Authors: Bonnie Bryant
“Hi, Monica,” Kate said, in a slightly strained tone.
Monica glanced briefly at Kate, then looked away. “Hi.”
Emily spoke up. “You know,” she said to Monica, “you ought to do what we did when we got here—let the grown-ups take the luggage, and get on a horse as quick as you can! We’ll get a snack and wait for you, and we can all ride together.”
Monica scowled at Emily. “I can’t do that,” she said rudely.
Emily flushed but remained polite. “Why not? We don’t mind waiting.”
Monica’s face turned red. She looked as if she didn’t know whether to cry or to spit at Emily. “I should think it would be obvious why not,” she said. “People with one leg don’t ride horses.”
RL 5, 009-012
A Bantam Skylark Book / June 1997
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 © 1997 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
For information address: Bantam Books
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 Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
I would like to express my special thanks
to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for her help
in the writing of this book
see the mountains!” Emily Williams leaned forward, pressing her face against the pane of one of the plane’s small windows. “Some of them still have snow.”
“The Bar None isn’t that high up,” Emily’s friend Lisa Atwood assured her. “We won’t be riding through snow.”
Emily sat back. “That’s good, I guess, since I only brought summer clothes. But riding through snow is fun!”
“Riding through sagebrush is fun, too,” a third friend, Carole Hanson, said.
“Well, I don’t know about riding
joked the final girl in the cabin, Stevie Lake. “Riding
sagebrush, maybe. Riding around it. Riding past it and admiring the sagebrush—that’s fun. But riding
sagebrush hurts! It’s prickly.”
“I’ll write that down so I don’t forget it,” Emily said dryly. The others laughed. It was hard for them all not to laugh, when they knew they were on their way to have a great time riding at the Bar None ranch.
Lisa, Carole, and Stevie had been best friends for a very long time. They were all completely horse-crazy, and, in fact, they had met at Pine Hollow, a riding stable in Willow Creek, Virginia, where they all rode. When they discovered how much they had in common, they formed The Saddle Club. Its only two rules were that members had to help each other out, and they had to be totally, irredeemably, horse-crazy.
They hadn’t known Emily Williams for that long, but already she was one of their close friends. Because she had cerebral palsy, Emily rode at the Free Rein Therapeutic Riding Center, a place for disabled riders. She was a very good rider. She even had her own horse, a loving palomino named P.C. Sometimes Emily came to
Pine Hollow to ride, but she kept P.C. at Free Rein.
“You won’t believe it, Emily,” Carole said, her dark eyes shining with excitement. “The land is so open—you won’t see a fence for miles.”
“Oh, please,” Stevie retorted. “The only way she won’t see a fence is if she shuts her eyes. Em, they keep the horses in paddocks close to the barns, just the way you’d expect. They’ve got a little pasture for grazing, too, next to the ranch house, and they’ve got wire fences strung around the whole property. Otherwise the cows could just mosey into town.”
“And Mrs. Devine’s garden is fenced, too,” Lisa remembered.
“Otherwise the cows would eat lettuce for lunch,” Stevie said.
“Please!” Carole said, aiming a firm smile at Stevie. “You know exactly what I mean, and Emily does, too. Of course there are fences. There just don’t
to be any. We can ride for miles, and if we ride in the right direction, there’s nothing to stop us at all.”
“Except a nasty bunch of sagebrush,” Stevie murmured, and they all laughed. Of the three Saddle Club members, Stevie was the most playful,
and she loved all sorts of jokes. Stevie’s plans often landed them all in hot water, but her cleverness just as often bailed them out.
“So if my horse bucks me off, it’ll be able to run for miles,” Emily said. “You’re right, Carole, that is something to look forward to.” She said it with a laugh, and the others laughed in response.
Emily’s personality was a lot like Stevie’s. Both liked to have fun, but both could be incredibly stubborn. Emily’s stubbornness often worked to her advantage—she kept trying a thing until she did it.
“A Bar None horse would never buck a rider off,” Carole protested. “Wait until you meet them, Emily. They’re the sweetest horses in the world.”
If the others were horse-crazy, Carole was horse-berserk. Someday, her friends were sure, Carole would do great things in the horse world, but for now she contented herself with learning every single thing possible about them and spending all of her free time around them.
