Authors: Bonnie Bryant
I would like to express special appreciation to Alexandra L. Robinson, III, and to Katie Cooke, who each, in a special way, helped me give the book flavor.
Copyright © 1991 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 August 1991
First Delacorte Ebook Edition 2012
“Hey, what’s this?” Lisa asked. She pointed to a piece of paper stuck to the wooden beam above the door to Garnet’s stall. “I don’t remember seeing that there before.”
Stevie gave her a boost and Lisa reached up, pulling the paper down. When she landed, she opened the page and scanned the words printed there in block letters. Then she gasped. “It’s a ransom note. Garnet’s been horsenapped!”
Carole took the paper and read it.
WE HAVE YOUR HORSE. IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN, GET $10,000 CASH AND WAIT FOR ANOTHER NOTE FROM US. DO NOT CALL THE POLICE OR IT
LL BE CURTAINS FOR THE NAG!
For Judy Gitenstein,
who has always been horse crazy
to be that good,” Carole Hanson told her friends Stevie Lake and Lisa Atwood. The three girls were watching the performance of an adult rider at Pine Hollow Stables’ combined-training event.
“Of course you will be,” Lisa said.
“No she won’t,” Stevie said. “Carole’s going to be better than that.”
Carole smiled to herself. She was glad that Stevie and Lisa were her best friends, and she hoped they were both right. All three of the girls loved everything about horses. They considered themselves horse crazy and had formed The Saddle Club so they could ride together and talk about horses just about any time they wanted.
Carole was the most experienced rider of the three. She’d learned to ride at the various Marine Corps bases
where she had lived with her father, a colonel, and her mother, up until her mother’s death two years earlier. Riding and horses were everything to Carole. Although she hadn’t decided what she would be when she grew up, she knew it would have to do with horses. She might be a rider, a breeder, a trainer, a vet—or maybe even all of them! Her dark eyes shone with excitement at the very thought.
Stevie had been riding for a few years, too, and was almost as good as Carole, though her impulsiveness and tendency toward mischief sometimes interfered with her progress as a rider. Those qualities also frequently got her into trouble with adults and other people who didn’t always see situations exactly the way Stevie saw them. Sometimes even her best friends didn’t see things the way she did, but they always knew that whatever Stevie’s scheme was, and no matter how harebrained it might seem, it was almost guaranteed to be fun.
Lisa, though a year older than her friends, was the newest rider of the three. Their teacher, Max Regnery, said she had natural ability. That, along with hard work, allowed her to keep up with her friends. Lisa enjoyed hard work. She worked hard at school as well as at the stable, and although her mother would have preferred more ladylike skills, such as ballet and painting, Lisa was proud of her accomplishments.
“Look at the way she gets her horse to turn the corner,”
Carole said. “That’s what Max always wants us to do.”
Lisa watched. She always learned from Carole and she didn’t want this to be an exception. The rider in the ring, performing dressage—the first of the three sections of the combined-training event—was showing how well the horse and rider worked together in intricate patterns of steps, gaits, and forms. Some people said this was boring to watch. To an experienced rider, it showed more (or less!) skill than the other components of the event, the cross-country and the stadium jumping.
All three girls were competing in the junior events on each day of the competition. Although the events were similar to the adult events, the requirements for the junior events had been devised by Max for his young riders and didn’t always follow the specific international rules of combined training events. He’d promised the girls that the events would be tough, though, and Lisa was sure of that. She was equally sure they would be fun.
One of the things Max was doing differently was that he’d decided to award ribbons in each segment of the competition as well as an award for the best overall competitor. Lisa didn’t expect to win any blue ribbons. After all, she was a relatively new rider. But she hoped she’d be able to get a second or third in something.
“Who’s up next?” Stevie asked, interrupting Lisa’s thoughts while she scanned the program.
“It’s Mrs. McMurtry, but then comes Alicia Downing. She’s really great,” Lisa said.
“And she’s really nice, too. Let’s go wish her luck,” Carole suggested.
“Okay,” Stevie agreed. “But tell me. Who is it you’re wishing luck to? Mrs. Downing or that gorgeous championship Thoroughbred horse of hers, Bodoni?”
“I plead the fifth,” Carole said with a laugh. “Let’s go.”
The three of them left their seats and entered the large, dimly lit tent that had been set up to house the event horses temporarily.
“It’s over this way,” Stevie said, leading the way and looking over her shoulder. Before she knew it she ran smack into something quite large, quite human, and moving very fast.
“Oomph!” she said. She lost her balance and landed on the ground.
“Oh, golly, I’m sorry, Stevie,” the large, fast-moving human object said. It was Donald, Pine Hollow’s newest stablehand. He offered Stevie a hand and helped her back to her feet. “It’s just that I’ve got so much to do. Mrs. McMurtry’s screaming about a smudge on her boots and then I have to see about water for two of the horses and I’m sure Max told me to do something else, but I can’t remember what it was and there are six other things that I’ve got written down, so if you’ll excuse me …”
Before Stevie could excuse him, he was gone. Stevie
shook her head in irritation. “I know he’s working hard and I should have been looking where I was going, but look at this. I got dirt all over my riding pants and
have to look good for the dressage test, too.”
“It’s okay, it’s just a smudge,” Lisa said. Then she picked something up. It was a pack of watermelon-flavored bubble gum Donald had dropped. “I hate this flavor,” she said.
“I’ll take it,” Stevie said, pocketing the gum. “I’ll chew any kind of bubble gum. Besides, he owes me for knocking me over. Now, what am I going to do with these dirty pants?”
“Let’s go over to the bathroom in the stable and I’ll help you get the dirt off, okay?”
“You don’t need me to help with that, do you?” Carole asked. Lisa shook her head. “Good. I’ll go see Bodoni. Meet you back in the stands.”
Carole worked her way through the maze of aisles in the tent, looking for Bodoni’s stall. She did love that horse. He was a coal-black stallion, a full brother to another horse she’d loved, named Cobalt.
When she arrived at Bodoni’s stall, though, it was empty. All his tack was there, so he wasn’t being exercised. The stall door had been left open and swung out into the hallway, where it could trip somebody or knock into a horse. That was very strange. No horse owner would ever do that because no horse owner would ever
want anybody else to do that. Carole was sure something was wrong.
“Where’s Bodoni?” she asked Donald as he dashed past her on the way to one of his many chores.
“Dropped out,” Donald called back over his shoulder.
That was even stranger. Bodoni was almost guaranteed to take a ribbon. Why would he drop out? Even odder, why would someone take him away and leave all his tack behind? Carole sniffed trouble. She wanted to find Alicia Downing and ask her what was up.
The tent was filled with people, but most of them were strangers to Carole.
“Have you seen Alicia Downing?” she asked one of the trainers. The woman just shrugged her shoulders.
Carole realized then that if Bodoni was gone, Alicia would certainly be gone, too. She wondered if she might find Alicia still loading Bodoni into his trailer. Carole dashed along the crowded aisles heading for the parking lot and loading area. She wanted to know what was going on with one of her favorite horses. She just had to see Alicia.
She saw Alicia, all right. At least, she saw Alicia’s station wagon and horse trailer, driving out of the parking lot.