Feb 1, 2009

Running Horse Ridge: In which I discover what being on the fence feels like.

Sapphire: New Horizons
Running Horse Ridge #1
by Heather Brooks

So, yeah. The Super Bowl. While I'm fairly sure that most of my city is falling down drunk and committing some ill advised arson right now, I'd like to take a time out to say how awesome Pittsburgh is. Not Brad Townsend level of awesome, but pretty awesome.

Okay, to the book.

Home is where your horse is

Emily Summers does not want to go to Oregon. Why would she want to leave her friends and Rhapsody, her perfect dressage horse, to move to a horse rescue ranch all the way across the country?

Then Emily discovers that at Running Horse Ridge, she'll be living her dream of riding and caring for horses 24/7, and after she meets the roguish black stallion named Sapphire, she feels she's found a true friend. There's just one catch: Sapphire is at Running Horse Ridge to be retrained and sold. Has Emily met the horse of her dreams only to lose him?

I finished this book a while ago by now, because since then I've spent restless hours thinking about it. I thought about it through the night, through work, through the freaking Super Bowl, and all of this made me angry. This book has hijacked a lot of my time, and I really didn't see that coming. I mean, look at it. Look at that cover. I hate the cover, okay? Who in their right mind expects a book to be good when they're met with this cover? It's got a nice, pretty banner and absolutely no substance. In fact, the photo of that horse comes very close to offending me because it smacks of laziness. Someone went to the trouble of creating that banner, which I think is great, and then...that photo. That photo.

Okay, let's do this. Emily and her dad are driving to Oregon because his father recently died and they need to be at the funeral. Emily never met her grandfather, so she's spending her time dwelling on the fact that this horse she rides back in New Jersey (Rhapsody, who is sublime and refuses to drink from his water bucket if it is not absolutely pristine) is very probably going to be ridden in an upcoming competition by the probably blond female antagonist. So Emily is battling with her raging jealousy about this, bemoaning this stupid funeral for a man she never met.

Then this horse jumps out into the road and he looks exactly like Rhapsody, conveniently enough. That's all it takes, and instantly Emily is in love. Her cousin shows up and carts the horse, Sapphire, back to Running Horse Ridge, which Emily only now seems to start registering as a stable. So they get there and Emily immediately runs off to the stable to bond with Sapphire. The next day, Emily's aunt Debby gives her a riding lesson. Her very first jumping lesson, actually, because Emily is a dressage freak. I know. Color me shocked. Emily is determined to eventually ride Sapphire over jumps, but Debby refuses to let her ride him yet because she's saving him to sell and he's not done training...all perfectly logical. Then Emily accidentally lets Sapphire out of his stall and he runs off again before the funeral.

Everyone panics, but the horse is found and all is okay. Until Emily goes back to the stable early and decides to ride Sapphire without anyone's permission while they're still at the funeral. As you can imagine, Sapphire goes nuts out in the field and dumps Emily, who sprains her ankle and has to wait to be saved by Debby and her dad. They find her, and Debby's husband, Rick, carries her back...but during all of this they find an abused horse off in the woods.

This horse happens to be from a stable that I guess no one ever knew about. Emily discovers the place with her dad, who goes completely insane on the owner of the stable, attacks him, and then locks him in a stall. Then they call Debby et al, who arrive and completely panic. Like...there is running and screaming and...you'd think that there was some maniac shooting a gun indiscriminately at passers by, that's how completely crazy everyone was acting. The cops eventually let them take the horses after the abusive owner attempts to attack one of the cops, and so all forty animals go to Running Horse Ridge.

Despite all of this activity, Debby has not forgotten about Emily's shenanigans with Sapphire. She asks Emily about it and Emily insists that her accident was a one time thing, blah blah blah, and Debby basically emotionally bitch slaps her and says, "I'm sorry you feel that way." Then she bans her from seeing Sapphire. Emily feels the pain of injustice! But she just wanted to ride him in the open without supervision after only knowing the horse for a day, and she only sort of accidentally injured herself and the horse, and she only wants to own him and Rhapsody, and if she can't have him there's no way Debby can sell him to someone else...oh my God, I wanted someone to stop beating around the bush and tell his kid to shove it. She is a VISITOR. For all she knows, she's out of there after the weekend is up. Who the hell is she to walk in there and start bitching about her relatives selling a horse that is theirs to sell, especially when she's never met any of these people and she is going back to NEW JERSEY. Never did anyone say they were staying there for a long period of time. Never. It just completely astonished me, actually.

