Full disclosure: I know nothing about horseback riding. I’ve never even ridden a horse, aside from pony rides, which don’t count. However, I always felt that The Saddle Club gave a pretty good understanding of what horseback riding lessons are like. Feel free to correct me if I’m completely wrong, though. Like I said, I know nothing.
The Saddle Club centers around three girls. Flaky but loyal Carole, practical joker Stevie, and smart and preppy Lisa. All three are (or soon will be) horse crazy.
The book opens with Stevie freaking the fuck out. Her parents say they won’t pay for the upcoming Mountain Overnight trip unless she brings her grades up. She has an upcoming math project on decimals and percentages due, but doesn’t really want to do it. However, she realizes there’s a loophole. Her parents only said they wouldn’t pay for the trip, which costs fifty dollars. She gets very excited by the prospect of earning her own money by doing odd jobs.
At Pine Hollow Stables. Carole is there early, because her father had to drop her off. We learn Carole’s mother died from cancer six months earlier. Carole is cleaning tack when a new girl, Lisa walks by with her mother, Max the owner, and a horse, Patch. Max asks Carole to join them in the ring.
Lisa’s mom is talking up Lisa’s mad riding skills, which she doesn’t actually possess. It’s cool, though, because Max doesn’t believe her anyway. Lisa says she can walk and stop, and is able to prove that. However, while she’s still on Patch, a door slams, and the noise scares Patch, who bolts. This is more than Lisa can handle; however, she realizes that the gallop feels like a waltz, with a one-two-three beat to it. Lisa does know how to waltz, and so adjusts herself to sway accordingly, and is able to regain control of Patch. Everyone is suitably impressed.
Max asks Carole to show Lisa around, so they take Patch back to his stall and loosen his gear. They meet the very rich and very snobby Veronica, and she seems impressed by Lisa’s fancy riding clothes. Carole just cares about Veronica’s Thoroughbred, Cobalt, whom she loves, and Veronica doesn’t really care about. This is Very Important in later books.
They also run into Stevie, who is all a-flutter with her plans to make money. Lisa thinks maybe Stevie, as hyper as she is, is the one who slammed the door. Carole asks Stevie to make sure Patch is ready for class for Lisa. When Lisa goes to get on Patch however, she can’t, because the stirrups are missing, and Stevie is laughing. In retaliation, after class, Lisa ties Stevie’s shoe laces in a bunch of knots.
Stevie ends up with more jobs than she can handle, so she winds up doling the jobs out to her brothers and friends, taking a small commission on each job for herself.
Lisa goes over to Veronica’s house, where she finds out she’s not only very rich, but very bratty as well. But she’s the only friend she has at the stables, so she invites Veronica to her house. There, Veronica is rude to her and to her mother. So now Lisa has zero friends at the stables.
One day, Lisa overhears Carole and Veronica in the next stall. Veronica says she and Lisa don’t have much in common, that Lisa isn’t a very good rider, and also that Veronica was the one who slammed the door on her first day. Lisa starts to cry, and Carole finds her. They make nice, and make plans to hang out after class.
Stevie has quite a nice little fund stored up, sixty-five dollars, when she finds out she’s won third place in a contest, winning a cassette player! But –oh noes!- she only has records. 1988, y’all. Crazy times. But she has more than enough money saved up, so she can spend some of it on tapes, right?
Stevie invites Carole over to listen to her tapes, and Carole gets her to invite Lisa as well. Things are going okay, when Carole asks just how many tapes she bought. Oh, ya know, like, ten. So how much money does she have left? $4.18. Whoops. Stevie’s pretty pissed off at herself, and throws a notebook. Lisa retrieves it, and looks at all the work Stevie put into organizing all her jobs. She points out this would make an excellent math project. Stevie agrees, and they get to work.
Of course, they become friends while working on the project. So the only question is, will she make a good enough grade? Of course she does. She gets an A+ on the project, bringing her grade up to a B+. Yay! Everyone gets to go on the Mountain Overnight! While celebrating, the girls officially form The Saddle Club. The only rules are that you have to be a friend to the other members, and to be horse crazy, of course.