Vol. 3: Horse Mad Academy
By Kathy Helidoniotis
Published in US: Mar. 1, 2009
Ashleigh and her horse, Honey, face their fears together in a new adventure.
Ashleigh Miller is starting a course at the Waratah Grove Riding Academy, one of the best riding academies in the country. It seems like a dream come true until she realizes there is more to this school than she bargained for. Getting through an exhausting riding schedule, training with the best junior riders in Australia, struggling with a horse who won't do dressage routines and competing for a chance to ride at the nationals all have Ashleigh thinking life in Shady Creek with the Creepketeers was a breeze.
But those aren't Ashleigh's only worries. She's beginning to unravel the mysterious past of her horse, Honey, and wonders if she can ever renew Honey's spirit. To top it all off, her new baby brother or sister is on the way at home, there's something fishy going on inside Roycroft Cabin and Ashleigh has to figure out a way to survive four weeks without her two best friends.
Ashleigh and Honey take on an exciting four weeks they won't soon forget.
Last time Ash had just won a trip to Waratah Grove Riding Academy, and found out her Mum was pregnant. This book sees Ash at said Academy, where all is magical and good. She stands in the parking lot for a while bemoaning her pregnant mom drama and getting all hot for a silver horse someone else is unloading from their trailer. She meets Mrs. Strickland, the boss, and gets thoroughly embarrassed by her parents at lunch before they leave.
She then makes friends with some girl named Brooke. It’s very important that you know that Brooke is wearing make-up, with painted nails, chews gum in an obnoxious manner, and says “like” in every sentence. This means she’s evil, but Ash is not genre savvy, so she doesn’t pick up on it.
Juliette, some other obnoxious girl who only repeats what Brooke says, and Ash are assigned to the Roycroft cabin with three other girls. Ash dubs Brooke, Juliette, and herself the Three (goddammit) Groveketeers. They meet their cabin leader, an older girl named Kylie who’s a big name rider.
The cabin mates and their horses are:
Brooke - Angel (the grey Ash drooled over)
Tash - Silverado
Molly - Rebel
Juliette - Storm
Ash (duh) - Honey
Lena - Biscuit
Brooke and Tash hate each other and Brooke warns Ash to stay away from her. Lena, the youngest in the cabin, is a bit of a crybaby, but she is only eight. Molly is a vegetarian.
Everyone gets their schedules, which are totally hardcore, are told the requirements to graduate from the camp, get homework assigned, and hear about the Waratah Grove Cup, a trophy that is rarely awarded, and only to a rider who proves themselves worthy. Ash vows to win it.
At Ash’s first Dressage lesson she gets chewed for showing up not dressed appropriately, after Brooke had said she looked fine. Brooke is the queen of passive-aggressive warfare.
Honey refuses to enter the arena, then freaks half way through a routine, tosses Ash and makes a run for it.. Ash gets back on, finishes her test, and feels pretty good about it until Brooke suggests that maybe she can’t handle a mare, and should get an easier gelding.
At the show jumping lesson, Brooke is a smart ass who makes sure everyone knows she’s a B-grade jumper, and bullies her mare. Ash jumps clean. Of course she does.
Tash has a picture of her little sister that someone cuts up into tiny pieces and then frames Ash for. Brooke tells Ash that they can’t be friends anymore, leaving Ash completely isolated. Brooke then begins open bitchiness.
Ash rocks the cross-country practice, and her next dressage lesson starts off well until she starts Honey in the arena where someone starts ringing a bell until Honey spooks. The instructor bans her from the dressage ring.
Molly and Tash help Ash eavesdrop on Brooke, who dun dun dun… is Carly’s cousin! The newly formed trio plot revenge. They steal her clothes and blackmail her with a warning that they’ll tell on her or some such.
Tash tries to help Ash with dressage, but Honey still acts like a butt. So they decide to train in the woods. Awesome. Honey randomly does a flying lead change and Tash gets all hot over her. Honey must be a dressage horse! So it’s to the library where they do a search on Honey, formally called Argonaut. They discover that Honey’s last owner had whipped her across the head repeatedly after a poor dressage score. Ash discovers a scar that she’d never noticed before behind Honey’s ear.
She goes to see Mrs. Strickland, who gives her a bullshit, “I knew but couldn’t tell you because you needed to learn it for yourself” talk. WTF? The adults in these book are morons.
Brooke keeps up the bitchiness, Ash is awesome at the show jumping, Tash reveals that her mum died and she takes care of her little sister. They keep practicing dressage until Ash is finally allowed back into the arena. Honey does the simple beginners course, but Ash feels the need to be a show off, and throws in some fancier moves, which earns her a bitching out from the instructor, who somehow manages to spook Honey, who chucks Ash into the wall.
The camp intends to send Ash home until Lena suggests that they teach Honey to park. Ash, Tash, and Molly argue, Honey refuses to park, Ash does bad in her last jumping lesson, she does good in her last cross country lesson, she’s still banned from dressage, then finally Honey learns to park and that makes everything better. Ash gets the okay to take the dressage test, Mrs. Strickland gets all proud, Ash gets all nervous over the test until Lena points out that, hey, it’s only horse riding. Genius!
Brooke and Ash make a bet that whoever gets the worst final score will refuse to have their name put on the Honour Board. At Ash’s dressage test, aside from a few little mistakes, everything goes fine. Ash makes up with Molly and Tash. In the show jumping, Ash gets a few faults. After some freaking out, Ash rides the cross country perfectly.
Ash gets to graduate, she gets more points than Brooke, who promptly forgets their bet, and Molly gets the Waratah Grove Cup for some reason. Ash goes home and her parents tell her about a new riding school opening up in Shady Creek looking for riders to come work for them. End.
God… What can I say? That the person in charge knew why Honey was acting like a nutcase, and didn’t say anything blew my mind. That Brooke was a villain in a book with enough to overcome without needing a villain, was ridiculous. And of course, the antagonist has to be abusive to her horse. That Ash, through stupid luck and actual hard work, fixed her batshit crazy horse with no help from the adults and didn’t get that super special trophy was anticlimactic. Would it have been cliché? Yeah. But it would have made sense. Molly did nothing of real interest, nothing to deserve the thing. Unless they’re handing out trophies to people for being Ash’s friend, but then Tash and Lena deserved one as well.
BTW, I noticed something about the cover. The pic above I got off of Amazon. The rider kinda looks like she's about to sneeze, the horse is obviously a bay, and has no blaze. My book's cover is exactly the same picture, except the rider is smiling, the horse is still bay, but the color has been lightened. It's still a bay, because it still has black points, but it's body is comparable to a chestnut horse. It also is sporting a blaze. I have to give them props for trying to make the horses on all the covers look like the same horse, but it's pretty easy to find chestnut horses. You don't have to photo manipulate a bay to make a fake chestnut horse. It's just weird.