The countdown is on for the annual Colesford Horse Show. Carole and Stevie are among the five riders chosen by owner Max to represent Pine Hollow Stables. Carole is sure she and her beloved horse Samson can win at this year’s competition, while Stevie would be satisfied with just a simple ribbon. But, come to think of it, a blue ribbon would be nice . . .
Meanwhile, Lisa is facing bigger challenges. She has accepted a spot at Northern Virginia University, which happens to be just forty miles away from her friends and boyfriend. But with her horse Prancer pregnant and her mom getting a divorce, college doesn’t feel so important.
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Riding to Win
Pine Hollow, Book Nine
By Bonnie Bryant
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1999 Bonnie Bryant Hiller
All rights reserved.
"Whew!" Lisa Atwood exclaimed, rushing into Pine Hollow Stables with her head ducked down against the pouring rain outside. As she pushed back the hood of her raincoat and shook out her shoulder-length blond hair, she spotted Carole Hanson, one of her best friends, pushing an empty wheelbarrow down the stable aisle. "It's coming down like cats and dogs out there," Lisa told her.
Carole smiled a hello, then glanced at the door, looking worried. "I know," she said. "This rain came out of nowhere, didn't it? Max had us turn out a bunch of horses in the big hilly meadow this morning because we all thought it was supposed to be nice."
Lisa shrugged off her dripping raincoat. As she headed across the entryway toward the student locker room, she paused long enough to peek through the partially open wooden door of Pine Hollow's indoor schooling ring. "Where's Stevie? I thought she'd be here, practicing for the horse show," she commented. "I only see Callie."
"Callie got here a little while ago for her therapeutic riding session." Carole pushed the wheelbarrow against the wall and stretched. "After the crazy amount of work I've been doing around here lately, I think I could use one of those myself."
"Not me," Lisa said. "I could never work as hard as Callie does." Their friend Callie Forester had lost partial use of her right leg in an automobile accident a few months earlier, soon after her family had moved to Willow Creek, Virginia. She was doing her best to regain the full use of her body through physical therapy, particularly therapeutic riding. At first it had been a slow process. But lately, Lisa could see Callie getting stronger every day.
"Good point." Carole stretched again, then reached to tighten the band holding her curly black hair in its thick braid. "She's barely missed a day since she started. It's no wonder she was such a great endurance rider back in her old hometown. She's got endurance coming out of her ears."
"And it's no wonder her doctors are amazed with her progress," Lisa added. She ducked into the locker room long enough to hang her raincoat on one of the row of hooks inside the door. "Last I heard, she was hoping to get rid of her crutches by Christmas—maybe sooner. Stevie has even started taking bets on when it will happen."
Carole glanced around with a slight frown. "Speaking of Stevie, where is she?"
Lisa laughed. "I asked you that same question about two seconds ago, remember?" She and Carole had been friends since junior high, along with their other best friend, Stevie Lake. So Lisa had long since learned that when it came to horses—or her part-time job at Pine Hollow—Carole never had any trouble focusing. When the topic was about anything else, however, she could be a little scatterbrained.
"Oh. Well, I don't think she's shown up here yet today," Carole said, "which is weird, since the horse show is less than a week away. The rest of us have been putting in every second of practice time we can manage."
Carole and Stevie were among the five riders chosen by Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow, to represent the stable at the Colesford Horse Show, which was being held in a nearby town. The riders had been training intensively for more than a month.
Lisa tilted her head to one side and squeezed some rainwater out of her hair. "It's hard to believe it's so soon; it seems as though Max only just announced it."
Carole nodded and glanced at her watch. "Five days, nineteen hours, and oh, around twelve minutes," she said. "But who's counting?"
Lisa smiled. "Don't worry. Even if the show were in five minutes instead of five and a half days, you know you and Samson would be ready."
"Thanks." Carole's answering smile was grateful but still a little anxious. "But I'm glad it's not in five minutes, because I have a ton of work to do before I can even think about tacking up Samson for some practice." She checked her watch again. "What are you doing here now, anyway?" she asked Lisa. "Not that I'm not always glad to see you and everything, but it's not exactly the weather for a leisurely Sunday afternoon trail ride."
