Corey, May, and Jasmine are all nervous about performing at the County Animal Rescue League fundraiser—it’s for an important cause, and the audience will be huge. Corey has worked hard to get her pony, Samurai, ready for the demonstration—but when it’s showtime, Samurai just won’t seem to cooperate.
Suddenly, Corey feels she may not actually be that good a rider. What other reason could there be for her frisky pony’s refusal to obey her? The other Pony Tails know it can’t be Corey’s fault, and it’s up to them to figure out what to do.
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Corey in the Saddle
Pony Tails, Book Six
By Bonnie Bryant
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Bonnie Bryant Hiller
All rights reserved.
Just for the Animals
"Oh, how cute!" Corey Takamura cooed. She was looking at a sleeping kitten, curled up into a tiny ball. He clutched a rubber mouse toy in his paws. "Look at him, you guys," she told her two best friends.
Jasmine James gazed at the kitten. "Aww," she said, agreeing with Corey.
"He's adorable," May Grover said. "Check out the puppies."
Corey and Jasmine looked where May was pointing. Two puppies were roughhousing, rolling around in the newspaper strips in their cage.
"All the animals are cute," Jasmine said with a sigh.
A smile crept across Corey's face. May and Jasmine didn't know it, but her plan was working.
In a few minutes the three girls would be riding their ponies in a demonstration for a huge audience. Their Pony Club, Horse Wise, was trying to raise money for CARL—the County Animal Rescue League.
The girls had been getting ready for the demonstration for a long time. May and Jasmine were very nervous about riding in front of a big crowd. So Corey had decided to show them the animals from CARL. Sure enough, once May and Jasmine saw the pets in the trailer that CARL had set up at Pine Hollow Stables for the day, they forgot all about being nervous.
May crouched down to look at a baby raccoon in a cage. "Can someone adopt this raccoon, too?" she asked Corey.
Corey shook her head. "No. He's a wild animal. CARL was just taking care of him for a while. I think most of the other animals here can be adopted today, though."
May stared at the raccoon through the bars of the cage. He stared back at her. She made a funny face at him. He stared back at her.
"No sense of humor," she commented.
"Maybe you just don't know how to tell a joke in raccoon," Jasmine said. May giggled. The raccoon scooted back in his cage, away from May.
"I'm not going to hurt you," she said.
"It's good for him to be scared of you," Corey reminded her. "He's going to be released back into the wild soon."
May thought about that. It made sense. Animals who were going to live in the wild should be afraid of humans. That way they'd be more independent and safe.
Corey knew a lot about animals. Her mother was a veterinarian whom everyone called Doc Tock. Doc Tock had her own practice, but she also did a lot of work at CARL. May thought it was fun living next door to a vet—especially since May, Jasmine, and Corey were all crazy about animals. The girls were really crazy about ponies. That was why they called themselves the Pony Tails.
A sudden noise startled the girls.
"What was that?" Jasmine said. They looked around to see where it had come from.
There was a cage in the corner behind the other cages. It had a lot of newspaper torn up in it. Corey peered at the cage—she couldn't see an animal in there.
The sound was definitely coming from the cage in the corner. Slowly the girls went over to investigate.
The Pony Tails stared at the pile of shredded newsprint. Corey watched in surprise as the paper rustled. Then a tiny black nose popped out from under the papers. It sniffed curiously. Then came a furry mouth. The tiny mouth opened and made a great big noise.
"It's a goat!" Corey declared. "A baby goat!"
The goat had black-and-white splotched hair and bright black eyes.
The Pony Tails watched as the small creature tried to stand up. First its little rear legs pushed upward. Then its spindly front legs began working.
"It's so cute," breathed Jasmine. "I bet it's only a few weeks old."
Corey nodded. The creature was tiny. She knew from her mother that CARL rescued and took in all kinds of animals. What had happened to this tiny goat? she wondered. He was definitely too young to be separated from his mother. Maybe he'd been orphaned.
Corey looked at the papers hanging from the goat's cage. She was right. According to his chart, his mother had died.
"Poor little guy," May said as she read the information. "He seems to like our company, though, doesn't he?"
The goat was bleating softly. He ambled over to the front of the cage to get a better look at the girls.
Corey's heart melted as she looked into his dark eyes. The goat bleated again. The soft, sad sound reminded Corey that it was important to help sick and abandoned animals. She was glad that that was what their Pony Club was doing today.
"There you are, girls!" Mrs. Reg said as she burst into the trailer. "Come on, you three—it's almost time to mount up!"
"We're coming," May told the older woman. "We're just talking to the animals."
Mrs. Regnery was the stable manager at Pine Hollow. That was the stable where the Pony Tails took riding lessons and had Pony Club meetings. Everybody called her Mrs. Reg.
The girls said good-bye to the tiny goat and the other animals. "We have to tack up our ponies now," Jasmine told them.
As the girls followed Mrs. Reg back to the stable, Corey looked up at the people in the stands. What a huge crowd, she thought. All these people had come to see the drill demonstration!
