Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Faster than The Saddle Club could believe, Veronica had Garnet tacked up and in the indoor ring. It was clear that the mare was as fresh and flighty as the day before. She danced at the end of the reins before Veronica quieted her long enough to get on, then shied and broke into a trot at once.
Standing with the Kingsleys at the edge of the ring, Carole said, “Boy, Garnet’s behaving well today. She’s usually much worse.”
Henrietta sneered. “It’s nothing a good crop and spurs won’t fix,” she said.
“Quite right, darling! Discipline is the key! You’ll have her behaving in no time,” Mrs. Kingsley bellowed.
A Bantam Skylark Book / December 1995
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 © 1995 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller.
Cover art copyright © 1995 by Paul Casale.
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 Caitlin Macy
for her help in the writing of this book.
in the driveway of Pine Hollow Stables. Her eyes swept over the picture-perfect scene—the neat barns and indoor ring, the fenced paddocks, and the rolling pastures beyond. Even in the middle of winter, with the bare trees and frozen puddles, it was probably her favorite place in the world. She breathed deeply to inhale the horsey smells and then ran for the barn.
One of the first things she noticed, once inside, was a large sign on the bulletin board outside Max Regnery’s office. It said simply Horse for Sale—Ask Max. Carole stared at it in confusion. Max, the owner of Pine Hollow
and its chief riding instructor, often let people post notices on the bulletin board about horses for sale, but usually they described the horses. Without knowing anything about a horse’s size, breeding, and experience, you couldn’t tell if it would be suitable. But Carole was too excited to wonder about the mysterious sign for long.
“We thought you’d never get here!” Stevie Lake exclaimed as she burst into the warm tack room.
“How long have you been here?” Carole asked, surprised.
“Oh, forever,” Stevie said, her hazel eyes twinkling.
“In other words, about five minutes,” Lisa Atwood commented dryly as she walked in behind Stevie.
Carole chuckled and gave her two best friends a spontaneous hug of greeting. They’d gotten back a few days earlier from a trip out West to the Bar None Ranch and had only managed one quick ride at Pine Hollow since then. Over the Christmas holidays, a snowstorm had stranded the girls at the Bar None. They always loved visiting Kate Devine at her parents’ ranch, but none of them had planned to be away from home for Christmas, so they were still basking in the warm feeling of being back.
“Something must have happened to me out West,” Stevie said solemnly. “I was actually glad to see my brothers again—even Chad!”
The girls laughed. Stevie’s feuds with her three brothers, and especially Chad, were notorious.
“I was happy to go home, too, but somehow I didn’t
feel I was home until I got to Pine Hollow,” Carole said, looking around appreciatively at the rows of shining bridles and saddles.
Stevie and Lisa nodded knowingly. Of the three of them, Carole was probably the most horse-crazy. She thought about horses twenty-four hours a day and wanted to be a professional rider, a trainer, or maybe an equine veterinarian when she grew up.
“I agree: Pine Hollow is where The Saddle Club belongs,” Lisa said. She was referring to the group that the three of them had started. The only requirements for membership were, one, being wild about horses and, two, being willing to help one another out in any situation. At Pine Hollow the girls took lessons, participated in Pony Club, helped with the chores, and held many spontaneous Saddle Club meetings. Stevie and Carole also boarded their horses, Belle and Starlight, at Pine Hollow. Lisa usually rode one of the school horses, a former racehorse named Prancer.
“So, Stevie,” Carole queried, “if you’ve been here so long, I guess you’ve already said hi to Belle today, huh? You probably don’t want to bother seeing her now, do you?”
Stevie grinned. Since she was constantly teasing people and playing practical jokes, she was used to getting a taste of her own medicine every so often. “Actually, Lisa and I were just on our way out when you came in.” She linked arms with the other two and led them out the door.
All three of them had to stop themselves from sprinting to greet their horses. They knew they couldn’t run inside the barn, though, so they walked as fast as they could down the aisle where the horses were stabled. On their way, they passed Max’s bulletin board and Carole pointed out the strange sign. Lisa and Stevie agreed that it did seem short for an advertisement, but they soon forgot about it as they joined their horses.
