by Joanna Campell (with help from Mary Newhall Anderson)
First Printing: February 1999
So I’m actually tackling two books today. You see, Mitch was getting a little lesson in patience in the crossties, so I killed time by reading a book about a girl who gets a horse because she’s too “big” for her pony which is incredibly ironic considering I had a horse and now have a pony because horses are too “big” for me. So, onwards, snark-wards ho!
Can any horse replace Lightning?
Giving up Lightning was the hardest thing Ashleigh Griffen has ever done. Nothing can replace her beloved mare, and nothing anyone can say or do will make Ashleigh fell better. How can Ashleigh ever fulfill her dream of becoming a jockey without a horse to ride?
Even Mona, Ashleigh's best friend, has her own horse now. Ashleigh feels left behind and lonely. Is there a horse out there for Ashleigh -- one she can love as much as Lightning?
It’s a very bland, generic cover really. Firstly, we see a brown-haired girl in front of a stall, it’s Ashleigh of course. She seems to suffer whatever fate Thoroughbred series characters seem to suffer when it comes to their hair. First it was dark brown and kind of wavy, and then it was very dark brown and very straight. And now it’s sort of a chestnut-brown and slightly wavy. What kind of hairdresser does this kid have? Does Caroline secretly practice hairstyles on an unsuspecting victim like her sister? Secondly, that’s a very unflattering-looking horse. FHOTD candidate, anyone? The cats, well, the cats are cute, and obligatory because you know how there has to be cats around a barn to catch mice. In short, it’s a very blah and uninspiring cover with very little action. If it weren’t the fact that it’s a series book, it wouldn’t ever catch my eye.
The Big Picture Plot:
So it’s Christmas, and Lightning has gone, Ashleigh gave her away to the cancer treatment center for those kids to love and adore (horses are healing power!) and thus she only has herself to blame if she feels sorry for the fact that she doesn’t have a horse. Ashleigh and Rory go outside to ride Moe, and Ashleigh still feels sorry for herself because she’s riding a pony. And then, lo and behold, Mona gets a Thoroughbred for Christmas, and can’t help but rub it in. Ashleigh goes to visit the next day, and Moe gets hurt through a careless and selfish act of Ashleigh’s. This of course means that Rory hates her, he said so, and he even hits her (ah, fantastic, domestic violence from a 5 year old) Ashleigh has also lost her allowance because it’s going towards Moe’s vet bills.
And then Mona calls; fur flies and hot tempers boil over. And Ashleigh slams down the telephone (hurrah, ten year old drama, they’re just getting started, give them another 3 years and it’ll be even better) and now they’re both in a snit at each other. And it’s not long before Ashleigh throws herself into working around the barn, mainly because she doesn’t have a best friend to hang out with anymore. And this in turn means that she can now fix up a stall for a new horse. But who is this mystery creature?
Why, it’s a pretty half-Thoroughbred mare that Ashleigh decides she’s going to name Stardust. Except, she doesn’t get along so famously with this horse. Who apparently Does. Not. Like. Her. And Mr. Griffen gets the story; it’s another abusive person, but this time, a girl Ashleigh’s age. Hurrah! And they resort to the tool that every single Natural Horsemanship guru from Pat Parelli to Clinton Anderson endorses – the round pen! Double hurrah!
And then Ashleigh tries to ride Stardust because Mona talks her into it, and she can’t! So she yells and screams at Mona again (way to go Drama Llama!) so they aren’t talking to each other again. But at long last, Ashleigh gets to ride Stardust and together they save Rory from a storm. Hurrah! Stardust can stay! Plus, Kurt is leaving, and they get a new hired hand named Jonas.
Some Key Points of Interest:
- Yet again, we have an example of Whips Are Very Very Bad™ only now, it’s a young girl about Ashleigh’s height and age under the direction of a trainer. Because clearly, everyone else is a lazy villainous slob who prefers to flog their horses to death to make them do what they want, when our heroines win equine hearts and minds through love alone.
- Poor Moe. For the first two books, he was a Welsh/Shetland pony just under 13 hands (so hey, 12.3 hands – medium pony height) and now, he’s been regulated to an ordinary Shetland because everyone knows Shetlands are tiny little ponies, and what better way to make the reader feel sorry for Ashleigh than to put her on a Shetland.
- Once again, we are reminded that ponies are the Evil Kiss of Death™ because Ashleigh is too “big” for her pony, and spends her entire time feeling sorry for herself because she doesn’t have a “real” horse. Off hand, I think this is part of the American culture, why settle for a pony when you should have a horse. In an almost freak contrast, it’s not uncommon in the UK and Europe to see grown women in their 20s and upwards riding the native ponies. Maybe the Brits and Euros are smarter than the Yanks.
- Frisky is about 16 hands. But just for the sake of argument, let’s say she’s 16.1hh and Silver is 13.1hh. That’s a difference of three hands. That means that Frisky is roughly a foot taller than Silver at the withers. To put it all in perspective, a horse that is 16.1hh at the withers is about 64.4 inches at the withers. And their head is probably about another 6 or 12 inches higher. So, essentially, the horse stands 64.4 inches at the withers. I am 5-foot, 6-inches. I am roughly 66 inches tall, at the top of my head. I can barely look over the withers of a 16.1 hand horse. On average, a 10 year old girl is about 10 inches shorter than I am. How the hell can a 10 year old child saddle a 16.1 hand horse. Why is she even riding this animal? Send her back to the ponies post haste!
- Speaking of heights, why are horses “over 15 hands” or “16 hands at least” in this book? I know Thoroughbreds are taller on average, but everything is either 15 hands and up making it a horse or 13 hands and under and is therefore a pony. Where is the 14.3 hand horse? The perfect size? Why do these kids complain about having ponies and wanting a “real” horse? They ought to take my little tank for a spin, he’s small, but mighty and moves like a warmblood. But on that score, who decides the sizes of these horses? Who measures them? Expert Village’s “expert” Sarah Stettner?
- Ashleigh and Mona are extremely catty towards each other in this book. It doesn’t bode well for future installments if they’re already yelling and screaming at each other at this point of the third book in.