"Thanks for bringing us to the CARL trailer, Corey," Jasmine said. "After seeing those animals, I can't wait to ride."
"Me either," added May.
"Hurry up, girls," Mrs. Reg urged them again. "Thirty minutes till showtime."
"The Pony Tails will be ready," May promised.
The three girls separated and raced for their ponies' stalls.
As Corey turned the corner near Samurai's stall, her heart was thumping. She'd never seen such a big audience at Pine Hollow.
Jasmine and May were much calmer now.
But Corey was a nervous wreck!CHAPTER 2
The Drill Demonstration
The Pony Tails' ponies were very different from one another—just like their three owners. May's pony, Macaroni, was sweet and well-behaved. Outlaw, Jasmine's pony, could be mischievous and stubborn. Corey had gotten Samurai last year, right before her parents' divorce. Having Sam had helped Corey a lot then, and she still loved to ride and train her pony.
Corey's mother said training a pony was a long, hard job that required patience. So far, Corey thought, that was certainly true. Sam was a wonderful pony, but he also had an independent streak and sometimes liked to cause trouble.
As Corey approached his stall, Sam greeted her with a loud nicker. "Hi, boy," she said. She stroked the white blaze on his nose. It was crescent-shaped, like a samurai sword, which was how Sam had gotten his name.
Moving slowly, Corey began tacking him up. Sam hated this part of riding. Corey always tried to make it easier on him. She placed the saddle on his back and spoke softly. As she talked, Corey could feel butterflies fluttering in her stomach.
"You have to be good today, Sam," she said. Corey pictured the tiny goat and all the other animals in the trailer. They all needed the Pony Club's help. "The CARL animals are depending on us, you know. So is everyone in Horse Wise."
Sam didn't seem to care. As Corey put on his tack, he blew air out through his nose. He tossed his head impatiently.
"Calm down, boy," she said. She was starting to get worried.
Sam's not going to act up today, she told herself. There are too many people out there watching. He wouldn't dare ruin the show.
Today's demonstration was a drill. That meant that the riders and horses marched in formation. It also meant that even a tiny mistake would be noticed. That was especially true of the small drill demonstration. Max had chosen six riders to do a special performance. Corey was one of those riders.
Corey knew the worst thing to do was let Sam know she was nervous. Horses and ponies are very sensitive. Sam would sense her feelings and become nervous himself.
Corey tightened his girth and began to go over the movements of the drill in her head.
"Stay still, Sam!" Corey commanded as her restless pony kept moving around in his stall.
First we march out two by two, she thought. And then we ...
Then we what? Suddenly Corey's mind went blank. What came next? Two by two, and then what?
Nearby, May was tacking up Macaroni. As usual the shaggy yellow pony stood patiently while his rider prepared him. Macaroni wasn't like Samurai, who was now pawing the ground.
"May?" Corey called out in a shaky voice. "What's our first move?"
May grinned at her. "Corey! Are you still testing me?" she asked. "Don't worry, I'm not nervous anymore. Like we told you, seeing the animals from CARL really helped. Now I just want to go out there and do the best job I can."
Corey turned to Jasmine. Her friend was adjusting Outlaw's stirrups. "Do you remember our first move after we enter the ring?" she asked.
"Did you really think I'd forget the big circle?" Jasmine called back. "That's my favorite part of the demonstration."
Corey sighed. Of course, their first move was the big circle. She'd done it hundreds of times. And then came the figure eights, and then ...
Sam just wouldn't stay still. As Corey turned back to him, anger surged through her. She was having enough trouble remembering the drill. The last thing she needed just then was a stubborn, naughty pony.
"Calm down right now!" Corey snapped at her pony. "This is no time for you to be difficult!" May looked at her in surprise. She'd never heard Corey speak so sharply to Sam.
The pony blinked at Corey. Then, to Corey's amazement, he stood patiently.
When she was finally done tacking him up, she carefully checked everything over. Her pony looked perfect. Now all Corey had to do was get his behavior to match his appearance.
"Riders, line up at the door!" Max Regnery called out. Max was Mrs. Reg's son and the owner and riding instructor at Pine Hollow. Right now he was rushing around, barking commands at all the riders.
"Corey! Sam!" he yelled. "Come on. We've got a full house out there. Line up in formation at the door."
"Okay," Corey replied. "Come on, Sam." She tugged gently at Sam's reins. He took one step forward and then stopped. She tugged again. This time the stubborn pony stood still. She tugged harder. Finally he got the message and followed her out of his stall.
As she led Sam to the door, Corey looked over at her friends. May was hugging Macaroni. Jasmine was giving Outlaw one final brushing. The two of them—and their ponies—looked perfectly calm.
But Corey's stomach was doing somersaults. Her throat was dry and tight. Her legs felt like rubber.
"Butterflies, Corey?" Lisa Atwood, an older rider, gave Corey a sympathetic smile.
Corey nodded numbly.
"A few butterflies are good," Lisa said. "They keep you on your toes. Just try not to let Sam know how nervous you are."