When Carole had given Starlight a huge hug and fed him a couple of carrots, she took off his blanket and led the bay gelding out for a grooming. Stevie and Lisa followed suit with Belle and Prancer. They cross tied the horses close to one another so that the girls could talk. “I knew Max and Red would feed them, and turn them out, and clean their stalls but still …,” Carole began, pausing to tap her currycomb against her boot. Red O’Malley was Max’s head stable hand and right-hand man around Pine Hollow.
“But still,” Stevie continued, “nothing compares to the love we three lavish on them, does it?”
“My, aren’t we sounding proud of ourselves today,” a man’s voice said. Stevie turned in alarm to see who had overheard her. She smiled when she saw that it was Max and that he was kidding.
Carole and Lisa looked up from their grooming to greet their instructor. “Hey! You weren’t here to welcome us back the other day. Didn’t you miss us, Max?” Stevie said, trying her best to look innocent but failing entirely. Although The Saddle Club pitched in a lot around Pine Hollow, they—and especially Stevie—were also known for stirring up trouble.
Max tactfully avoided answering the question. But he did seem as glad to see the girls as they were to see him. He asked all about their trip West and assured them that Starlight and Belle had spent lots of time outdoors in the paddock to make up for the exercise they had lost through not being ridden. “And Lisa, I only let a couple of the more advanced students ride Prancer, so none of your good work with her has been undone,” he said.
They all thanked Max profusely until he cut them off with a wave of his hands. “Enough! I’ve got a lesson to teach, so consider yourselves welcomed back, all right?” The girls nodded eagerly.
When Max had gone, they went back to their grooming in earnest.
“You know, when we took our first ride after we got back from the Bar None, I was so excited to be with Starlight that I hardly noticed how clean he looked,” Carole mused. “But now that I think about it, he looked as good as he always does.”
“That’s funny, because, come to think of it, Belle was really clean, too,” said Stevie. She stepped back to look at the bay mare.
“Maybe it’s because of their blankets,” Lisa suggested. All three horses wore blankets in the winter when the temperature dropped below a certain point. Willow Creek, Virginia, where they lived, never got extremely cold, but for thin-coated Thoroughbreds like Prancer and Starlight and a half-Saddlebred–half-Arabian like Belle, the extra layer was an important source of warmth.
“The blankets help, but they don’t keep their coats in such good condition,” Carole said. “The only thing that does that is grooming. Regular grooming. And we’ve only groomed them once since we got back.”
“Do you think Max groomed them while we were away?” Stevie asked.
Carole shook her head. “He wouldn’t have had the time. I don’t think he even grooms the horses he owns. That’s all left to the riders.”
“The riders and one other person,” Lisa put in. “Red.”
“Of course!” Stevie exclaimed. “How could we forget?” Not only did Red O’Malley always finish his assigned tasks, but he also constantly found ways to be even more helpful to Max and the Pine Hollow riders.
Leaving Lisa to keep an eye on their horses for a minute, Carole and Stevie went to track down the stable hand. They found him in Delilah’s stall, teaching two of Max’s beginning students how to braid a mane. As usual, he brushed off the girls’ thanks. “It’s easy to keep bays clean, anyway,” he said.
“But Red, seriously, Starlight and Belle are glowing,” Carole insisted.
“Yeah. They look every inch as good as they do when we’re at home,” Stevie said.
Red smiled. “It was my pleasure. You’ve helped me so many times in the past that I was glad of a chance to pay you back a little. Besides, I know how well you look after your horses. You really set an example around here that
should follow.” With that, he turned back to Delilah and the braiding lesson.
Red’s emphasis on the word “everyone” was not lost on Carole and Stevie. He hadn’t come right out and said it, but they guessed that he was contrasting them—quite favorably—with Veronica diAngelo. Veronica was a vain, spoiled girl who often ignored her Arabian mare, Garnet.
She always expected Red to do her work for her. The situation was even more frustrating because grooming privately owned horses was not part of Red’s job.