‘It’s on again, people!’ Gary Cho stood on his dusty blue milk crate and beamed at the members of the Shady Creek Riding Club. Gary is the most awesome Riding Club instructor anywhere in the world. ‘The fourteenth annual Pinebark Ridge Western Riding Club Show is on in eight weeks.’
‘Cool!’ I murmured, rubbing my fingers in my gorgeous chestnut mare’s soft copper-coloured mane. I’d never done any Western riding. But I never let details like that stop me. Once I knew there was a show on I wanted in.
Ash, as the title suggests, is mad about horses and riding. In this fifth instalment of the ‘Horse Mad’ series, Ash is learning about ‘Western’ riding. Even for someone who eats, sleeps and breathes horses and riding, there is a lot to learn. And there’s only eight short weeks to learn it before the competition. Ash may be horse mad, but there are plenty of other things going on in her life. Her parents are opening a bed & breakfast business, her best friend’s father has a secret, her employer’s English granddaughters are in town, and Jenna, her moved-to-Italy best friend is not answering emails. As the Western riding competition and her 12th birthday approach, Ash also has to worry about whether she’ll be offered a chance to go to Linley Heights ‘horsey’ boarding school or whether she should stay at home and go to the local high school with her friends.
Horse Mad Western may be No 5 in a series but it also stands alone quite comfortably. There are references to other adventures, but it is not necessary to have read previous offerings to enjoy this one. Horse-lovers will enjoy the detail of different riding experiences, but there’s plenty of action for the general reader. Ash, the main character, is at the end of primary school and much in her life is changing. She’s duelling with her parents, her friends are changing, as are her foes. She’s on the brink of adolescence, swinging between impulse and responsibility. Her determination and devotion to friends and to riding help her find a way through the most testing of times. Recommended for 9-12 yo, particularly horse-lovers.
Horse Mad Western, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Angus & Robertson 2008