Jun 20, 2008

Christina's Courage to admit her horse has faults but she'll keep her anyway is TB #27

Christina's Courage
Thoroughbred #27
by Alice Leonhardt
Published: 1998

Some weeks ago we discovered (or rediscovered, as the case may be) what Cindy's like when she has to suffer through unneeded (in her view, anyway) advice. Her reaction: act like an insufferable brat with a suicidal impulse. This time we get to see how Christina takes it, and my money is on not well.

Here Christina thought she'd jump Sterling, but halfway through I guess Sterling had something significantly terrific to inform Christina about through their telepathic link, filling Christina with the uncontrollable urge to hug her horse while attempting to look Sterling in the eye from the horse's back as they are in mid-jump. Surely this is difficult to accomplish, but naturally Christina makes it look easy. Also, Christina has skinny little legs and her jacket looks like a red, sack-like cape. Another thing that isn't at all fascinating: Christina and Sterling don't do any jumping in this book. So I don't know why it's a jumping cover...perhaps there was a mix up over at Harper Collins.

Can Christina control Sterling?

Now that she has the horse of her dreams, Christina Reese is more determined than ever to enter high-level competitions. There's only one problem -- her horse, Sterling Dream, isn't cooperating.

Christina thought she had a close bond with Sterling, but now the mare refuses to do anything Christina asks. She balks at jumping even the lowest fences! Christina doesn't know what to do. If Sterling's behavior doesn't improve, this may be the end of their riding career!
Alright, this blurb pretty much reintroduces us to the Karen Bentley of the New Generation. Things go wrong, although we casually dismiss the fact that things go wrong because the main character is a brat who pushes herself and her horses too much before they're ready, while being nasty and forlorn whenever anyone tells her to ease up, so woe is her because their riding career might be over! OVER! Only it isn't because the book has to end on a high note and therefore she'll win and her bitchiness will be justified. Christina is a twelve-year-old bitch because she knows what she's doing, and everyone else just isn't as flipping amazing as she is and they're just bringing her down! Therefore she can be completely annoying if she damn well wants to be. It's the same Karen Bentley/Cindy Era logic that makes us all want to scream.

Anyhoo, the plot:

Christina has fully recovered from her lack of confidence, deciding that since she won her first competition she and Sterling are ready for full blown training level. This means that she essentially wants to start training for the Olympics now so she can qualify for the team by the end of summer. At least that's how it reads. She's irritatingly motivated, no matter if she and her horse are no where near ready for her grand aspirations. Sterling is going to be ready if she likes it or not, and Christina's going to be her horse's slave driver, mercilessly cracking the whip whenever Sterling decides she's not prepared to go careening off into full training with a shrieking crazy person clinging to her back. It's hard times for Sterling, because meek and terrified Christina of yesteryear has been replaced with freakishly pushy Christina armed with whatever it takes to win. It's like Cindy all over again, if Cindy had ever been into jumping.

Anyway. So Christina is all adamant that she's not going to miss a damn lesson this summer because she has work to do. Ashleigh has other plans, which involve assigning a weanling to each kid at the farm because apparently this will help pick up the slack in their forever understaffed operation. Christina immediately switches to belligerent/woe is me mode, annoyed that she has to help out at the farm because she favors her riding princess responsibilities over actually being responsible. She gets assigned a frisky little foal named Missy, who is hell on four hooves. Although taken aback that her assigned foal is apparently the devil incarnate, Christina declares that nothing will deviate her from her course to super jump riding person! Nothing. That includes Missy, I assume. So I'm sure there's going to be some scene where Christina accidentally knocks Missy out of the picture for a while but eventually performs some miracle and Missy becomes well behaved because Christina deemed it so.

Enter Mona to screw up Christina's plans. She has decided that everyone sucked during their dressage test in the previous show and will be working them only on dressage for the next two weeks. Christina's immediately with the hell, this is not what I pay you for! She wants to jump, damn it! Because she has obviously forgotten that three day eventing, which she is all motivated for, includes dressage. I guess Christina mastered dressage when she was nine, so she doesn't have to worry about that anymore. On their way back to Whitebrook after Mona's huge waste of time that is her high class riding lessons, Christina tries to jump Sterling into or over (sort of?) a stream, which she has to beat her mare with a stick to accomplish. Triumph degenerates into trying not to weep when she discovers she's scared the poor horse and has therefore lost Sterling's trust (she just knows this immediately, like they communicate telepathically and has read Sterling's mind).