So more bitching and whining happens about Sapphire, and Debby bitches at Emily some more. Emily tries desperately to prove how responsible she is by taking care of the abused horses, and Debby seems to not care that Emily is working so hard. Then Emily's dad announces that he's bought all forty of the horses (because somehow this will help the stable? I don't get this, because it's not like the stable owns the horses.) All of them except Sapphire! Emily is frustrated some more, Debby doesn't care some more, and then this abused mare gives birth, which somehow means Emily has to ride Sapphire, breaking all of Debby's rules for the sake of the mare. Debby tells Emily that her dad is giving the foal to Emily (of course!) and Emily somehow proves that she is not a whiny brat and Debby decides that she won't sell Sapphire yet, just as Emily's dad decides very conveniently to stay at the stable a little longer to help get the place out of financial distress (because it is, of course...that goes without saying.)

  • Emily likes dressage. Again, this completely amazed me. Also, it's apparent that whoever wrote this (as I'm still not convinced that Heather Brooks is real...her little author blurb in this book is way too "she loves to write and rescue horses on the weekends!" to be real) knows what they're talking about. I actually followed what Emily was doing when she was riding this horse in her first lesson with Debby. I comprehended. I was amazed that I comprehended. I sort of grudgingly liked this book for being comprehensible in this area.
  • The little details in this book are pretty awesome. Right before Emily's dad throws a fit and attacks the abusive owner guy, we learn that the guy is eating a red Popsicle. Right here I was even further incensed because I could just see all of this happening. The red Popsicle made me like this book.
  • But seriously, I don't want to like this book. Actually, I don't like this book at all at many, many points. Most of this hinges on Emily. She is a self-absorbed, irresponsible whiner. At one point, she seriously hopes that her father will buy both Sapphire and Rhapsody, and while that's a logical hope for a thirteen-year-old, it's also not a realistic hope, and any thirteen-year-old will own up to that without being pushed. Emily doesn't exactly admit that to herself.
  • Plus, she DOESN'T LIVE THERE. She's known all of these people for a grand total of a few days. And she's throwing fits over a damn horse she has no slight right to throw a fit over.
  • But still. Like...this book took time to discuss Emily's relationship with her father, her confusion over never having had a cohesive family that did family type things. It captures her complete failure to adjust to her relatives. It was weirdly good in parts. It went far beyond my expectations in several areas, which made its illogical parts so much more irritating.

My general consensus here is that I liked it and I really didn't at the same time. I am not happy about this, because I didn't want to read the rest of the books in this series. Now I'm afraid I'll have to.


Elizabeth said...

AAAAAAHHHHHHH what is wrong with that horse's legs?!

Mara said...

That's a good question.

Molly said...

I know how you feel, man.

If it makes you feel any better, I'll probably end up reading this book and feeling the same way, because I already HATE Emily, but...otherwise it sounds good.

Maybe the author just can't write teenagers. Better than those who can't write horses like, say, JOANNA CAMPBELL.

And you're right, that cover is uuuuuuugly.

Anonymous said...

Ok, guys, don't be mean. For 1 thing, there's nothing wrong with the horse's legs. He's high stepping. I've seen pictures and videos of it. And number 2, Emily is NOT a bad character. She's great, and she finally befriends the horse of your dreams. And number 3, the book cover is absolutely beautiful.

If the author of this series saw your comments, she will not be a happy person. You're hurting her feelings with these comments. How would you like it if someone commented badly and meanly on your book? Hmm?

If you don't like the Running Horse Ridge series, then keep your comments and thoughts TO YOURSELF!

Susan Robin said...

Nothing is wrong with the legs of this horse. It is his own style of running. Don't worry just buy a good Horse Jumps for Sale and do practice for racing.