Liberty and the Dream Ride (15 page)

BOOK: Liberty and the Dream Ride
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As the crowd erupted in the stands Issie rode Liberty round the arena standing up in her stirrups and taking off her helmet to wave it above her head in salute.

“What a performance!” Mike Partridge was in full revelry. “Four days ago Isadora Brown sat on this mare for the very first time and now her chance ride has taken her all the way to the top. Look at the expression of total disbelief on this young rider's face as it dawns on her that she has just claimed one of the greatest prizes in the eventing world!”

Mike Partridge was still raving as Issie finished the lap and rode back out into the wings where Avery, Stella, Tara and Marcus were waiting for her.

Avery was so excited that he actually punched his fist in the air. “Fantastic stuff! That was a textbook clear round!” Avery said. “The best you've ever ridden.”

“Faultless and fabulous!” Tara agreed.

It was Marcus who shocked her the most, though. As Issie vaulted down from Liberty's back he came running up to her. “I can't believe how brilliant you are!” Marcus grinned. And then, out of the blue, he planted a kiss on her lips. It was only a quick peck, spurred on by the excitement of the moment, but Issie felt a jolt of electricity go through her as their lips touched.

“Ohmygod!” Stella was suddenly beside Issie, her eyes wild with excitement. “Issie! You've just won a hundred thousand dollars! We're rich! That's enough to pay all our bills and—”

“Wait a minute,” Tara interrupted Stella's feverish rant. “It's more complicated than that, I'm afraid. Liberty has just won a hundred thousand dollars, but Issie was riding on behalf of the Valmont Stables – and as the rider she's only due ten per cent of the prize money. The rest will go to the mare's owners.”

Stella's face dropped. “You can't be serious!”

“I'm sorry.” Tara looked almost as upset as Stella did. “It's not my decision – this is how the business works. Tom and I arranged the paperwork with Valmont Stables when Issie signed the contract to ride the mare.”

Issie didn't know what to say. She remembered signing the documents that Avery had brought her when he organised everything with Blaire Andrews and there was a clause about the prize money. But she hadn't thought about it really at the time because she never thought she would win on Liberty. Of course it made sense for the horse's owners to get the lion's share of the prize. Her ten per cent was still ten thousand dollars, but it was nowhere near enough money to cover their costs. Certainly not enough to prevent her from having to sell Nightstorm.

Suddenly the moment of glory wasn't quite so glowing. Issie had done everything that she possibly could and had actually won the Kentucky Four-Star. It was strange, to be swept up in this moment of pure elation and joy and at the same time to know that it still wasn't enough to save them.

“Issie! Issie Brown!”

There was a shout from the crowds as a short, squat blonde woman pushed her way through the barriers, vigorously flashing her press pass to the security guards so that they would let her through. It was Tiggy Brocklebent.

“Congratulations, Issie!” Tiggy said as she tottered across the grass towards her. “Now tell me that you haven't spoken to anyone else yet! Remember, you promised me an exclusive for
Horsing Around

“Tiggy?” Issie was stunned. “I've only just ridden out of the arena. Of course I haven't spoken to anyone else yet!”

“Well you can't be too careful!” Tiggy said. “Paparazzi! They'll be after you like vultures now, you know. All the magazines and newspapers will want a piece of you. Not to mention the sponsors.”


“Yes, my dear,” Tiggy said, “the ones with the big cheque books! A win at Kentucky puts you in the A-list. They'll be queuing up to offer you deals. All the clothing brands will want you wearing their jodhpurs and the feed companies will shower you with products and beg you to endorse their lucerne chaff.” Tiggy looked Issie in the eyes. “Whatever you do, don't you let them rope you into a contract for anything less than half a million. That's what a star rider like you is worth on the open market!”

“Erm, you're joking!”

“I'm most certainly not!” Tiggy insisted. “And if you think they're all after you now – you just wait until they see the cover of the next issue of
Horsing Around
! She raised her hands in the air as if she were spelling out a headline. “Seventeen-year-old newcomer makes dream ride to win at Kentucky!”

She smiled at Issie. “This is a total scoop. I'm giving the story at least ten pages. Just wait until my readers discover the truth behind the scenes too – all about Valmont and the sinister goings-on at his stables. My dear, you are the biggest news to hit the eventing world in years,” Tiggy insisted. “And you've still got the Grand Slam to come.”

“The Grand Slam?” Issie said.

“You've just won Kentucky, dear,” Tiggy said. “You're going for the Grand Slam, aren't you?”

The Grand Slam was the holy grail for eventing riders, the most famous prize of all. To win the Grand Slam, a rider had to win three of the world's most famous Four-Star events all in the space of one year. The first of these events was the Kentucky Four-Star, and the other two were both based in the UK. There were the Burghley Horse Trials – a few months away, and the Badminton Horse Trials, in just two weeks' time!