Just when everything seems lost, Christina discovers that everyone thinks she's crazy and needs to lighten up a little. Even Dylan thinks this! Therefore Christina can no longer like Dylan because he's all realistic and who the hell is he to tell her that Sterling's been off the track for less than two months and needs to take it slow? He doesn't realize how naturally talented Sterling is! He's just as stupid and/or mean as the rest of all those people spouting their normal, easy-to-follow logic. Christina's just going to go show them all up and convince them all how wrong they are.

So we suffer through a fight between Christina and Ashleigh (which is mainly Christina lashing out at Ashleigh for no reason other than she's feeling particularly pissy that morning), and then Sterling won't walk around in the stream even when bribed. So fresh from utterly failing, Christina tries to work with Missy and just winds up smacking her around. Then we've got another chance for Christina to complain when Mona decides that her little dressage test is going to be a novice, and then Mona uses Christina as an example of a horse resisting its rider because Christina is NOT an Olympic rider. Shocked that someone has noticed she's actually twelve and not perfect all the time, Christina is embarrassed and fights the impulse to storm off and never return.

Sensing Christina's crazy lunacy, Mona hauls her into her office and they have their discussion, where Mona tells her all those riders Christina admires worked their asses off for years before they became the riders little girls like Christina are crazy about. Christina, having somehow missed the fact that these famous riders didn't become famous in a matter of two months, gets her little wake up call that she's got years and years and more years of work to look forward to. Instant gratification, as it turns out, isn't in Christina's cards. Much to her dismay. Hoping that now that Christina has had sense smacked back into her skull, Dylan offers to help her out with dressage and Christina's all oh my gosh, a date! Only it's not, because Cassidy is there also and Sterling tries to run over Dylan. But then, after about an eternity of traveling, Cassidy's horses finally arrive and their beauty depresses Christina so she just sulks and goes home.

After discovering that all Missy wanted was to be near her dam, Miss America, Christina realizes she's a huffy jerk who's been pushing everyone too hard and is completely at fault. Then she loses her novice dressage test in admirable fashion, I'll give her that. Instead of trying to kill herself she takes her last place finish like a pro and doesn't cry, mainly because she finally figures out that Sterling just came off the track two months ago or something and can't be expected to understand everything. So they finally get the last few things right in the test and she's all overjoyed and it's the only time I like her in the whole book.

