May 25, 2008

Got Hope? - TB Super Edition: Ashleigh’s Hope

Ashleigh’s Hope
Thoroughbred Super Edition
Created by Joanna Campbell
Written by Karen Bentley
First Printing: April 1996

Well, I wasn’t going to be doing this one for a while, but I seem to have misplaced my copy of Ashleigh #7. I’m sure it’s in my room somewhere, maybe buried under the laundry pile of washed clothes that I was too lazy to fold. Or maybe somewhere else; but I’m sure I’ll find it eventually. In the meantime, I might as well review something else, right? Because I’m not sure if I’m ready for the saccharine sappiness that is Aladdin’s bid for the Kentucky Derby.

Before I begin, overall, this book was not bad, it had it’s moments so it could never be The Most Awesome Horse Story Evar!™ but it was not too hard to follow.

The Cover:
This is actually quite a lovely cover, the colors are so rich and vibrant, and it’s just really really peaceful with Ashleigh there with her horse. Of course, she does have blonde-ish looking hair and a nose like a pixie, but it’s still a nice cover. Granted, the horse must be one of those giant 17 hand monsters, because the angle of where his (her?) neck is coming down is waaaay up there at the top of the cover, and the halter is bigger than Ashleigh (hahaha). But it’s a lovely cover, you can see the horse has a kind eye, and it’s really very sweet. Probably one of my favorite covers, ever.

The Summary:
A Born champion...

Ashleigh Griffen is thrilled when she gets accepted into the exclusive Chesterton Riding Academy. Now she’ll get the training to accomplish her lifelong dream – to own her own horse. But the other girls at Chesterton are jealous of Ashleigh’s natural talent as a rider. They threaten to destroy everything Ashleigh has worked so hard for.

Nasty Diana Carruthers and her friends try to keep Ashleigh from competing by spreading oil on her horse’s saddle and sabotaging her practices. Ashleigh must find the strength to confront these girls. But will she be able to stop them before they succeed in ruining the only thing she’s ever loved?
I hate this blurb. It’s just so drama llama when it really isn’t. I mean, it’s really not that bad anyway, it’s not like spoiled little princesses do ruin Ashleigh’s life in the end.

Ultimately, this is another one of those “Ashleigh Needs a Big Horse of her Own Real Bad”™ plots. It’s really a recurring theme in the series, Ashleigh already has a pony of her own, but you know she “needs” a big horse to do anything. It doesn’t generate much sympathy on my part (being as I know what it’s like to be horseless, period) but I guess for horse-crazy pre-pubescent girls, it must be a smashing hit.

Also, as a note, it’s really a lot of fun to compare Ashleigh #3: Waiting for Stardust with this book because there are some similarities, and some differences. And it’s fun picking everything out.

The Big Picture Plot:

1) The main and most important plot of the story is Ashleigh’s burning unfulfilled desire for a real live horse of her own; it’s as I’ve said, a recurring theme of the series. Ashleigh needs a horse of course; a pony just isn’t good enough after all. Especially since Moe seems to be confirmed as a purebred Shetland and is 11 hands high. I sort of get Ashleigh’s point here, the smallest pony I ever remember riding was a 13-odd hand POA, so I can see why she’d want something a bit taller – but she’s shooting for the moon here; even a 14-hand horse is too small, she wants a big Thoroughbred racehorse. So this means Ashleigh will constantly sigh and mope and sulk through most of the book until she finally does get a horse. Yay for her! But first, her parents insist that she and Caroline take riding lessons, which brings us to…

2) Said riding lessons at a big-time stable in Lexington. Chesterton Riding Academy is a posh upscale place with two outdoor arenas, an indoor, with “most of the horses on the place over sixteen hands” and probably very expensive lessons. And riding in the lesson group with Ashleigh and Caroline are a “bunch of rich snobby stuck-up kids from school” such as…

3) Diana Carruthers. Who’s apparently the Thoroughbred version of Veronica DiAngelo (or perhaps a younger version of Lavinia Townsend.) She’s snobby, she’s popular, she’s the star center on the school soccer team, and she’s filthy stinkin’ rich, which is everything that Ashleigh is not. But unlike Veronica D, Diana has cronies, and they play tricks on Ashleigh such as putting too much oil on her saddle, or smearing her school horse in horseshit (really, wouldn’t these kids get noticed if they were pushing a wheelbarrow full of manure down the aisle?) Diana is all jealous and bothered by Ashleigh’s “natural talent” and makes life pretty tough for Ashleigh – but I’m sure by normal riding school standards, it’s all a walk in the park.

4) And then we come to how Karen Bentley interpreted Caroline’s accident that was referenced in Wonder’s Promise – only instead of a horse merely spooking at a truck backfiring, this horse freaks out, runs off and gives Ashleigh the chance to save the day – and Caroline gets thrown, breaks her head (was she bloody wearing a helmet?) and goes into a coma for days and days in which her parents hover by her bedside, leaving the day-to-day running of the farm in the hands of their younger daughter (way to go Drama Llama Bentley!)

