Authors: Bonnie Bryant
With a loud caw, the crow launched itself into the air and circled above the riders.
Patch, who had just reached the first fence, was startled by the sudden noise and motion. Instead of jumping up and forward, he wheeled around and shied sideways, crashing into the fence. Scared even more by the impact, he reared up and twisted around, ending up straddling the remains of the jump. Merrill had barely managed to keep her seat and was clinging to Patch’s mane, her stirrups swinging free of her feet. Max was already hurrying forward to catch the panicky horse, but Patch was too quick for him. He reared again, unseating Merrill completely, then darted away as the girl tumbled off and landed hard on her backside.
RL 5, 009–012
A Skylark Book / January 1996
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 © 1996 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller.
Cover art copyright © 1996 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 Stales 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 Catherine Hapka for her
help in the writing of this book.
!” Lisa Atwood exclaimed. She looked up as her two best friends, Stevie Lake and Carole Hanson, hurried across the indoor ring to join her. It was Saturday morning, and that meant it was time for their Pony Club meeting. All three girls rode together at Pine Hollow Stables and belonged to Horse Wise, Pine Hollow’s branch of the United States Pony Club.
“Hi, Lisa,” Carole and Stevie said in one voice. Lisa was leaning against the wall, waiting for the meeting to start.
“Where the heck have you guys been?” Lisa asked, smiling so that they knew she wasn’t really annoyed. “I thought I was going to be the only member of The Saddle Club to show up for Horse Wise today!”
Now they knew Lisa was kidding. None of the girls would
miss a Pony Club meeting unless there was a major emergency. The three friends loved riding more than anything. In fact, they loved it so much that they had formed The Saddle Club, which was dedicated to horses and riding and friends. The club had only two rules: Members had to be horse crazy, and they had to be willing to help out the others in any way necessary.
“I was a little late today,” Carole explained. “My dad had to make a few phone calls before he dropped me off, and it took him longer than he thought.”
“And what about you, young lady?” Lisa asked, turning to Stevie with mock sternness. “You know it’s very important for riders to be prompt.”
Stevie and Carole laughed. They knew that Lisa was imitating Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow and the girls’ riding instructor. The Saddle Club liked Max a lot, and they knew he was an excellent teacher. Still, they couldn’t help poking fun at his strictness once in a while.
“If you must know, I have a very good excuse for being late,” Stevie informed Lisa loftily. “I was helping Max roll the bandages for today’s lesson. I even got here early.”
Carole raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Really?” she said. “That was awfully helpful of you, Stevie.” All the young riders at Pine Hollow were expected to help out with a wide variety of stable chores in addition to taking care of the horses they rode. Stevie was willing to do her share, but her friends knew that she usually preferred it if her share happened to take place a little later in the day.
Before Carole could open her mouth to tease Stevie, Lisa
broke in. “Well, never mind—you’re both here now and that’s what counts. I’ve been dying to tell you my great news. Remember hearing me talk about my friend Merrill?”
Carole nodded. “The one who lives in Maine, right?”
“That’s right,” Lisa said. “Well, guess what? Her school has an extra winter break because it’s always so cold there this time of year, so her parents said she could come visit me!”
“She’s coming here?” Stevie said. “That’s great!”
“I know,” Lisa said. “I haven’t seen her in a couple of years. But that’s not even the best part. The best part is that I’ve written to her so much about Pine Hollow that she finally decided to try riding herself about six months ago, and she loves it.”
“That’s great,” Stevie said again, but Lisa noticed that her friend looked a little distracted. She followed Stevie’s gaze and saw that another member of Horse Wise had just sauntered in—Veronica diAngelo. Veronica was a spoiled rich girl who cared more about what she wore than how she rode. In fact, her attitude had gotten her kicked out of Horse Wise more than once, though Max always let her back in after she behaved herself for a while.
Lisa didn’t know why Stevie was paying so much attention to Veronica, but she was too excited to care. Merrill was one of her favorite people, and she hadn’t seen her in ages. She couldn’t wait to introduce her to the rest of The Saddle Club and to show her Pine Hollow, especially now that Merrill was an enthusiastic rider, too.