  • Alice has no idea how to color hair with Kool-Aid. Granted, I’ve never done it (and I’m immensely happy about that fact), but I also know it doesn’t involve carefully pouring liquid Kool-Aid on your head.
  • Melanie wonders if the truck driver didn’t see them on the road because the tractor trailer didn’t slow down. Mel, I think all the air horns and swerving should have made it obvious that they saw you. They kept speeding up because Alice apparently hates tractor trailer drivers.
  • Melanie tells us that she’s great at making up lies for why she’s late for curfew or why she skipped school (there’s a logical reason for skipping school? I’d like to hear that one), but she doesn’t know any “late-for-lesson” lies. Oh, Mel, it’s practically the same thing. Here’s one: Trib stumbled and you fell on your ass because you’re the inexperienced one, and then Trib ran off and you had to catch him. Hey! There’s a lie I thought of and typed in a matter of seconds. What do they come up with? Sterling got a rock in her hoof and Melanie gets it wrong with: “Sterling had rocks in her head.” And this is the crafty, troublemaker of the book?
  • Dressage to Christina is basically “trotting and cantering around in a bunch of circles,” which is so far opposite of her opinion in previous books that I don’t think Alice took notes on anything worthwhile from Allison’s books.
  • “Dressage teaches your horse to be obedient, supple and balanced,” says Katie. Dylan agrees with: “Dressage teaches you to communicate with your horse and turn him into a better athlete.” Christina looks at her friends in horror, wondering who replaced Dylan and Katie with horse riding manual writers. (Incidentally, it appears Alice is paraphrasing Common Sense Dressage: An Illustrated Guide.)
  • Melanie dares to mention that Dylan looked good in his lesson and Christina runs to mark her territory, demanding if Melanie likes Dylan. Well, does she? Does she? We ALL want to know. Melanie informs us that she likes the rugged, casual type, and that a sense of humor is important (at least, her twelve-year-old self does, because I don’t think Jazz really falls in this category). Besides, Melanie likes Kevin, who doesn’t really fall into that category either. Maybe this is because no one has a sense of humor in the Thoroughbred Series, or perhaps it’s because they’re twelve and no twelve-year-old boy would ever be described as rugged. EVER. That’s just disturbing, actually.
  • I guess Melanie went from having some sort of fashion sense to a walking rainbow. At the baseball game she’s wearing purple sunglasses, a bright blue shirt and orange shorts with spiky rainbow hair.
  • Dylan’s mom owns a Jeep.
  • Now Dylan’s getting into this whole telling Christina the truth thing, which Christina doesn’t appreciate at all. Why is everyone against Christina? Why does everyone want her to fail? Whyyyy?!
  • Ashleigh asks Christina how Missy is doing and Christina says she hasn't worked with her yet, but before her mom can reprimand her Christina launches full force into her bitchy rant about how she only does things she deems important. Why can't Ashleigh understand that? Huh? HUH? Oh yeah, and Ashleigh sucks because she doesn't take Christina's Olympics dreams seriously.
  • Wracked with guilt from her blow up at Ashleigh, Christina decides to go train Missy. Only that ends up with her smacking the foal around, which you think she wouldn't have done given how she can't even carry a crop with Sterling.
  • Kevin to Christina concerning Christina's recent wonkiness in front of Dylan: "I told him you were really worried about Sterling and that any criticism of how you were handling the precious princess sent you into orbit." Wow. That's spot on. This could have inspired a back cover blurb along the lines of: Christina is worried about Sterling and any criticism of how she handles the mare sends her into a rage. Then she slaps around a foal. The End.
  • Christina couldn't believe her friend was so excited about a stupid rectangle. Christina's hatred of dressage jumps a few levels.
  • Mona's competition is going to be a novice test. Christina, how do we feel about that? Novice! Christina fumed. Why aren't we doing a training-level test? Mona was treating them like babies. Ah, that's the stuff.
  • Mona points out that Christina is stiff and Sterling is resisting, but Christina insists it's not their fault. It's the dressage's fault! Yes, that's it. It's all the fault of dressage.
  • "You know that I love you." These authors really need to not attempt song lyrics.
  • Oh, good, Christina says everything is her fault but then Ashleigh steps in to say it's all her fault because she hasn't been around. Not that Christina hasn't had time to bitch at her mom or anything. Naturally it can't just be that Christina made mistakes. Nope.
  • At the party after the dressage test, Dylan tackles Christina to the ground and says, "You're not as wet as me" and then they blush because he's sprawled out on top of her and pinning her to the ground. What a perfect ending note for this book. Really.

Best get your camping gear for our next installment or two. Christina and the gang attend Camp Saddlebrook for the next three weeks. Enemies are made, s'mores are probably consumed amidst veiled sexual innuendo...or not. You never know.


Claire said...

really, at this point i'm beginning to think that the TB series has some sort of endorsement deal with Jeep.

Lei said...

Oh goodness, I looked at the cover of this very book today. It's enough to give George Morris nightmares, hahaha!

Anonymous said...

Halloo, Chris has weak legs. Weak long legs!

Yes, Chris originally adored dressage. Humph.

Oh, I always felt sick [even though it is fiction] how WHINY Chris was when she was asked to work a weanling! Bloody hell. She has a purebred perfect jumping TB (lol), dozens of horses to visit and watch, lots of land to ride, impeccable lessons and grooms to take care of her horse when she can't! WHAT MORE DOES SHE WANT? Doubtless Chris would not be the girl to volunteer to clean stalls while her horse-camp buds went on a surprise trail ride (that's me).

Anonymous said...

all of these early Sterling books just seem to blend together to me.

Mara said...

all of these early Sterling books just seem to blend together to me.

#26 and #27 are painfully similar. The plot just shifts slightly from Christina just barely controlling her horse and failing while whining to Christina pushing for her horse to be better while failing and whining. Which Cassidy standing like the goddess of perfection off to the side so Christina can feel threatened every two to three chapters.

Anonymous said...

Who is Missy's mother anyway? First it says Miss Respectable, then it says Miss America.

Anonymous said...

Yes. It's Cindy all over again. Sometimes I wonder if the author wants us to not like these holier-than-thou characters. Or maybe we just forget what's it like to be 12. I've read some younger horse peoples Instagram, Twitter accounts. And there is a world of adolescent know-it-all's out there. Regardless, these reviews make me laugh! Love them. One thing I have to point out. I can't believe that 12 year olds are responsible for training of weanlings. What?!