5) Mona: In both the regular series and the Ashleigh spin-off series, Mona gets her Thoroughbred, Frisky, before Ashleigh gets Stardust (Mona gets Frisky on Thanksgiving in this book, and at Christmas in Ashleigh #3.) This of course means, Mona being a smug little wench calls Ashleigh to brag about her brand new shiny horse, and thus it always leads to a yelling, screaming cat-fight between the two girls. They fight twice in this book, which doesn’t surprise me much, since Mona acts smug and superior, and then worried and possessive. And Ashleigh’s on the defense because poor poor her, she doesn’t have a horse of her very own. Still, they reconcile pretty easily here, and I was a little disappointed because I really sort of liked the long drawn out angst in Ashleigh #3.

6) Stardust finally arrives! Hooray! Ashleigh has a horse at last. Sweet! And it’s instant EXPLODING HEARTS AND STARS for both Ashleigh and Stardust, which is a relief because we’re spared the pseudo-Natural Horsemanship crap from Ashleigh #3. You even get a little sappy suspense going on; with Ashleigh taking Stardust for a ride, and then feeling sorry for herself afterwards until her parents say “You can has horseh!” Everyone lives happily ever after…

7) … except maybe for Diana’s Warmblood gelding, Silverado. Ashleigh got to ride him a few times in her lesson, and got to jump him. And then Diana got careless, pulled a Veronica D. and crashed her horse into a jump, and then they had to put him down. At which point, Ashleigh decides that riding lessons just aren’t for her, and she stays at home to ride Stardust.

Some Key Points of Interest
  • Did you know the Griffens bought Zip Away (who is apparently one of their best broodmares) for peanuts? No kidding, and I quote: “Yes-we were very lucky to get Zip Away when we did,” Mr. Griffen answered. “We paid only twenty-five hundred dollars for her at the Ocala Breeders’ Auction a year and a half ago.” Karen, you dolt! $2,500 is pin money. It’s like NOTHING. I bought my Haflinger for “twenty-five hundred dollars” If this mare is really high class, there’s no way she would go through the sale that cheaply. Please, please tell me you meant twenty-five thousand dollars. Please, for all that is holy!
  • I can’t help but giggle when Ashleigh thinks that Cheryl Marshall (one of Diana’s friends) says she has a Hanoverian, and Ashleigh’s response is “Big horse” and privately thinks “in her opinon someone as short as Cheryl didn’t belong on a Hanoverian, but it wasn’t worth it to Ashleigh to point this out.” Uh… yeah, this coming from a girl who wants to ride 16 and 17 hand Thoroughbred racehorses? A girl who isn’t exactly Shaquille O’Neill herself?
  • I could kick Diana right now. I’ll challenge her to a duel, pistols at dawn. How dare that little fictional figment of Bentley's imagination say that “riding a pony isn’t the same as riding a real horse.” I dare ya, Diana, ride my pony, then we’ll see who’s better, huh. Double dog dare ya! Seriously though, it’s that kind of attitude from the writer that makes people think that only little kids ride ponies, when in fact, grownups ride them too. And have more fun that way!
  • Triple Derby who is Zip Away’s “half-brother” won the Breeder’s Cup Classic the year before this book takes place. However, when he races again in the next Classic during the events of the book, Mr. Griffen gets excited and says “he’s setting faster fractions than last year’s winner.” Uh … he IS last year’s winner. Duh.
  • Ooooh! Foreshadowing! Wanderer is mentioned in the book, and how she’s expecting a June foal that Ashleigh thinks will be a colt. Why, it’s a perfect lead in for Ashleigh’s Diary.
  • pg 141: Cheryl circled Dynasty. He was so big, Ashleigh thought Cheryl was posting in slow motion. Yeah, no kidding. This is why these 10 year old kids should be on fucking ponies for god’s sake.
So there we have it, Ashleigh’s Hope. Not too bad a read all in all, but not the most wonderful of novels either. Guess I’ll have to go dig Ashleigh #7 out of the laundry pile now. Or maybe I’ll put off the sappiness that is Aladdin’s Derby still longer, and review the one book that has the uncanny ability to reduce me to tears even at my age.

Hmmm … Aladdin? Tears? Aladdin … heck with it, I’ll break out the tissues, and cuddle up with The Forgotten Filly, seeing as we’re all taking a bit of a break from Thoroughbred itself. Besides, it’s Thoroughbred-related, being part of “Ashleigh’s Thoroughbred Collection” and written by Karle Dickerson, who has written some of the New Generation books.


Anonymous said...

Oh, boy! Riding school pranks! How very Saddle Club.

Didn't Karen drama up Caro's accident a little? This is the dialog from The One that Started It All (TB #1)

Ashleigh: You're a good rider. She only spooked because that car backfired.

Caroline: I'm scared it'll happen again.

SPOOKED, not freaked. Also, I LOVED 'Forgotten Filly' even if it was cheesy that Joelle only loved the filly after she saved Jeff...

Lei said...

Oh yes, the riding school pranks, so petty and childish, and so Saddle Club. It's like we're meant to weep along with Ashleigh at how mean the girls are to her.

And did Karen ever drama up Caro's accident! There's a horse racing away on icy ground, and Ashleigh riding to the rescue. And blood, and the hospital, and a girl in a coma.

Anonymous said...

i never noticed this before, but they bought Zip Away right around the time Triple Derby won the Classic? good god, a half sister to a Classic winner (and probably HOY) would have to have three legs to sell so poorly and even then, she'd probably still bring more than $2500!