek, though. They’ll have the horses drinking no matter what, and then …”
Carole listened carefully as Max gave his instructions. She realized that she had been right to agree to this assignment. There
a lot to learn. When Max finally finished, she saluted him smartly, just the way she had seen her father, a Marine Corps colonel, do. Then she clicked her heels together for good measure and marched off to find Red.
“See you in class, Max,” Stevie said, turning to go back to the tack room.
“Not so fast,” Max said, halting her. “There are still fifteen minutes before your class,” he reminded her. “Don’t you have a chore to do?”