Authors: Alyssa Brugman
Other books by Alyssa Brugman in this series
For Sale or Swap
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the
Australian Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Hide & Seek
ePub ISBN 9781864714623
Kindle ISBN 9781864717174
Original Print Edition
Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
Sydney New York Toronto
London Auckland Johannesburg
First published by Random House Australia in 2007
Copyright © Alyssa Brugman 2007
This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
National Library of Australia
Brugman, Alyssa, 1974–.
Hide and seek.
For primary school children.
1. Horses – Juvenile fiction. I. Title.
Cover photographs courtesy Getty Images
Cover and internal design by Sandra Nobes
Typeset in Sabon 11/15.5pt by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound by Griffin Press, South Australia
In this book Shelby learns how to trick ride. To research this book, I attended the Harris Entertain-ment Trick Riding School on the Central Coast of New South Wales. The technicalities of trick riding are based on what I observed there, but the characters in this book are fictional.
Like any horse riding discipline, trick riding is dangerous. The tricks in this book are technically accurate, but please don't try them unless a professional supervises you. Never, ever try any trick riding by yourself.
My special thanks to Heath and Krissy Harris, to Bridie Sparkes who explained everything patiently, and also to the trick riding students – Kali Siecker, Seann Pitman and Teleah Jensen, who made it look easy.
This book is for beautiful Kaz, who would not make a very good trick riding horse.
Thanks also to Christopher, who identified (and continues to indulge) Brugman's Theorem of Circum-equinus – everything in the universe relates back to ponies if you think about it for long enough.
'Weird,' Shelby mumbled, stepping outside the stable and turning on the spot in the yard.
It was difficult to see because her rain-hood hugged close around her face, as if she was wearing blinkers. The rain came down on an angle – so hard that it bounced off the ground and splattered her boots with mud. Drops caught in her eyelashes, making her frown. She could feel the water running over her chin and soaking into the shirt she wore under her raincoat.
Shelby stepped back into the stable and rubbed the water from her eyes. Even in this stable, three times the size of any other in the whole place, Diablo was seventeen hands and solid. The stallion should have been hard to miss.
She felt foolish, but she opened the wide cupboard at the end of the stable that held all Diablo's rugs. It was about the size of the wardrobe in her parents' room. There was no way a massive animal like Diablo could fit in there, but Shelby checked anyway. She closed the doors, put her hands on her hips and shook her head.
On rainy days the whole routine changed. Most horses had extra hay and stayed in their stables and yards, instead of being taken out to the day paddocks. Some horses from the paddocks were brought in to spare stables, and others that were normally kept in paddocks without wooden shelters were moved into the sandy jumping arena, so they wouldn't churn up the soggy pasture.
Shelby walked outside to see her friend trudging between the stable blocks leaning over a trolley full of empty buckets, having distributed all the breakfasts and extra hay.
'What's taking you so long?' called Lindsey's voice.
'Diablo isn't here,' Shelby shouted back, cupping her hands around her mouth. Her voice was swal-lowed up by the sound of the drops pummelling the plastic over her head, the hammering on the corru-gated iron roof, and the cascade over the gutter onto the ground below. It was so noisy that it was hard to concentrate.
'What do you mean?' Lindsey shouted.
It was inconceivable. Even the changed schedule shouldn't have affected Diablo. He had his own stable, his own yard and his own paddock. The stallion enclosure was bordered by strong, six-foot, post and rail fencing, with electric tape running along the inside of that, and then an alley wide enough for a vehicle to drive between his fence and the next paddock. Diablo's enclosure was in the middle of the property, surrounded by other paddocks, and within earshot of the house. He couldn't just disappear.
Lindsey dumped the trolley and jogged over to the gate. 'He has to be here. You're just not looking properly.' She shook the rain out of her hair and inspected the laneways between the stallion enclosure and the other paddocks, shielding her eyes with her hand.
Shelby shrugged. 'I can't see him, Lin.'
The two girls jogged along the paddock fence line. Their gumboots squished in the sodden grass. They turned at the bottom corner, past the dam. Shelby scanned it surreptitiously. She didn't want her friend to know that she was contemplating that Diablo might have drowned.
Back in the yard the two girls stared at each other.
'He's not here,' Lindsey said.
'I know! That's what I've been telling you. We should tell your mum.'
Mrs Edel had imported Diablo from Germany many years before. She had competed with him all around the country and used his stud fees to set up the stables in the first place. He was very valuable to her, and not only financially.
Lindsey squeezed the water out of her hair. 'Let's look a bit more.'
