"The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away
Dying to take you away, take you today"
"Now I really got it. This was how girls on the A-circuit stayed clean and
relaxed, not exhausted or dirty. They had grooms. They had someone to
clean the stalls and wrap the legs, braid, feed, water, polish, and scrub. They
didn't touch hoof polish when whey were dressed and ready. They didn't
clean out the grime from between a mare's udders or the snot from a horse's
nose. They didn't pick the scabs out of a horse's ears from fly bites or put
salve over the wounds to heal them.
"How was this fair? How could you say you rode horses -- and won horse
shows -- if you'd never had to do these things? Maybe there was a trial
period, and once you graduated, you just got a groom and moved up. Maybe it was
my turn to move up, and I would never have to dig to the bottom of a filthy
"But I knew this wasn't true. These girls were just lucky. I thought about
Wayne and what kind of rider he would have been with a setup like this. It
wasn't fair -- at all"
Fourteen year-old Sidney (Sid) Criser has been a farm girl riding horses
since she could stand up and walk. A teen with guts, attitude, work ethic,
and a true love for horses, Sid lives in a smelly Virginia mill town, and is
dealing with her beloved dad having died, her mom now living with a
physically abusive SOB, no money for anything, and months still to go until she
can get her learner's permit. (Not that it stops this farm girl from driving
all over the place anyway.) It is her mother's brother, the amazing
horseman Wayne, who is the one person Sid can count on. But, then, Uncle Wayne's
an alcoholic who can suddenly be out to lunch on a week-long bender.
Wayne brings Sid into his work space, getting her an after-school job
shoveling horse poop 90 miles away at a fancy horse facility where there are
world-renowned trainers, multi-million dollar horses, and affluent young
women who don't ever have to get down in the muck. Putting up with the constant
crap dished out by one of those seemingly-lucky rich girls, Sid suddenly
finds that her mouth -- and the horse skills she has to back up that mouth
-- land her atop one of those multi-million dollar rides in a show ring.
Her debut in the ring is all one could ever hope for. But when the rich
girl snags her ride, it seems that Sid will need a lot more luck to make her
mark as a catch rider (someone who can ride anything) given her lack of
funding and the lack of a show horse of her own on which to compete.
"Wayne looked at the tooth and got me some pliers out of his tool bag.
'Yank that thing outta there. Real quick.' He pulled the horse's top lip as
hard as he could to distract him and braced himself against the wall with the
other hand. The horse snorted and his eyes popped open wide.
"'Got him?' I asked.
"'Yep. Get in there.'
"I reached into the horse's mouth, clamped the pliers down on the tooth,
and ripped it out. The horse sat back on his haunches and slammed into the
wall behind him.
"Wayne looked down at the pliers in my hand with the horse's brown tooth.
"The horse shook his head hard when Wayne let him go.
"'You can rinse now, mister.' I said."
I'm no horse expert, but this tale sure feels and smells like the real
deal. This is the first book by Jennifer H. Lyne who grew up riding and whose
grandfather built the barn in which Triple Crown-winner Secretariat was
born. It was a real page turner for me as I rooted for Sid to avoid flunking
out of school, do something about her mother's abusive boyfriend, not get
herself arrested for driving without a license, and somehow make it to
Madison Square Garden to compete in the nationals. It also gives us a look at the
seamy side of the show horse biz, with the doping of animals by trainers
who want to win at any cost.
Perhaps you know a book where there is resolution to the story but you are
so into the characters that you are not ready to say goodbye. That's how
much I enjoyed getting to know Sid Criser and her Uncle Wayne. I'm sure
hoping to see another book out of this debut author.