Authors: Bonnie Bryant
“Thank God you had on a hard hat,” said Carole.
“I think I should call a doctor,” Deborah said.
“No, I’m okay, really,” Stevie said, pushing herself to a sitting position.
“Here, I’ll help you up,” Lisa offered. Stevie took her hand. She stood up carefully.
“Boy, I can’t believe Veronica would be so incredibly stupid as to cause an accident like this!” Lisa snapped. “Every time I think she’s reached the limit, she finds another limit to reach!”
A genuine look of puzzlement crossed Stevie’s face. “Veronica? What’s she got to do with this? How could a nice girl like Veronica cause something like this to happen?”
Lisa and Carole looked at one another.
“Call a doctor,” said Lisa.
“No, call an ambulance,” said Carole.
RL 5, 009–012
A Bantam Skylark Book/July 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
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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
1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
I would like to express my special thanks to Marion Barritt, whose personal experience suggested this story, and to Michael Bird, to whom I am indebted for the technical accuracy about soaring. I get credit for any errors on that subject—or any other
all of her concentration on the jump in front of her. She could feel the power of her horse, and she could see the brown earth beneath her horse’s hooves. She could sense the warm summer sun on her back. But the only thing she knew was the jump itself.
“Come on, Belle,” she whispered to her horse. “You can do it.”
She leaned forward in the saddle, rose ever so slightly, and gave Belle some rein. The horse moved her head forward, anticipating the jump. Then the mare’s powerful rear legs propelled horse and rider up and over. For a
moment Stevie felt as if she and Belle were one being, soaring in unison. A split second later Belle’s forelegs met the ground and found footing, carrying the rest of her body forward until her hindquarters landed. It was smooth and easy.
“Like the wind!” Stevie declared joyously.
“Great job!” Lisa Atwood called as she clapped for her friend. Lisa was sitting on the fence of the schooling ring.
“You’ve got to remember to hold your hands still,” said Carole Hanson. Carole was sitting next to Lisa on the fence, watching carefully so she could critique everything.
Carole, Stevie, and Lisa were best friends. They sometimes laughed about it, because often it seemed to them that they couldn’t have been more different. But they had one thing in common that was more important than all of their differences: They loved horses. They loved everything that had to do with horses. They loved to ride them, and they also loved taking care of them, feeding them, grooming them—even mucking out their stalls. They rode together at Pine Hollow Stables. Their instructor, Maximilian Regnery III, and his mother, Mrs. Reg, owned the stable. They kept costs low by asking their riders to help with the chores. Stevie, Carole, and
Lisa pitched in gladly whenever they had the time, and sometimes when they didn’t. Taking care of horses and helping friends never seemed like work to the three girls. It usually seemed more like fun.
The girls were so horse-crazy that they’d formed The Saddle Club. It was a simple club. It had only two rules. Members had to be horse-crazy, and they had to be willing to help one another out, whether they knew they needed help or not.
Twelve-year-old Carole was the most experienced rider of the three girls. She sometimes said she’d been born to ride. Carole had been around horses since she was a very little girl. She knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up, too. She was going to be a competitive rider. Or maybe she was going to be a trainer. Sometimes it seemed that being a breeder would be the best. Or perhaps a vet. Then again, maybe she’d be all those things!
When it came to horses, Carole was all business. She never forgot anything that had to do with the welfare of a horse, particularly of her own beloved bay gelding, Starlight. When it came to anything but horses, Carole could be rather forgetful. Her father, a colonel in the Marine Corps, often said that she’d leave her head at home if it weren’t attached so securely.
“That’s silly, Dad,” Carole said. “The reason I don’t leave my head at home is because I’m going to need it when I get to the stable!”
Her friends suspected she wasn’t entirely joking.
Lisa, who was thirteen, never forgot anything. She was always organized and logical. Her clothes never got wrinkled. Her homework was never late. She was a straight-A student, a teacher’s dream. She was the newest rider of the three girls, but she worked so hard at it—as at everything she did—that she was almost as good as her friends. Max said she was one of the fastest learners he’d ever taught. Lisa was good at other things, too. She’d taken music lessons, ballet lessons, and painting lessons. She liked to act and sing and had even starred in a local production of
. Although there were many things she enjoyed doing, she liked riding horses most of all.
Stevie was as mischievous as Lisa was organized. The twelve-year-old often joked that she spent about half her time in hot water. Her friends pointed out to her that she spent the other half getting out of hot water, and since they were bound to help her by the rules of The Saddle Club, that meant they had to help with frequent rescue missions. Stevie thought that today was an exception to that. She was working very hard on her jumping skills. Lisa, the totally logical member of the trio, disagreed
with that. In her opinion, what Stevie was doing by working on her jumps was attempting to get out of hot water. Stevie had made a bet with her boyfriend, Phil Marsten, that she and her horse, Belle, were better jumpers than Phil and his horse, Teddy. Today’s practice was an attempt to help Stevie through her latest “harebrained notion,” as Carole sometimes called them, because Phil had described Belle as a “pretty good jumper.” “Pretty good” wasn’t anywhere near what Stevie thought of Belle’s abilities.
was the word she would have used.
“All right, I’ll try again,” Stevie said. “And this time, I’ll hold my hands still. I’ve got to get it right because there isn’t much time until the contest.” She circled Belle around the ring and prepared for another go at the jump.
“Just five more days of this,” Lisa remarked to Carole. The jump-off between Stevie and Phil was scheduled for the following Saturday morning before their regular Pony Club meeting. Stevie had wanted it to be in the afternoon on the theory that Belle probably liked sleeping in on Saturday mornings as much as Stevie did, but Phil couldn’t do it in the afternoon. His uncle Michael had invited him to fly in his glider with him.
“Imagine thinking that going up in a glider is going to be more important than comparing our horses’ jumping.
Why couldn’t he fly in the morning?” Stevie had asked indignantly.
“Because gliders require thermals for lift, and it’s hard to find thermals before the afternoon sun has warmed the air,” Lisa had explained.
“Whatever,” Stevie had said.
“How do you know these things?” Carole had asked Lisa.
“I looked it up,” Lisa had told her. Carole had thought that was probably why Lisa was a straight-A student.
Stevie circled Belle around the ring and approached the jump again. She often said riding was easy as long as you could remember a million things at the same time: heels down, toes in, back straight, arms relaxed, hands still, weight evenly balanced—and that was just for starters.
Something flashed in her right eye. Someone was walking out of the stable and into the ring.
Stevie turned to look. The minute she turned her head, it changed her balance, and as soon as that happened, Belle hesitated. That meant that Stevie and Belle were too close to the jump when Belle took off. The horse popped the jump and then had to scramble to keep her footing when she landed.
“Ugh!” said Stevie.
“Not pretty,” Lisa said.
“The worst!” Carole told her.
“That’s a fine way to greet me,” said Veronica diAngelo. The three girls looked at the new arrival. If there were two things The Saddle Club always agreed about, the first was that they were crazy about horses and the second was that Veronica diAngelo was the most obnoxious girl in the entire town of Willow Creek, Virginia—perhaps in the entire world. Veronica was in their Pony Club and took lessons with them. She had her own horse, a very valuable Thoroughbred named Danny. Everything about Veronica, it seemed, was very valuable. Her clothes were from the most exclusive shops at the mall, her hair and nails were always perfect, and she often showed up at Pine Hollow in the backseat of her father’s limousine or the front seat of her mother’s Mercedes.