Phew! It’s just past midnight on the second to last day of July (which I guess technically means it’s now the last day of July) and I’ve just finished final edits on PONY JUMPERS #8: EIGHT AWAY!
I’ve got a bit of work to do tomorrow to get the preview chapter of the next book sorted, and then EIGHT AWAY will be ready to release. But before then, here’s a sneak preview from Chapter 10:
The ponies strolled up the road, even Squib’s walk having slowed slightly after several hours of work. The dogs jogged ahead of us, lying down occasionally to wait for us to catch up, then trotting on. The sun baked down, making Susannah complain that she’d forgotten her sunblock and was going to be burned to a crisp in the morning. Katy took her helmet off and shook out her sweaty hair until Misty shied at a pothole and she hastily put it back on. AJ sat sideways in her saddle, one leg hooked over the pommel and her stirrups dangling against Squib’s round sides as she chatted to us behind her. The road stretched out ahead of us, shimmering in the hot afternoon sun, and I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around Rory’s neck, my cheek pressed against her sweat-encrusted coat.
“You’re the best,” I told her, and she bobbed her head agreeably. We were both tired, and I closed my eyes and let her smooth, relaxed stride lull me as we walked on and on down the road.
“Are you asleep?”
“Yes,” I told Susannah, then winced as her metal stirrup collided with my ankle yet again when Forbes shot sideways into Rory. My patient pony swished her tail and pulled a face at Forbes, but he was distracted by the monstrous irrigators in the crop paddocks across the road, which had just turned on. I tilted my wrist and checked the time – it was later than I thought.
“We should get a move on,” I told the others, stretching my back muscles as I sat up. I was out of shape as well, but I wasn’t going to admit it. “Anyone’s pony got energy left for cantering?”
It was a rhetorical question, really. Squib and Misty were dead set on racing all the way home, Forbes was desperate to escape from the ticking irrigators, and even Rory picked up the pace when she thought she was being left behind. We let the ponies canter down the side of the road, jumping back and forth across the drainage ditches to amuse ourselves as we went. And I finally, finally felt comfortable in the saddle again.
Eventually we eased to a trot, and then back to a walk, patting our blowing ponies.
“Squib’s going to sleep well tonight,” AJ declared, clapping his neck. “We need to do this again sometime.” Her eyes lit up as she turned towards me. “Can we camp out overnight?”
Susannah looked startled, but Katy was immediately keen. “Yes! After Horse of the Year. Let’s do it. Ride all day and sleep out under the stars – it’ll be perfect!”
I nodded slowly, thinking. “Yeah, we could do that. If we rode the fences right out to the south boundary it’d take us most of the day, and we could camp there. There’s an old dairy shed in one of those back paddocks that we could sleep in if we needed shelter.”
AJ scoffed. “No way. No tents either, we’ve gotta build a campfire and hunt and gather our food…”
She rambled on as Susannah looked increasingly alarmed by her propositions.
“If you want to go full Paleo, you go right ahead,” I told AJ. “But I’m bringing food, and a gas stove, and possibly a tent. We could always drive out there the day before and leave our gear, so we wouldn’t have to carry much with us.”
“That sounds like heaven. I’m so in,” AJ said. “What about it, Susannah? You game?”
She nodded, though she looked a bit hesitant. “Sure, why not? Although I might bring Skip next time, if Dad will let me,” she decided as Forbes took exception to Thor crossing the road in front of him and shied into Rory for what must’ve been the tenth time at least.
“Oof, sorry Tess! Honestly, Forbes, would you get a grip?”
“It’s okay. And you can always borrow Misty,” I offered, laughing at the expression on her face. “Or we’ve got a few farm hacks that are pretty solid, but I can’t promise you’ll get the smoothest ride.”
“She’ll be fine, she just needs to harden up,” Katy said dismissively. “And don’t think you can back out of it, Susannah Andrews. We’ll drag you here kicking and screaming if we have to.”
AJ turned in her saddle and grinned at us. “Isn’t friendship great?”