"I had some free time, so I just thought I'd stop by and check on Prancer," Lisa replied.
She couldn't help smiling as she said the name of the beautiful bay Thoroughbred mare she'd ridden for the past few years. Prancer had started her life as a racehorse, but an injury had ended her career on the track. Max had recognized that the sweet-tempered young mare would make a wonderful pleasure horse, so he had bought her in partnership with Judy Barker, the local equine vet, and brought her to Pine Hollow. Lisa had been the mare's most regular rider ever since, and over the years she had come to love the gentle, intelligent horse just as much as Carole and Stevie loved their own horses, Starlight and Belle. Recently Lisa had discovered that her father was planning to surprise her by buying Prancer for her next birthday. After all her years of riding, Lisa could hardly believe she was finally getting a horse of her own, let alone one as wonderful as Prancer. So far nobody else knew about the secret except Carole and Max, and Lisa could hardly wait until the day she was free to tell everyone her fantastic news.
"I guess I'll leave you to your work and go see her," Lisa added, already taking a step toward the stable aisle. Prancer usually spent much of the day outside in the little back paddock, but when the heavy rain started, Lisa was sure, someone would have brought her in. "Is she in her stall?"
"Um, not exactly," Carole said. "Remember those horses I mentioned before? The ones we turned out in the meadow this morning?"
"Prancer's out there?" Lisa frowned, surprised. Prancer was three and a half months pregnant with twins, which was a dangerous condition for a horse. Everyone at Pine Hollow was keeping a close and cautious eye on her these days, especially since they'd all had a scare just a couple of weeks before, when Max had feared that the mare might have lost one of the foals.
Carole nodded. "Judy okayed it yesterday when she was here. She thinks Prancer could use a little more exercise, and she thought the hilly meadow would be perfect because she'd be less tempted to try to run there." She took a step toward the door, which was slightly ajar, revealing the pounding rain outside. Glancing back at Lisa, she shrugged. "I'm sure she's hiding out in one of the runin sheds. You can walk out there and see her if you want, but you might want to take a life jacket along."
"Oh well. I guess my visit will have to wait." Lisa sighed, feeling disappointed. "As long as I'm here, I might as well make myself useful. Need any help with your chores?"
"Always," Carole answered. "I was just about to go pull Samson's mane and tail for the show, since I probably won't have a whole lot of spare time to do it later in the week. It would help a lot if you'd hold him for me. He's usually pretty good about stuff like that, but he hasn't been exercised yet today, so he may be frisky."
"No problem," Lisa said. "Sounds like a lot more fun than mucking out stalls."
Carole grinned. "You missed that—I just finished," she said. "But the great thing about mucking out is that no matter how often you do it, it always needs doing again before long."
Lisa laughed. She enjoyed most things about taking care of horses, but she had to admit that mucking out wasn't near the top of her list of favorite stable chores.
She followed Carole down the aisle to Samson's stall. The big black gelding had his head out over the half door and was watching their approach. Lisa couldn't help admiring the proud, intelligent gleam in his eyes and the high, aristocratic carriage of his muscular neck. It's no wonder Carole is so crazy about him, Lisa thought.
Carole greeted the gelding with a pat and a few murmured words. She and Samson had always shared a special bond—partly because she had once loved Samson's sire, a noble stallion who had been killed in a terrible riding accident years earlier, and partly because of Samson's own spirited, willing personality.
Lisa stood back as Carole expertly cross-tied Samson and gave him a pat. Then she stepped forward and stood at his head, holding his halter loosely with one hand and rubbing his smooth, dark neck with the other. "It's okay, big guy," she told the horse soothingly as Carole moved around to his side. "We're just going to get you gussied up for the big show next weekend."
Out of the corner of her eye, Lisa watched Carole pull a mane comb out of her jeans pocket. Moving to the top of Samson's crest, Carole carefully separated out a small cluster of hairs and held them in her left hand while she combed back the rest of the hairs with her right hand. "So what's new with you?" she asked Lisa as she worked.