“How wonderful, Lisa,” Carole said. “We’ll take her on lots of trail rides. How long is she staying?”
“She’s coming next Friday, staying the whole following week, and leaving Sunday,” Lisa said. “She’s got some relatives who live around here, so she’ll have plenty to do while I’m in school.” She sighed. “I just wish
school were on break then, too. That way Merrill and I could spend even more time riding together.”
“Well, after school and weekends is definitely better than nothing. I wonder which horse she should ride while she’s here,” Carole said thoughtfully. “If she’s been riding six months she’s probably already too advanced for Patch or Nero. How good do you think she is?”
Lisa burst out laughing. “I haven’t even seen her in years,” she exclaimed. “How do you expect me to give you a detailed report on her riding ability?”
Carole looked a little hurt. “Well, she must write about it in her letters …”
“Sorry,” Lisa said. “I know you’re only trying to help.” She shook her head, still smiling. “I can just picture it—you’re going to be the perfect riding instructor and stable manager someday.”
Carole’s life plans were well known to her friends. She was definitely going to do something involving horses. She wasn’t sure yet whether that meant she would be a trainer, an instructor, a competitive rider, a vet, or all of the above.
Stevie finally turned her attention away from Veronica and back to the conversation. “So what does she say in her letters?” she asked Lisa. “Is she a good rider?”
Lisa shrugged. “Actually, it’s a little hard to tell,” she admitted.
“Merrill doesn’t blow her own horn, if you know what I mean. She says she’s still a beginner, but she’s starting to jump, so she must be doing okay.”
Carole was about to ask another question when her thoughts were interrupted by giggles from nearby. She turned toward the door and saw two more members of Horse Wise, Betsy Cavanaugh and Adam Levine, enter together. Betsy was hanging on Adam’s arm and gazing at him admiringly, giggling madly at something he was saying.
“Oh, gag,” Stevie commented. “It looks like Betsy has another new love interest.” Betsy was a pretty, lively, friendly girl. She was also becoming known as the stable flirt.
“Poor Joe,” Carole said. “I guess he’s been dumped.” Joe Novick was the best-looking boy in Horse Wise and, last Carole had heard, Betsy’s boyfriend.
“Try to keep up, Carole,” Stevie said, rolling her eyes. “Betsy and Joe broke up weeks ago. Last I heard, she was dating someone at school.”
Lisa glanced over at Betsy and Adam. “I would have thought Adam was too sensible to fall for Betsy’s flirting.”
“Me too,” Stevie said. A devilish look crossed her face. “Hey, Adam!” she called out. “You’d better watch out! Delilah will be jealous if she sees you talking to another woman.” Delilah was the mare Adam had been riding in class lately.
Adam laughed self-consciously, but Betsy rolled her eyes, barely bothering to glance in Stevie’s direction. “I think some people around here need to grow up a little,” she commented
loudly to Adam. “Maybe then they’d see there’s more to life than just horses.”
Stevie scowled. “For your information, Betsy, I—”
“Horse Wise, come to order!” Max’s voice interrupted Stevie’s retort. Max stood at the front of the group with his mother, universally known as Mrs. Reg, at his side.
Stevie perked up again immediately. “Time for bandaging practice,” she said eagerly.
Lisa and Carole exchanged puzzled glances. It wasn’t like Stevie to get so excited about what was a necessary—but fairly boring—lesson.
“Before we get started on today’s activity, I have a very special announcement,” Max said.
Carole and Lisa immediately forgot all about Stevie and bandages. Max’s “very special announcements” were almost always about something exciting at Pine Hollow.
“Beginning next week, I’ll be …” Max’s voice trailed off, and he frowned a little. “Betsy, Adam,” he said sternly. “May I have your attention please?”
Betsy and Adam immediately stopped whispering. Adam’s face turned bright red, and Betsy gave Max an apologetic smile.
“Serves them right,” Stevie muttered. “This is a Horse Wise meeting, not a dating service.”
“As I was saying,” Max said, “next week I’ll be offering a special jumping clinic for any interested Horse Wise members. It will begin next Saturday and continue for a week, with intensive lessons all day on the weekends and after school on Tuesday and Thursday.” He paused and looked
around. “Now, are there any interested Horse Wise members here?”