“Of course Issie's going for the Grand Slam!” Avery said, answering Tiggy's question. “It's always been Issie's intention to ride at Badminton and Burghley this season. Her entry has been accepted for both events. Two of her best horses have qualified and the paperwork has been completed.”

Tiggy was frantically taking notes, her eyes bright with excitement at this latest twist. “But can you do it?” she asked Issie. “Badminton Horse Trials are in a fortnight. There's no way you can get Comet back to the UK from the USA in time.”

“I'm not riding Comet,” Issie said. “I've got another horse at Laurel Farm.”

“Another horse?” Tiggy was intrigued.

“Uh-huh. I was saving him for Badminton – but we were really strapped for cash and I thought I might have to sell him.”

“Well, you're not poor any more, dear,” Tiggy told her. “Like I just said, you'll have sponsorship dosh coming out of your ears.”

Today was getting more and more incredible. Issie wouldn't need to sell Nightstorm after all. Instead, she would be riding him at the Badminton Horse Trials!

When Issie began riding lessons at pony club she had always dreamt that one day she would ride in a real Four-Star competition – and today that dream had become reality in the most incredible way. But already her thoughts were turning to Badminton and Burghley. The two competitions were considered to be the very pinnacle of the sport. They were the most challenging, dangerous and thrilling horse trials in the whole world. And Issie was going to be competing in them. More than that, she had to be ready for Badminton in just two weeks' time!

But right now Issie could hear Mike Partridge's voice calling her back into the stadium. The dignitaries and officials had gathered for the awards presentation and a hush had fallen over the crowd.

Issie rode back into the centre of the arena on the silver-dapple mare who was now an eventing sensation. Liberty seemed to know that she was the star as she stood perfectly still for the judges to tie the red satin winner's sash round her, and the head of the Equestrian Federation trod across the arena in her high heels to place a floral wreath of snow-white roses carefully round the mare's neck. And then, to the cheers of the crowd and the sound of a trumpet fanfare, Issie took Liberty on her victory lap, waving to crowds and to the cameras that were beaming the images around the world.

In New Zealand, her friends and family watched the victory lap and cheered on a local hero. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in a farm kitchen in the heart of Wiltshire, Francoise D'Arth watched the very same ceremony on Laurel Farm's tiny TV set. There were tears in her eyes as she watched Issie take off her helmet and wave to the crowds. She stayed glued to the screen until the ceremony was over, and then she went back out to the stables. The horses stuck their heads over the loose-box doors to greet Francoise, just as they always did, hoping that it might be dinnertime.

They were all beautiful and talented eventers, but there was one horse in particular that stood out from the rest, and it was this horse, the athletic bay stallion with the white blaze that the French trainer had come to see with her news.

“She's done it,” Francoise whispered to the big bay. “She's won Kentucky.”

In his stall, Nightstorm nickered and shifted restlessly, as if he understood what this meant – for the girl and for him. The win in Kentucky was just the beginning. Issie Brown was coming back to the UK to be reunited with her beloved stallion and together they would face up to the greatest eventing challenge, the competitions of Badminton and Burghley – and the dream of the Grand Slam.

Coming Soon

Pony Club Secrets

Issie Brown's dreams are coming true as she competes on the British Four-Star eventing circuit. Can she and beloved sporthorse, Nightstorm, triumph against the world's best riders at Badminton and Burghley?

Issie LOVES horses and is a member of the Chevalier Point Pony Club, where she looks after her pony Mystic, trains for gymkhanas and hangs out with her best friends.

When Issie is asked to train Blaze, an abandoned pony, her riding skills are put to the test. Can she tame the spirited new horse? And is Blaze really out of danger?

Issie and her friends have been picked to represent the Chevalier Point Pony Club at the Interclub Shield – the biggest competition of the year. It's time to get training!

But when equipment is sabotaged and one of the riders is injured, Issie and her friends are determined to find out who's to blame…

The Pony Club Secrets series:

1. Mystic and the Midnight Ride

2. Blaze and the Dark Rider

3. Destiny and the Wild Horses

4. Stardust and the Daredevil Ponies

5. Comet and the Champion's Cup

6. Storm and the Silver Bridle

7. Fortune and the Golden Trophy

8. Victory and the All-Stars Academy

9. Flame and the Rebel Riders

10. Angel and the Flying Stallions

11. Liberty and the Dream Ride

Also available in the series:

Issie and the Christmas Pony

(Christmas special)

Final book in the series coming soon . . .

12 . Nightstorm and the Grand Slam

Congratulations and thanks to India Lambeth who won our competition to “name a pony”. India's horse Avatar appears in this book.

For Parker, who arrived just in time.
Here's hoping that your future will be filled with ponies…

Text copyright © Stacy Gregg 2011
Illustrations © Fiona Land 2011

ISBN 978-0-00-729931-7

EPub Edition © 2011 ISBN: 9780007427253

Stacy Gregg asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of the work.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

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BOOK: Liberty and the Dream Ride
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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