"Alex and I got together Friday after his soccer match," Lisa said, tugging gently at Samson's halter as he tried to turn his head to see what Carole was doing. "So I finally got a chance to tell him about sending in that acceptance letter." Lisa couldn't help sighing slightly when she thought how she and her boyfriend, who also happened to be Stevie's twin brother, had to schedule time to see each other these days. That was because Alex and Stevie were both grounded for drinking at a party they'd had at their house while their parents were out of town. The only time Alex was allowed out of the house, except for school, was for soccer, so he and Lisa tried to meet after practices and games as often as they could. But it really wasn't often enough as far as Lisa was concerned.
"Oh, really?" Carole wrapped the smaller cluster of hairs around the mane comb a couple of times and, with a quick, expert motion, yanked them out. Samson didn't flinch, and Lisa gave him a pat. Carole glanced up before moving on to the next section of mane, looking curious. "What did he say?"
Lisa smiled. "Let's just say he was thrilled."
She could still see the overjoyed expression on Alex's face when she'd told him she had decided to attend Northern Virginia University, located just forty miles from Willow Creek. Lisa had come to the decision after receiving an early acceptance letter and offer of an honors scholarship from the well-respected local university. That decision had come as a relief—Lisa had spent a lot of time lately worrying about what she should do the following year. She had already applied to a couple of colleges in Southern California, where her father, stepmother, and baby half sister, Lily, lived. She'd also planned to apply to several prestigious schools in and around Boston and Chicago. But while each school on her list had advantages, most of them had major drawbacks as well. Attending college in California would mean being close to her father and having the chance to watch her half sister, Lily, grow up. And her California family would be there to help her find a place to board Prancer and to look after her during school breaks. But Lisa also knew that it would be very hard on her mother, who was still bitter about the divorce, to have her in California. Then there was Alex. Because he was only a junior this year, she would be separated from him for at least a year while he finished high school, and she knew that both of them would have a hard time with that.
Despite their academic benefits, the schools in the other cities seemed even more problematic. All the same issues would be there—distance from Alex, her mother, her friends, and everything she'd ever known, plus she wouldn't even have the advantage of being near Lily and her father. And it would be difficult to find a good boarding stable in a place where she didn't know a soul, especially since most of those schools were located in urban areas.
That was why the acceptance to NVU seemed like the perfect solution. Going to a local university meant she would still be able to spend time with Alex and her other friends in Willow Creek, particularly Carole and Stevie, who also had another year of high school to go. It also meant she wouldn't have to worry about where to keep Prancer. The mare could remain at Pine Hollow, where there were plenty of people to help Lisa look after her.
"Cool. So he took the news well." Carole shot her a quick glance. "What about your mom and dad? You never mentioned what they said about all this."
"That's because I haven't exactly told them yet." Lisa sighed and rubbed Samson's nose. "I really want to talk to Mom about this first—you know how supersensitive she is about everything since the divorce. If I told Dad before I told her, she'd freak out and not even realize how great it is that I'll be staying close to home." She shrugged. "Besides, I figure I'll tell Dad when I see him in person at Thanksgiving."
Carole blinked. "Oh yeah. I almost forgot you're going out to California again. When are you leaving?"
"A week from Saturday." Lisa grimaced. "I just hope I get a chance to talk to Mom before then."
"What do you mean?" Carole asked uncertainly. "Did she go somewhere?"
Lisa chuckled ruefully. "No. Sorry, I'm just being silly. Mom's been so busy lately with her job and, you know, Rafe." The name, as always, left a bad taste in Lisa's mouth. She still found it hard to believe that her conservative, overcautious, forty-something mother was going out with a twenty-five-year-old loser like Rafe. It was even harder to believe that the two of them had been seeing each other for more than a month now.
Carole was silent for a moment as she pulled another section of Samson's mane. Then she glanced over at Lisa again. "You know, even though Mom has been gone for years now, it's still always a little weird for me when Dad brings a new woman home," she said. "But one thing I've noticed over the years: Whenever he starts seeing someone I really don't like, it usually doesn't last long. Even or especially when I keep my opinion to myself."
