A sneak peek from Chapter Seven of book 7 in the Pony Jumpers series – SEVENTH PLACE.
The sun was lowering over the Taihape show grounds as I stepped out of our truck on Saturday evening. My jandals crunched on the dry grass, and I wondered if it was going to rain soon. The ground was like rock, and the sprinklers that were hissing water across the jumping rings were barely making a dent.
Dad straightened up from his crouch by the truck’s water tank and looked at me. “Where are you off to?”
“Katy’s truck. I’m having dinner with them. I told you.”
I felt bad about leaving him alone, but Katy had already told me that her mum was spending the evening with friends, so there was no place for him. If he’d tried a little harder to make friends of his own, maybe he wouldn’t be in this position. I pushed away that uncharitable thought and gave him a quick wave as I started to walk away, only to be called back by his insistent voice.
“Are the ponies fed?”
“Did you wrap Skip’s legs?”
I stopped and looked back at him. “Yes. And Forbes’ as well, and they’ve got hay, and water, and I’ve mucked them out. Anything else?”
“Did you clean your tack?” He was really grasping at straws now.
“I’ll do it in the morning,” I assured him.
“Don’t be too late. Forbes is on first thing.”
“I know. I won’t,” I called back as I started walking again. “Besides, Katy’s in the same class and she’s first to go. It’s not going to be a late night. Promise.”
I walked down the line of trucks, listening to the slap of my jandals against the hard ground, enjoying the warm evening air on my bare arms and legs. It had been a hot day, but my ponies had jumped well. I saw Katy’s truck up ahead, and heard AJ’s loud laughter emanating from it. The ramp was down, and Katy stepped down onto it with an armful of feed buckets. Her dark hair was falling out of its ponytail, and she had a dirty streak down her bare leg.
I grinned at Katy as I reached the bottom of her ramp. “Need any help?” I offered, eyeing up the buckets in her arms.
“Oh hey,” she greeted me. “No I’m good, these are for the morning. Just trying to be prepared.”
“For once in your life,” AJ teased her, appearing at the top of the ramp. She had her arm in a sling, reminding me of the injury that she’d sustained in a car accident on New Year’s Eve. It had been a rough start to the year for her too, but she was beaming down at me as though she didn’t have a care in the world. “How are you always so clean?” she asked me, her blue eyes scanning me from top to toe.
I blushed, shrugging. “I had a shower.”
“Ah, that’d explain it. Did you hear that, Katy?”
“Just a friendly suggestion from the person who has to sleep next to you tonight,” AJ said casually as Katy jumped off the ramp and opened one of the side hatches with one hand, stepping back as she lifted it up and did her best to wedge the buckets in. I went to help her, holding the hatch up for her.
“Thanks.” Katy shoved a pile of covers that had been crammed into the small space to the side, then pushed the buckets into the gap, where they tilted precariously back towards her. “I think they’ll stay,” she said optimistically.
I shot her a dubious look. “I don’t.”
“Aren’t you Susie Sunshine today?” she asked. “Don’t be such a pessimist.”
“It’s not pessimism, it’s physics,” I replied. “This little thing called gravity.”
“Pfft.” Katy rolled her eyes at me. “We’ve just gotta be quick. Shut the hatch on three. Ready? One, two, three!”
She let go of the buckets and stepped back before I could tell her that it was a really stupid idea, because even if I could get the hatch closed in time to keep the feed buckets wedged into the gap, they would all fall out the moment anyone opened it again. Katy didn’t appear to have thought of that, but since I’d failed to shut the hatch on her count, the buckets tumbled out as soon as she let go of them – just as I’d known they would – and scattered their contents across the dry grass.
AJ roared with laughter as Katy stared at me indignantly.
“You didn’t shut it!”
“I told you it wasn’t going to work.”
“It would’ve worked if you’d just shut it when I told you to.”
SEVENTH PLACE is due out in February 2016!
Susannah is on her way to the National Championships, but without the friends she is now accustomed to having by her side. When her attempts to make new friends, both in and out of the jumping arena, repeatedly end in disaster, she starts to wonder whether her dreams are still worth fighting for.
But everything changes when one of her ponies falls dangerously ill, and suddenly winning doesn’t seem to matter at all…