Thanks to the talent of her pushbutton super-horse, Ava, Mavis wins every ribbon, trophy, and championship she competes for. No rider effort required, and not much skill either – Ava does it all.
So, when Mavis’s dad loses his job, and Ava must go up for sale, Mavis is swamped with … relief.
She knows it’s the wrong thing to feel, but Mavis is used to feeling, thinking, and acting the wrong way. It’s why she has no friends.
Also, riding’s been really boring, for a long time.
With super-Ava sold super-fast, Mavis is ready to start enjoying her horse-free life.
Until she meets Lucas. Lucas is everything Ava’s not. Stocky, dirty, untrained, and unproven, the former trail horse has the complete opposite on Mavis as her former show mare did.
Mavis likes Lucas. She loves him, even.
Lucas has a lot to learn, but it might be Mavis who gains the most from their new, unlikely, partnership.
A gaggle of little girls wearing jodhpurs, with their long braids tied with bows, clusters around the car next to our trailer.
A man with a big voice and hearty laugh is frying an egg on the hood. “Who wants sunny side up?” he asks.
A round of giggles, and one girl says, “Over easy for me!”
Those hair bows – triple layered, in shades of pink, purple and turquoise, some with gems in the middle – make them look so sweet, but I know what those girls grow up to be like.
“Mavis!” Laney snaps her fingers at me.
“Please tell me you didn’t just snap at me,” I say. I’m used to riding coaches being tough, but those are top-notch coaches with full barns and waiting lists. Not you-weren’t-even-here-a-year-ago coaches trying to turn an old-school Western barn into a show stable.
Laney, though, hasn’t received the memo that she shouldn’t look a gift horse like mine in the mouth. That the only reason we’re boarding at her “up-and-coming” barn is that her brother plays on the hockey team my dad manages – that she should consider us giving her our business as a favour. That me and my ribbon-winning warmblood machine deserve a little more respect. “Please tell me you know you needed to be mounted and ring-ready five minutes ago,” she answers.
And, yeah, I do know. With no groom, and next-to-no help, I’m all too aware of my schedule at this show.
When I left my last barn, I told them I was going someplace bigger, better and shinier; somewhere I wouldn’t even have to tack up my own horse.
If only that had worked out.
If I thought I was sick of showing before, well, let’s just say searing sun, rock-hard footing, thirty-two degrees in the shade, and a show crew of me-myself-and-I isn’t helping.
“Mavis!” Laney snaps again. “Tighten your girth, brush off your boots, and get to the ring. Now.” She’s already walking away as she calls, “I’ll see you there in four minutes.”
No. The word bubbles up in me. I’m hot. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I already have so many ribbons that I don’t even bother to keep them anymore.
I squint through the sun at my mare standing next to the trailer. Even though she doesn’t have a hay net, she’s patient. Even though she doesn’t have a decent groom, she’s clean and shiny.
Maybe I should just load her on the trailer and declare our day done.
The main problem with that plan is I really have no idea how to do that. Loading Ava has always been somebody else’s job. My protest will lose a lot of its impact if I have to call Laney for help halfway through.
“What?” I turn to stare at a set of cheeks, chin, and collarbone so edgy you could cut yourself on them, face so pale the skin’s almost blue, sharp nose pinched like a fox’s muzzle, and reddish hair reinforcing the foxy impression. Sasha.
Eleven-year-old Sasha, and her flashy paint pony, Oreo (show name Cookies ‘n’ Cream) are the other half of Laney’s show “team”. Which, I suppose, means we should be bonding.
“My mom went to Timmie’s at lunch. She got a forty-pack.”
“Uh, yeah. No. I’m about to ride. The last thing I need is jelly-filled deep-fried dough rolling around in my stomach.”
“Sometimes being hungry makes you snappy.” Sasha holds the box out and, sure enough, there’s a jelly-filled perched right on the top. “This could help.”
I give her a direct three-second stare and say, “Why don’t you just snap off,” before leading Ava off to find Laney.