Lisa didn't answer for a moment. She knew Carole was probably right. After all, Colonel Hanson had dated a variety of women over the years since his wife had died of cancer.
But Lisa's situation was different. Her father hadn't died. He had walked out on his wife of twenty-seven years, moved to California, and remarried. And her mother hadn't mourned her loss and then slowly, cautiously started to pick up the pieces and move on, as Colonel Hanson had done. Instead, she'd sunk into a lengthy period of depression and bitterness, then suddenly flung herself into a totally inappropriate relationship with a guy—Lisa couldn't bring herself to think of Rafe as a man—who was practically guaranteed to break her heart sooner or later, to say nothing of turning Lisa's stomach.
"Well, anyway," Lisa said at last, deciding to let Carole's well-intentioned advice pass without comment, "I'm planning to break the big news soon. Mom's off tomorrow night and I told her I wanted to fix a special dinner, just for the two of us. Rafe has a meeting with his adviser or something, so for once I hope I'll have her full attention."
"Doesn't Rafe go to NVU, too?" Carole asked.
Lisa shuddered. "Don't remind me," she said. "That's the only downside I can see to going there. But it's a big school, so it's not as if I'm likely to end up sitting next to him in class or anything." She grinned sheepishly. "Actually, I probably shouldn't admit this, but I'm sort of expecting—well, okay, hoping—that he'll flunk out by the time I start next fall."
Carole laughed, but she felt a little uncomfortable. Lisa's comment had reminded her of a topic she wished she could forget. A little more than a month earlier, Carole had failed a history test because she'd been so caught up with her job at Pine Hollow that she'd forgotten to study. She had convinced her teacher to give her a makeup test, claiming that her father had been ill. But Carole hadn't been any better prepared for the second test than she'd been for the first, so she had done something she never would have thought she was capable of doing. She had cheated. She had convinced herself that she'd had no choice—one of Max's strictest rules was that all his school-age riders had to keep their grades at a C average or above, and the failing grade would have pulled Carole's average below that cutoff. She knew she couldn't let that happen, especially with the Colesford show coming up. But ever since the moment she had opened her textbook and peeked at the answers, Carole had been forced to live with constant, nagging guilt over what she'd done. And she had been a lot more careful about keeping her grades up.
Excerpted from Riding to Win by Bonnie Bryant. Copyright © 1999 Bonnie Bryant Hiller. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think this is the best of all the pine hollow books i've read so far! so many things happen to all the characters! i'm so proud of carole and samson...but i can't believe carole spilled the beans on herself!
If you had to read a Pine Hollow book, this would be it! Although I'd recommed reading them all!! There is so much that happens in this book and it keeps you on edge. It is sad but is VERY good!
Hi! I love this book! What happened to Prancer is terrible! And poor Carole! I love this series! Does anyone know if they is a website for the Saddle Club books, Pine Hollow books, or Bonnie Bryant? I've been looking everywhere for a Pine Hollow books website but I can't find one anywhere. Please e-mail me if you know of one!
I really enjoyed this book...it was sad, but I couldn't put it down. Same with the rest of the Pine Hollow Series. I often buy them, sit down & read em straight through without stopping. I've done the same thing with the Saddle Club books in the past. I'm a college student now, but I'm still hooked! I got a bit of a preview of the future Pine Hollow books by going to the website & I can't wait to read em! Hurry n publish! :P
This was a great book. It was very well written. There were pleanty of tense moments. Like when Lisa's & Carole's worst fears come true. And when Max sold Samson. But there were also some very happy moments. But u'll just have to read ur self to find out what happens
The book was pretty sad but, well written. It still shocks me that Prancer died. It's too bad Max sold Samson, Carole and him make a really good team. Over all it was a pretty good book.
'Riding To Win' was very sad, but a good book. The only way it could have been better, would be that Prancer wouldn't die :( Besides that, it was a very good book.
This book was very good. I thought it was the best book out of the whole series so far though every one of her books I can't put down. I highly recommend you read this series.