"It's too late," Corey said glumly. "He knows already, and he's making the most of it."
Lisa patted Corey's shoulder. "I'm sure you'll do fine. And you know what?" Lisa shrugged. "If you don't do fine, it's not the end of the world. Trust me, my friends and I have had some pretty bad shows."
Corey was still a little new to Pine Hollow, and she didn't know Lisa very well. But what she did know of her, she liked a lot. Lisa and her friends, Stevie Lake and Carole Hanson, were members of a group the three of them had started called The Saddle Club. They were horse-crazy, just like the Pony Tails were pony-crazy.
Corey tried to listen to Lisa's advice. "Thanks, Lisa." Corey managed a smile and continued on toward the door, where the riders were slowly gathering.
"Is my necktie straight?" one girl asked.
"Here, let me brush that dust off your breeches," said Jackie Rogers.
"If this horse tries to trot when I want him to walk, I think I'll ...," said Erin Mosley.
"I can't get this strap snapped." Amie Connor was having trouble with her hard hat.
"Time to mount up!" Max reminded the riders.
Corey climbed into Sam's saddle. Then, one by one, she and all the other riders touched the stable's good-luck horseshoe before falling into formation.
Touching the horseshoe was one of Pine Hollow's traditions. Nobody who touched the horseshoe before a ride had ever been seriously hurt in a riding accident. This time Corey didn't just touch the horseshoe. She rubbed it!
"Come on, my turn," said Erin, edging her pony between Corey and the wall.
May turned around and rolled her eyes. Corey giggled. For a minute she forgot about being nervous. Erin Mosley was not exactly the nicest member of their Pony Club. In fact, sometimes she was so nasty, it was kind of funny.
"Everybody smile," called out Mrs. Reg. Corey snapped back to attention as Max's mother checked over the riders one last time. "Riders, proceed," she said.
Corey swallowed hard as she filed into the arena behind the others. The sound of applause filled her ears.
"Wow!" Jasmine whispered. "Max said there are eight hundred and fourteen people watching. Now I believe it!"
Corey gulped. "Did you hear that, Sam? Eight hundred and fourteen! No funny business," she said.
As the music started, Corey gripped Sam's reins tightly. The pony tried to shake free. Corey tugged harder. This time the pony managed to yank the reins away from her. Corey nearly lost her balance trying to pull them back.
"Sam!" she hissed.
He twitched his ears in reply. Before Corey could do or say anything more, the ponies and their riders began to form the circle that was their second move.
But Sam had a different idea. His idea was to ignore Corey's signals. No matter what she told him to do—with her hands, her feet, her legs, or her whole body—Sam ignored it. Instead he did exactly what Quarter, the pony in front of him, did.
In the figure eight, Sam was supposed to go between Outlaw and Nero. But he dashed after Quarter and messed up the figure eight for all the other riders. When Quarter turned right at a trot, Sam was supposed to go left. He went right. That messed up the trotting segment.
Every time Sam did something wrong, Corey clutched more tightly at his reins. Soon she was holding the reins so tightly, her hands hurt! Sam didn't seem to notice. He just kept following Quarter.
"What's the matter?" May whispered as they walked two by two.
"Everything!" Corey said, trying to hold back tears. "I don't know how I'm going to get him to do the small drill exercise."
May nodded. Things did look terrible. The harder Corey tried to control Sam, the more he misbehaved.
The music got louder. It was near the end of the first demonstration and time for the riders to canter.
The second Quarter started cantering, Sam cantered, too. He cantered faster than the other pony. He caught up to him, and then he passed him. He wasn't supposed to do that!
"Sam!" This time Corey yelled at him. He brought his head down, and then he began to gallop around the ring!
He wouldn't slow down, and he wouldn't get back in line. He was totally out of control.
There was only one thing for Corey to do: get him to gallop right back into the stable.
With the reins Corey told him which way to go. For once Sam did what she said. He galloped right past the gate and into the stable and didn't stop until he got to the door of his stall.
Corey could hear the music and the clop of the horse and pony hooves out in the ring. She could hear the audience clapping for the performers. The drill demonstration was going on without her!
Corey couldn't hold in the tears for one more second. They came and they kept on coming. Somehow she managed to dismount and put Sam in the stall. She loosened his girth, then slammed the door and locked it. She was so angry, she didn't care about untacking her pony and cooling him down. Right now she wouldn't care if she never saw him again!
"Try not to take it so hard," a voice suddenly said.
Corey turned around. It was Red O'Malley, the head stablehand at Pine Hollow.
"It was only a demonstration," Red went on. "You and Sam had a bad day, but there will be plenty of other days. Besides, the crowd loves the show."
As tears streamed down her cheeks, Corey shook her head. She knew Red was trying to make her feel better, but it wouldn't work. Today was the most miserable day of her life. Thanks to her and Sam, the fund-raiser for CARL was ruined.
Excerpted from Corey in the Saddle by Bonnie Bryant. Copyright © 1996 Bonnie Bryant Hiller. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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