Show Strides - Book 5: Packer Pressure
Aimed at both young readers and horse lovers of all ages, Show Strides is a series of novels about riding, horse shows, and what it takes to succeed in the sport we all love, written by The Plaid Horse publisher, Piper Klemm, and Rennie Dyball, an author, equestrian, and editorial coordinator for The Plaid Horse.
Description: It's a time for new beginnings at Quince Oaks. Tally gets noticed for her hard work and catch-riding, landing her a free lease on a packer named Cameron. Elsewhere in the barn, Tally's best friend Mac is surprised by the transition from Joey to a new partner for the Large Pony Hunters, and Maggie's parents buy her a horse of her own. But once Tally and Maggie get into the show ring, they find unexpected struggles. Tally has to deal with the stress of the "perfect packer," while Maggie's move to a more sensitive, tricky horse makes her question her ability-and her place within the barn.
“Cameron? Like the Cameron? The barn favorite who wins everything and everyone loves?”
“Yup,” said Tally, laughing at her friend’s wide-eyed expression.
“Tally, this is huge!” said Mac, wrapping her friend up in a hug. Mac’s pony, Joey, nudged the girls with his nose, eager to get in on the celebration.
“I know,” said Tally, bending down to unwrap one of Joey’s polos alongside her friend. “I’ve never ridden a horse this experienced. It’s going to be weird!”
“It’s going to be awesome,” Mac corrected her. Mackenzie (Mac) Bennett was Tally’s best friend at the barn. At this point, probably her best friend, period. Mac had arrived about a year ago with Joey, a.k.a. Smoke Hill Jet Set, her partner in the Medium Pony Hunter division. When the girls first met, Tally knew next to nothing about the A circuit, having ridden only in the lesson program and at the barn’s in-house schooling shows. Now, Tally had competed several times at rated shows off the property, spectated at Devon and Pony Finals, and spent many sleepovers with Mac watching live streams and replays of the biggest shows in the country. There was nothing she loved more than immersing herself in the world of horses and showing.
“How was your lesson?” Tally asked.
“Great. Really great, actually,” Mac said, rubbing her chestnut pony’s neck. Joey licked Mac’s hand, in case a treat should materialize there. “But Ryan said he wanted to meet with me and my parents tonight, so I’m not sure what that’s about. How was your lesson?”
“It was good, I rode Obie and then I got on Toots because he was being extra spooky for his rider. I wish I’d known it was my last ride on Obie, though…Ryan has a kid who’s going to lease him. I wish I could have explained to him what’s happening. Or something…” Tally paused. “That sounds stupid right?”
Mac shook her head no, her expression serious.
“I’m so excited for Cam, but it’s still a little hard to move on. Remember when I cried in the porta-potties after I saw Goose at a show?” Goose was a green small pony that Tally helped bring along for Ryan. He got sold over the summer and it wasn’t easy seeing him with his new owner at a show back in September.
“Aw, Tal, that’s what makes you so good at this, though. You really love them,” said Mac. “And they love you, too.”
“I hope so,” Tally said with a sigh. “And it’s great for Obie to have a person of his own. Ryan told me it’s one of his newer students who’s going to show in the Long Stirrup.”
A gust of wind whipped down the aisle. Joey raised his head on the cross ties and Mac jogged for the doorway.
“Hold on, everybody!” she called to the horses before sliding the big, heavy door closed. The mood on the aisle calmed down within seconds.
Mac disappeared into the tack room and Tally slipped into Cam’s stall. He was already wearing his blanket for the night but she couldn’t resist a quick goodbye.
“Hi, sweet boy,” she said. Cam turned to face her. His eyes were big and soft. Tally could feel his kindness, just looking at him.
“I can’t believe I get to ride you for a month. Might even be two,” she said, stroking the horse’s neck. Cam wasn’t super tall—probably 15.3 hands or so, Tally guessed—but he was big through his body. She’d seen him around the barn, of course, but she had very little idea of what he’d be like to ride.
Down the aisle, both Tally and Cam heard the unmistakable swish of grain being dropped into a bucket. It was dinner time. Cam turned away from Tally and stuck his nose in the feed bucket in the far corner of his stall.
“Well, it’s not there yet, buddy,” Tally said laughing. “Are you reminding us where your dinner should go?”
Cam faced her again. Something about his expression, those huge, soft eyes, filled Tally with affection. She didn’t even know this horse yet, but she already felt a fondness for him. Cam nickered and turned his head toward the sound of the feeding crew, heading in his direction.
“Have a good dinner, Cam,” Tally said, giving him one more pat before heading home.