“Better than P.C.?” Emily asked. “Better than Starlight?” Starlight was Carole’s own horse.
“Well, no, of course not,” Carole amended.
“But aside from P.C. and Starlight, they’re the sweetest horses—”
“What about Belle?” Stevie demanded, at the same time as Lisa said, “What about Prancer?” Belle was Stevie’s horse; Prancer was the lesson horse Lisa usually rode.
“Sorry,” Carole said. “Okay, aside from P.C., Starlight, Belle, and Prancer—”
“What about Topside?” Stevie asked. Lisa added, “What about Delilah?” Both were favorite Pine Hollow horses.
Emily laughed. So did Carole. “I guess you’d better just say they have very sweet horses at the Bar None,” Emily said.
“That’s right,” Carole said. “I’d better not draw comparisons. I couldn’t, anyway. Horses are all so different, like people.”
“Emily, you’ll love it,” Lisa said softly. She was the quietest and most academic member of The Saddle Club. “I remember the first time I came to the Bar None. I really hadn’t been riding for very long then, and I had never imagined a place like it.”
“I have,” Emily replied. “I’ve been dreaming and daydreaming about this trip ever since I
learned we were going.” Then she laughed again and tossed back her short dark hair. “I have to admit, I think Pine Hollow is pretty close to perfect, because of all the trails! It’s hard to believe that this place will be even better. And I
believe I’m here on this plane with you guys. It’s amazing.”
“Colonel Devine wanted to thank you,” Carole said. “He told us you helped him a lot.”
The Devines owned the Bar None and ran it as a dude ranch. Colonel Frank Devine was one of Carole’s father’s friends. His daughter, Kate, had first been Carole’s good friend; now she was an auxiliary member of The Saddle Club. Colonel Devine had been a pilot in the Marines and still did some flying for corporations out West. Whenever he came to the East Coast, he tried to arrange a get-together for Kate and The Saddle Club.
The Bar None had become a popular vacation spot for families. Last spring Colonel Devine had called Carole to explain that he wanted to expand their facilities. Many of his former Marine Corps buddies were veterans of the Vietnam War, and a number of them were disabled. He wanted them to be able to enjoy the ranch, too,
so he was taking steps to make the Bar None accessible to everyone. Kate had told him about The Saddle Club’s work at Free Rein and the friend they had made there. Could he talk to Emily?
Carole had given him Emily’s phone number, and later Emily had told her they’d had a long conversation. Frank Devine had already been in touch with several national organizations for the disabled, she said, including the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, or NARHA, which oversaw therapeutic riding organizations. But he had some specific questions to ask a rider, and she’d been able to answer most of them. A few months later, he’d invited them all West for a week, including Emily. Colonel Devine was flying the small plane they were in now, taking them to Kate and the ranch.
“He wanted to thank me, but he said he wants to get some work out of me, too,” Emily said. “He wants my opinion on his improvements.” She grinned. “This is going to be really fun.”
“Passengers, prepare for landing.” Colonel Devine’s voice was stern over the intercom.
Emily giggled. “Does he always sound like that?”
Stevie nodded. “When he’s flying, he becomes this whole other person, Colonel Invincible, Captain of the Skies. Don’t worry. At the Bar None he’s a regular dad.”
“He seemed regular before the plane took off,” Emily said.
They gathered the books and snacks they’d spread about the small cabin and zipped their backpacks closed. Emily fit the cuffs of her crutches over her forearms. To walk she needed both crutches and leg braces, but to ride horses she didn’t need either. She had a wheelchair, but she avoided using it whenever she could.
When the little plane landed, Colonel Devine had no sooner dropped the ramp down when a tall girl came flying up it. “Stevie!” she shrieked. “Carole! Lisa!
” She gave them each a hug, nearly knocking Emily down.
“Kate!” they all shrieked back.
“Come on, let’s go!” Kate said, grabbing backpacks and hurrying them out the door. “My mom’s in the truck, she’s dying to meet you, Emily. We brought snacks in case you’re hungry, and John says hi to all of you. If we get back quickly we can ride before dinner, and, oh, Carole, wait
until you see the new foals!” Kate clattered down the ramp.