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Jane Badger Books

Hazel M Peel: Darius the Eventer (paperback)

Hazel M Peel: Darius the Eventer (paperback)

Illustrator: None

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A glimpse into the horse world of the 1960s.

Ann has a talented horse with a problem. And someone from her past hellbent on revenge.

 Ann and Jim Henderson breed horses, and one of their horses has a problem: he can’t concentrate. Darius comes to a complete halt until he’s satisfied he knows what’s going on: not ideal when you’re trying to get a horse ready for the Badminton three day event. But even Darius pales into the horizon when Ann’s beloved first horse, Pilot, is desperately ill.Horses aren’t the only problem for the Hendersons. Pat O Hara’s father blames Ann for his imprisonment, and when he escapes, he’s hellbent on revenge.Can Ann defeat tragedy, Darius and O’Hara and enter Badminton?

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Paperbacks are printed specially for you and sent out from our printer. They are on a 72-hour turnaround from order to being sent out. Actual delivery dates will vary depending on the shipping method you choose.

Read a sample

The tall horse sidled impatiently to the left and switched his tail. He was tired of standing still and wanted some action. He was a beautiful horse: a palomino with a coat the colour of new gold and tail and mane like freshly whipped cream. His head, with small ears and sharp clear eyes, was held higher in the air than normal. Ann Henderson noted this fact with some annoyance.

Ann sat square and deep in the saddle, hands resting lightly on the reins to the snaffle. She was dressed in blue sweater, brown jodhpurs and boots and wearing a black skull cap. The air was sharp: there had been a night frost, and her cheeks were red from fresh air and exercise.

That’s the trouble with this horse, she thought; he’s just far too interested in everything going on around instead of putting his mind to the business at hand.

The palomino Darius passaged again, lowered his head to grind on the bit, demonstrating quite plainly that he wasn’t going to stand still much longer. Ann felt with her heels. They bounded forward towards the brush hedge.
The ears twitched as the horse measured the height and distance; he gathered his hocks under his body, pressed and they rose. For two seconds they hovered over the fence, then with legs outstretched the horse landed neatly and broke into a gallop.

Ann let him go. They tore across the large thirty-acre field, the girl forward and low in the saddle, the horse with his neck outstretched. The wind whistled in their ears. The ground rumbled underfoot. As the far fence approached Ann steadied her horse and collected him together again. This was a timber fence, tall and strong. There was no allowance for a mistake.

Darius bounded forward and flew the fence. On landing he prepared to gallop again but the bit restrained. Annoyed he shot sideways and kicked. Ann rode the movement, then pulled the horse back to a halt. She drew her legs slightly behind the girth, at the same time keeping a steady pressure on the reins. The gelding backed six paces in a direct line and halted again.
Darius stood trembling with impatience. Ann pushed him into a canter and started going down the field, bending to right and left. She felt on the one rein with neck as well as bit pressure, at the same time pressing with her leg—her right leg to go left, and vice versa, each helped by a slight movement of her back muscles.

It was hard riding; the strain being taken by the rider’s groin muscles. Good exercise for both girl and horse. She halted the horse again and insisted that he passage to the left with the same hand, leg and body movements. Darius obeyed for four seconds, saw something out of the corner of his eye, halted suddenly and turned around to have a look. It was only a bird but the excuse had been perfect.

“Now just stop that!” Ann told him and made him repeat the movement. This time he did it, but again, as soon as they had halted, up shot his head and the horse stared around looking everywhere.

Really, thought Ann, what a nosy animal! Can’t bear to be left out of anything!

She kicked suddenly with her heels. Taken unawares, the horse shot forward and Ann took him around the field again, bending to the right and then to the left first at every four paces, then three and finally two, until the horse appeared to be dancing. She pulled him back into a collected trot, with head low and neck bent at the poll. After a few paces she pushed him into an extended trot where the legs were flung out to the full extent without actually breaking into a canter.

