Feb 26, 2008

Dear Santa: I Can Has Horse Now, Plz? – Ashleigh #2

Ashleigh #2: A Horse For Christmas
by Joanna Campell
First Printing: December 1998

Will Ashleigh lose the horse she loves?

When Ashleigh Griffen first found Lightning, the poor mare was thin and sick. But now, because of Ashleigh's loving care, Lightning is a beautiful, healthy horse. Ashleigh dreams of all the wonderful things she will do once her family has officially adopted the mare.

But then the humane society announces that they've found another home for Lightning--and they're going to take her away right before Christmas! Ashleigh is frantic. How can she make them understand that Lightning belongs to her?

The Cover:

Firstly, I really wish I could find a copy of the full image of the cover art. It’s a real doozy considering you only see about half of it. But if you happen to be holding the book in your hands, flip it over, and check out the whole picture on the back cover. Fantastic, isn’t it? So just who is that blond child sitting on the horse? The brown-haired girl is obviously Ashleigh who looks far older than a mere 10 years of age, is child #2 Rory or some random kid that will pop up in the story like Kira, perhaps? Also, that riding helmet looks as if it was added after the fact, did some safety conscientious person scream in horror and flip their lid? (OMG, Teh Safetees!!!!) Never mind that there is no actual chinstrap on that helmet; if Ole Dobbin there (but wait, that’s Lightning, she wouldn’t ever hurt a fly) bucked, that helmet would go flying up and off before the kid did a faceplant into the ground. Secondly, you really ought to see the entire cover art; there is no saddle blanket at all, and from what I see, a cinch would be vitally important to keep that sucker on that pony’s back. Without it, the helmet will go flying, followed by the kid, who would then have the ignoble embarrassment of having a Western saddle dumped on top of them. Isn’t it wonderful?

The Big Picture Plot:
Ashleigh has saved Lightning from the horrible evil bad owner, and she’s been taking a lot of good care of her. Lightning has gained weight, put on muscle, and she’s really really pretty now (because of course, every little girl wants a beautiful white horse) and Ashleigh is already making plans to what she will do when the Humane society lets the Griffens adopt her. We’re told that Lightning is not a pure Thoroughbred, and Ashleigh thinks that just having a dished muzzle means she’s probably got some Arabian in her (but you can bet she’s really probably just a grade mare – nothing wrong with that, but why oh why do people automatically go for the Arabians and Thoroughbreds?) Mona comes over to visit, and of course there’s the usual speculation about how Ashleigh will ride in the Kentucky Derby when she gets older.

But all is not well in future-jockeyland, Ashleigh overhears some Humane Society people talking with her parents about a home for Lightning, and she worries about it while watching a horse race that one of their former horses is running in. Finally, after the race, she confronts her parents, and turns on the hystronics about taking care of Lightning. Kurt hints that there might be other people interested in Lightning, but brushes it off (it really builds the suspense!)

Ashleigh keeps working with Lightning, and they finally get her saddled, and finally ridden. But then some rich Society donors show up, and Ashleigh gets lippy with them, and worries some more. And then it’s off to the Keeneland Yearling Sales for the Edgardale yearlings to be sold. And then Ashleigh’s parents take her over to Hopewell Center, a center for children with cancer, and those people want Lightning too. Ashleigh meets a girl named Kira, and everyone goes crazy over Lightning, not knowing that she might be theirs. The Hopewell kids come to visit Edgardale, and at long last, Ashleigh decides to give Lightning to them. There’s a Christmas party, and she gives Lightning to them, wrapped up with a bow.

Some Key Points of Interest:
  • Did you know that Lightning stands just a little over 15 hands? Joanna tells us this multiple times. And yet Ashleigh has to stretch to put the saddle on her back, I think she needs to stay with the ponies for a few more years. Besides, what’s a few inches more or less between horse and pony size anyway?
  • Slammer, Wanderer’s black yearling who sells at Keeneland, is sold for (and I quote) “Slammer had gone for more than twice the price the Griffens had expected: two hundred thousand dollars. It was a breathtaking amount of money.” – I gotta ask, was both Coolmore and Godolphin conspicuously absent from Keeneland that year? I mean, $200,000 isn’t exactly pocket change, but it’s small potatoes in a multi-million dollar horse market known for some pretty intense bidding wars.
  • Once again, Ponies are the Kiss of Death™ because Mona says she "needs" a full-sized horse. Now, this is a 10 year old kid who’s pony isn’t exactly pint-sized. Silver is 2 hands shorter than Lightning. That puts her at 13.1 or 13.2 hands, and therefore in the medium-to-large pony range. If you ask me, Mona’s full of herself. And this is coming from a grown adult to rides a pony. Ponies are fun!
  • Go Gen’s filly sold at auction. We know she has a filly because we are told this on page #49. And then again on page #50. And on page #51. C’mon, Joanna, give kids some credit. I know TV and stuff has made it hard for them to remember things sometimes, but surely they can’t have forgotten that Go Gen has a filly so quickly that you need to repeat it three times in as many pages.
  • This book ends with a soft whicker and lovey dovey moment as Ashleigh gives up the horse she loves.
And thus ends Ashleigh #2: A Horse for Christmas. Except it was not Ashleigh who got the horse for Christmas, but rather the Hopewell kids. And now, tension shall build as Mona is surely about to get a real live full-sized horse while Ashleigh gave up the horse she could have had, and is stuck with Moe, the pony. Woe and angst full speed ahead in "Waiting for Stardust" which shall be read shortly. But in the mean time, I have a pony to pay attention to. Ponies rule!

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