Shelby suspected that Lindsey might be afraid of what her mother might do when she found out he was gone. 'Look where exactly? All the gates were closed. There are no holes in the fences. There's not even any messed-up dirt, like there's been a fight, or an accident.'
'Maybe somebody let him out?' Lindsey shrugged.
'Nobody is allowed in here except you, your mum and me. Unless . . .' Shelby had some experience with horses being stolen before. 'We should tell your mum right now, Lin.'
Lindsey shook her head. 'No one would be dumb enough to steal him, Shel. Anyone in the market for a Hanoverian stallion would already know who he is. Diablo's been in every breed magazine and studbook for about twenty years. And when? Someone would have noticed if it happened during the day and Mum padlocks the front gate at night now.'
'Then where is he?' Shelby asked.
Lindsey turned in a circle once again. 'I don't know.'
'What do you mean gone?' Mrs Edel asked. She didn't look angry – yet.
Lindsey's mother leaned her rake against the fence. Her cheeks were rosy and wet from the rain. She stomped through the mud to Diablo's yard. Like the girls, she examined the enclosure thoroughly. The two girls waited in the stable, stamping the mud off their boots. The rain roared on the tin roof overhead.
Mrs Edel returned. She stood in the doorway – white-faced. 'He's gone!'
'That's what we said,' Lindsey murmured.
'I'm going inside to ring the police. You girls check in those paddocks.' She waved her hand towards the paddocks behind Diablo's enclosure and then ran towards the house.
Shelby and Lindsey jogged down the laneway between the paddocks, scanning as best as they could through the rain. Shelby's wet hair whipped against her throat in the wind.
They slid through the gate to the mares' paddock, which usually contained the visiting broodmares who were about to be, or had recently been served by Diablo. Usually, once the vet confirmed that they were in foal, the mares went back to their owners, or out to the back paddock. This meant that different horses were kept in the mares' paddock all the time. Since Lindsey's mother managed the breeding side of the business, while Lindsey and Shelby looked after the horses on agistment and ran the trail rides on weekends, Shelby never had time to get to know the visiting mares before they were moved.
Some of the mares huddled together under the long three-sided shelter, but others continued to graze in the heavy rain. Being late in the breeding season there were only a handful of mares in the paddock waiting to go home.
As the two girls approached, the closest mare spooked. She skipped a few steps and then cantered away. Other mares nearby were startled too, trotting and snorting with suspicion. Soon all the mares were circling nervously. Their hooves made a squelching noise in the mud and Shelby could hear the jingling sound from the rings of their rugs as they jig-jogged around the soggy paddock.
'Can you remember which rugs he was wearing?' Shelby asked. Even if they knew, all of the rugs were dark with rain and splattered with mud.
Lindsey shrugged. 'No idea. He has two socks at the back. That narrows it down.'
The girls looked for socks. It was hard to tell because the horses' legs were so dirty.
The mares had wide, strong faces peeping through hoods, and dark, solid legs poking out from under layers of rugs. With all their rugs on, the mares didn't look so different from Diablo himself.
'There he is!' Lindsey moved forward slowly and grabbed hold of the horse's hood.
'Are you sure?' Shelby approached from the near side and had a peek under the rugs.
'That's a girl horse. He's not here, Lindsey,' she called out to her friend.
'Let's try the back paddock,' Lindsey suggested.
Shelby followed her friend to the end of the mares' paddock. On the way she scanned the day paddocks on the other side of the laneway, but she knew if Diablo had been there Lindsey would have noticed when she'd moved the horses around earlier.
Just when she thought the rain was starting to ease, a fresh torrent beat against her. Her raincoat covered her legs to mid-thigh, but below that her track pants were soaked and heavy with water.
Shelby wiped her eyes with hands that were red and cold at the tips of her fingers, and frowned into the downpour. She looked down at her gumboots, glad at least that her toes were dry, even if the boots made it difficult to run.
The gate between the broodmares' paddock and the back paddock had a self-closing latch like a pool fence. Shelby thought that was odd, as none of the other gates on the property had latches like that. She didn't spend much time over this side of the agistment centre, so she hadn't noticed it before.
Once inside the back paddock the two girls raced up to the ridge, where they would get the best view. They stopped underneath a grove of tall gum trees. In the heavy rain it was hard to see more than one hundred metres ahead. The herd grazed in a hollow below them, with their tails tucked up and their backs hunched against the weather.
At present there were ten spelled horses in the back paddock, and none of them was rugged. Shelby always made a point of counting them when she came through this paddock with the trail rides.
'You get ten?' Shelby asked.
Her friend nodded.
'He's not here.'
Lindsey shook her head and took a deep breath. 'I feel sorry for whoever's taken him. Mum's going to go postal.'