Oct 26, 2008

The Saddle Club #3: Horse sense and common sense are two different things.

The Saddle Club #3: Horse Sense
Bonnie Bryant
Published: February 1989

The summary:

Stevie Lake, Carole Hanson, and Lisa Atwood are the best of friends and charter members of the Saddle Club, bonded together by their love of horses. But now the Saddle Club is in trouble! Stevie has been picked by Max, the owner of Pine Hollow Stables, to plan some games for its upcoming horse show. And Carole is too busy helping the vet care for Delilah, the mare who is soon to give birth to a foal sired by Cobalt, Carole's beloved stallion. Neither of them seems to have time for Lisa, who's been drawing up an elaborate constitution for the club, including rules for meeting attendance. Lisa is getting tired of being the only one at club meetings! Unless the threesome decides to stick together, there won't be any Saddle Club and no fun at Pine Hollow Stables. And isn't that what the Saddle Club is all about?

First off, I should say that this one is one of my favourites. I'm not really sure why. It's not particularly good, and Lisa is so ridiculous that I have to feel sorry for her.

So, Horse Sense kicks off the Saddle Club's endless summer, which stretches through book 10. The girls are riding every weekday at the stable's camp program, because apparently Max has no other classes, ever, except the intermediate class. There's a new girl in their class, Estelle, who comes from France.

The back of the book basically sums up the plotline: all three girls are involved in their own special projects, and the plot stems from how they come together, kind of like like horses meet Sex and the City. ("I couldn't help but wonder ...") Stevie tries to come up with the most interesting races ever for a gymkhana. These races may possibly involve Hula Hoops, drum majorette's batons, busted umbrellas, and Laser Tag. Carole is constantly hanging out with Judy, the vet, monitoring Delilah's pregnancy and tagging along on her calls for no good reason.

In contrast, Lisa's plot is downright snooze-inducing: she types up a constitution for the Saddle Club. Seriously. She comes up with a statement of purpose: "The purpose of The Saddle Club is to increase the knowledge and enjoyment of horseback riding for its members." Which is probably true, and would be great if she were writing up a strategic plan for Saddle Club University, but as it is, it's just funny. Lisa tries her damndest to meet with Stevie and Carole at TD's so they can approve all these rules, but they both bail on her one day, so she ends up hanging out with Estelle instead. Estelle:
a) was having trouble with Nero, the Most Ancient Horse At Pine Hollow Ever.
b) got a white stallion, Napoleon, as a gift on her seventh birthday.
c) has a country home in Normandy.
d) used to have a pony called Etoile who tried to kick her with her hind "foot" when Estelle pulled on her mane.
e) has never eaten marshmallow fluff.
f) used to go to boarding school with a princess.
g) once was thrown up on by Napoleon.
h) hurt her back and spent her seventh birthday in the hospital, which means she can never jump.
i) has no clue how to untack a horse.

Is it clear, where this is going? Poor, ridiculous Lisa. She just assumes that "riders must be taught differently and horses must be trained differently in France."

Lisa tries to round up Stevie and Carole for another meeting/Senate session, to approve the constitution. Unfortunately, Stevie accidentally feeds half her baton to a pony, and Carole tries to make four times too much bran mash for Delilah, so neither of them can attend the meeting. Lisa is so pissed off at them, she "ratifies" the "constitution" by herself and "admits" Estelle to the Saddle Club.

At Pine Hollow, Lisa proudly invites Estelle to be in the club and presents her with a silver horse-head pin that she's bought to be the official pin. Estelle has zero interest in Lisa and the club, which is probably for the best, since Carole and Stevie still have zero interest in her.

In the evening, Max meets with Carole, Lisa, and Stevie for some drill work. Then he leaves to give a private lesson on the trail. I guess he does have other classes, after all. Still, doesn't the guy ever do anything else besides work at Pine Hollow? Man, it's no wonder he doesn't get married for another 31 books. Anyway, so of course Red and Mrs. Reg are out too, and of course this is the time that Delilah decides to plop out a foal, which is coal-black, just like its father. It stands up and nurses right away, to some incredulous "Can you believe it? That baby is less than fifteen minutes old and it's nursing already" gasps from Carole. Um, I'm pretty sure horses are supposed to stand up and nurse right away. Oh well. At least she's twelve, not twenty-two like Ashleigh. Max offers to let Carole name him. She decided a long time ago that if it was a boy, she was going to call him Samson. Everyone laughs. This went right over my head when I was little, and in fact, it still kind of goes over head. Delilah was the one with the hair, right? Or was that Lady Godiva?