She was soon sweating with exertion because, although Darius was not an uncomfortable ride, he was strong, keen and bold.

She finished the schooling and turned. They headed for the small hedge, popped over it and, landing in the home field, the horse faced a line of stiff jumps lying alongside the far hedge. They ranged from brush fences to timber ones, a gate and a home-made water jump.

Darius cantered towards them eagerly. He loved jumping, the faster the better. He blithely skipped over each fence, landing correctly, not making a single mistake. Ann smiled as she pulled him up and walked over to the gate where the Barton family were waiting.

Jim Henderson, her husband, opened the gate for her. He was a few years older than his wife, a tall man, a shade under six feet. He was lithe and well-muscled with a ruddy face and tousled brown hair which bushed in every direction no matter how often he combed it. He stood square and firm, feet slightly apart, wearing old blue jeans, an even older blue shirt and rather scuffed brown shoes, what he called his working rig and the dress in which he felt most comfortable. He was a man of the open air, unhappy in suits with collars and ties. Restless in cities. A person of and for the country in all weathers.

Mr Barton, Ann’s father, who stood alongside Jim smoking his pipe, was a positive dandy in contrast. In fact, he had a reputation the length and breadth of the county for being the best dressed man. Regrettably though, this tag was always ruined by the old hats he would insist upon wearing, to the disgust of his housekeeper Mrs Coe, and the family in general. He was not as tall as Jim, but had larger shoulders and a more powerful all-round build, with only a suspicion of fat now starting to appear as his age headed towards the sixties.
Grinning up at Ann, her brother Mike opened his mouth to tease, saw the look in his wife’s eye and changed his mind. He had his father’s solid build but lacked Charles Barton’s healthy, ruddy features. He was a school-teacher by profession and had little or no opportunity to get out in the fresh air except at the week-ends, whereas Mr Barton never entered the house during the day except for his meals.

But the two men were alike facially, their relationship one being obvious to any observer, and there was similarity between the features of brother and sister, though temperamentally they were poles apart but good friends, nevertheless.

Mike’s wife Susan winked at Ann. Brother and sister had always indulged in fierce verbal battles, with Mike inclined to play the heavy-handed big brother, but Susan was Ann’s stalwart ally. A tiny dot of a girl, she was almost dwarfed by the taller Ann but the two girls adored each other.

“There’s nothing much wrong with his jumping,” Mr Barton said and Jim nodded in agreement.

“But he is such an inquisitive horse! He must know everything that’s going on even if it doesn’t concern him!” Ann told them as she slid out of the saddle.

“Like someone I could … ” began Mike, seeing the perfect opening for a battle with his beloved sister.

Susan dug him in the ribs. Ann looked at her brother, her eyes twinkling, quite ready for battle herself. Really, thought Susan, I don’t know who is the worse.

“What about dressage, Ann, if you are going to try him as an event horse?” continued Mr Barton, stolidly ignoring his son and daughter. He knew from past experience that Susan was far better at keeping them in order than himself.

“That’s the trouble. He’s been well schooled and is a good ride but if anything moves or just appears, Darius stops whatever he’s doing to look at it. He’s so easily distracted. So interested in everything except what I want him to do!” complained Ann, patting the palomino who, for once, was giving his rider his full attention by trying to nibble at her sweater.

“And he’s so mischievous too,” she laughed, carefully removing her sleeve from between the horse’s large, white teeth.

“Well, you’ll get nowhere in events if he falls down on the dressage through inattention, even though he can jump and gallop,” commented Mr Barton.

“My!” said Mike. “This stud does breed them. All the problem horses of the equine world. You name it, they’ve either had or still have it,” he teased his sister.

Page length: 158

Original publication date: 1968

Who's in the book?

Humans: Ann and Jim Henderson, Charles Barton, Mike, Susan and Robert Barton, Miriam, Tom, Pat O'Hara
Equines: Darius, Pilot, Jenny, Mischief, Night Storm

Other titles published as:

Gay Darius

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