Afterward, the girls share a soda in the tack room (one soda? For three people? Seriously? Oh well, at least that'll keep their sugar intake down, and their cases of mono up) and Lisa has to admit that she invited Estelle to be in the Saddle Club. Stevie and Carole straighten out poor, ridiculous Lisa on all of Estelle's lies, including:
a) She's just never ridden before, which is why she couldn't handle Nero.
b) There's no such thing as a white horse.
c) Well, the country home in Normandy might be true.
d) Horses don't have nerves in their manes, and don't try to kick at riders when they're on their backs.
e) Has never eaten marshmallow fluff: True.
f) Lisa figures out that the boarding school princess was a lie.
g) Horses don't throw up.
h) She's just never jumped, either.
h) Has no clue how to untack a horse: True.

Anyway, Carole finally informs Lisa that horses and riders really aren't trained differently in France; horses don't speak English, and "there's no difference among good riders throughout the world." Both girls give Lisa an ultimatum: Either disinvite Estelle from the club, or they're both dropping out. Lisa confronts Estelle, who is having trouble tacking up Patch (aka Sweetest Horse Ever, Except Around Loud Sounds or Bright Lights) this time. Estelle insists that she has "studied riding with the finest instructors in Europe! But riding here is very different, and not nearly as good." She throws the silver pin back at Lisa and leaves Pine Hollow forever, which is nobody's loss.

Turns out that Lisa has eight bazillion ideas for gymkhana games, and none of them include Hula Hoops, batons, Laser Tag, or broken umbrellas. Lisa recognizes how ridiculous her idea about needing a constitution to make the Saddle Club a real club is, but she does give a silver horse-head pin to each of her friends, and it becomes their official Club pin.

Points of Interest:
  • As far as I can tell, there was only one change made in the 2007 reprint of this book: Lisa inputs everything "in a Word document" instead of "on the word processor." Right. I'm glad you spent so much time making that change, Dell Yearling.

  • This is the book in which the girls coin the term "high fifteen," as in a high five between three people.

  • Lisa -- assuming that is Lisa -- is wearing a truly hideous outfit on the cover of the book. Seriously. The jacket-thing isn't terrible, I guess, it's the kind of thing I might have worn when I was eight or nine. The pants are awful. The socks are those big bunchy push-down things, and the sneakers are a) not something you should wear around a stable, and/or b) way too white to have been wearing them around a stable. Also, why are sneakers on the covers of books always plain-white and old-lady? Is it really that hard to look down at your foot and draw, you know, an athletic-looking sneaker? Come on, Rob Sauber. This is rather heinous work, especially considering that his earlier cover (#2) was not awful, except for the peach-sorbet-coloured horse. And we've got another gem on the cover of #4. Just you wait.

  • This book was published in February 1989. I'm not positive, but I think this might have been the first Saddle Club book published after Neil Hiller's death, which I think was in 1989.


Molly said...

You'd think that Lisa would have caught on to some basic facts, like how horses can't throw up and have no nerve ending in their manes, just from hanging around Carole and Max..

Heather said...

Well, one could argue those two points. My old gelding was starved before we bought him, so he has a tendency to bolt down his food. Before we switched him to oats and a powder suppliment, he would occasionally get food stuck in his throat. He would cry and cough, eventually pushing out some sort of nastiness that could be mistaken for vomit. It's spit, but it really looks like vomit.
And the kicking. I knew a sour old gelding that would cowkick everything you grabbed some mane to get on. If you got on anyway he would try to kick and bite at your legs until you got him moving.
Please don't think I'm trying to argue, it's just occasionally the Saddle Club views misinformation as lies, and it irks me.

Molly said...

Good points. And plenty of people refer to light grey horses as "white."

Elizabeth said...

On the other hand, if you're Carole, probably anything that isn't in The Manual of Horsemanship is a lie.

I do think it's probably a reflection of BB and then the ghostwriters more than anything else -- BB has said she rode as a child, but then she grew up and went away to college and became a journalist, then a novelist, so I don't think she rode seriously in her later years at all. I'm sure that she did some book research for the series, which doesn't always reflect riding in practice. I know next to nothing about the other major ghostwriters -- Catherine Hapka and Caitlin C. Macy -- but it looks like they may be in the same boat.

The kicking story always cracked me up, though, because I got a mental image of Etoile picking up her hind leg and kicking the way a dog would scratch its neck.