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Jane Badger Books

Patricia Leitch: Jump to the Top (paperback)

Patricia Leitch: Jump to the Top (paperback)

Illustrator: None

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This pony is different. But she's going to be sold.

Jacky knows that the ponies at Miss Henderson's riding school aren't much good. They're old, and they're underfed, but one is different. Flicka is ready to take on the world, and Jacky's dearest dream is to do it with her. But the riding school is being sold, and all the ponies are going.

Jacky wants Flicka more than she's ever wanted anything, but she has no money. Even if a miracle happens and she does buy Flicka, there is no one to help her. But sometimes when things seem darkest a miracle happens.

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“How I wish I hadn’t come,” thought Jacky furiously. “If only I’d known that Mrs Marshall had broken her wrist and she was going to take us! What right has she to take the Pony Club? She can’t even ride.”

Jacky pulled her hard hat farther down over her eyes and scowled through the driving March rain to where the fat shape of Mrs Grunter, helped by two children, was setting up jumps made out of tin cans, wooden boxes and poles.

Jacky Munro was eleven. She was small for her age but wiry and full of energy. More than anything in the world she loved ponies and riding and some day she was positive that she would be chosen to jump for Britain—some day. But just now she didn’t even have a pony of her own. It was Saturday afternoon and with twelve other members of the Tarentshire branch of the Pony Club Jacky sat waiting to jump while Mrs Grunter fussed over the height of the tin cans.

“It’s just a complete waste,” Jacky muttered to herself. “And probably Miss Henderson won’t be able to let me have Maverick again now that the riding school will be busier at the weekends. Oh why did Mrs Marshall have to come off Sultan?”

Schooling under Mrs Grunter had been bad enough, but trying to make Maverick jump would be worse. Mrs Grunter had been very rude about Maverick, the pony Jacky had hired from the riding school. “Wake him up,” she had shouted. “Everyone look at Jacky Munro. Here is an example of a completely unbalanced horse and a lazy rider. Never let me see any of you allowing your ponies to crawl like that.”

Remembering, Jacky snorted indignantly. “If Mrs Grunter had to work as hard as the ponies at the riding school she wouldn’t be so fat and I bet she’d crawl round if she got the chance. Maverick doesn’t need waking up, what he needs is a good feed of oats and a warm stable instead of a cold field.”

Jacky looked round at the other children’s ponies. Even the shaggy ones who must have wintered out looked plump and cheeky, and several who were clipped and stabled looked like little racehorses.

Jacky sighed aloud with jealousy. Maybe she shouldn’t have brought Maverick to the rally. After a winter of too much work and too little food his bones poked under his long winter coat, his shoes were worn thin and like nearly all the ponies at Miss Henderson’s he was old—fifteen or sixteen. “But if I don’t ride the school ponies what am I going to ride?” Jacky thought.

Suddenly she realized that the six jumps were ready and Mrs Grunter was calling her daughter’s name to jump first.

“Mummy’s little darling,” Anne Flynn whispered to Jacky.

“Hope she comes off,” Jacky agreed.

Celia Grunter was ten, and fat and bossy like her mother. She was a hopeless rider but always won things because her parents bought ponies that other children had trained, then, when Celia’s heavy hands and bad riding had ruined them, sold them again.

Today Celia was riding a black pony with three white socks that Mr Grunter had bought in Ireland a month before. The pony cleared the jumps without any effort and Celia rode back grinning.

“Well ridden, Celia,” shouted Mrs Grunter. “Clear round.”

“Well jumped, Prince,” said Anne Flynn.

“Well bought, Daddy,” mocked William Davis, a blond boy who rode a New Forest pony.

Jacky gripped Maverick’s reins between numb fingers. Watching Celia and Prince she hadn’t really seen them, she had seen herself in the future riding Miss Henderson’s Flicka. Someday Flicka would be the best pony in the world.

William poked Jacky with his crop. “You’re next.”

“Jacqueline Munro! I have more to do than stand here waiting for you. Come along. You’d better come next. I expect we’ll have quite a bit of bother trying to get you to jump.”

Jacky gathered up her reins and urged Maverick into life. The old pony moved forward at a slow walk. Jacky felt him tired and unwilling under her. If it had been Mrs Marshall she would have explained and not jumped but she could imagine the fuss Mrs Grunter would make if she said she wasn’t jumping.

Maverick approached the first jump at a slow trot.

“Wake him up! Wake him up!” yelled Mrs Grunter. “He’ll stop if you don’t.”

Maverick stopped. Jacky turned him round to try again.

“Ride him at it!” Mrs Grunter’s face was scarlet under her tweed hat. “Show some life.”

Again Maverick trotted slowly up to the jump and stopped.

“Oh, really, child! When will you realize that to ride you must be awake.”

“I am awake,” Jacky muttered, turning the reluctant Maverick round for a third attempt.

“Now ride him at it. Get him going on a bit.”

Again Maverick refused.

Mrs Grunter came pounding across to them.

“I’m not going to jump. He’s not fit … ” Jacky began but Mrs Grunter’s voice drowned hers.

“Jump off,” Mrs Grunter commanded. “Celia’s going to take him round for you. Just to let you see that a real rider can get any horse going.”

Jacky gazed in horror, then realized that Celia was standing waiting to mount. Jacky sat frozen to the saddle. She wanted to shout that Celia wasn’t going to ride her pony; that it wasn’t Maverick’s fault that he wouldn’t jump.

“Come along now,” boomed Mrs Grunter and somehow, against her will, Jacky was standing on the ground while Celia climbed up on to Maverick.

“Wake him up,” ordered her mother. “Let him know who’s boss.”

Celia pulled at Maverick’s reins, banging his mouth with the bit until the pony threw up his head. Her booted feet kicked into his sides and her crop rattled against his ribs.

“That’s the stuff,” encouraged Mrs Grunter.

Jacky had been standing trying not to watch. Suddenly she could bear it no longer. She raced to Maverick and grabbed his bridle.

“Get off my pony,” she screamed and snatched the crop out of Celia’s gloved hand. “Don’t you dare hit him like that!” She felt Mrs Grunter grip her shoulder and realized that all the other children were staring at her in amazement but she didn’t care. She had only one thought in her mind, to make Celia get off Maverick. She waved the crop in Celia’s face. “Get off him or I’ll hit you,” she heard her own voice shouting.

Hurriedly Celia scrambled down.

“If you knew anything about ponies you wouldn’t let her treat him like that,” Jacky stormed at Mrs Grunter.

“What an exhibition! My dear child, control yourself. Mrs Marshall warned me about your impulsive nature but really … ”

“I’m going home and I’m never coming to another rally if you’re taking it,” Jacky yelled.

Her legs felt rubbery and she could hardly climb back into the saddle. As she rode through the field gate she realized that she was crying. She ran her hand down Maverick’s neck and patted his side. “It’s all my fault. I should never have taken you. Poor Maverick.”
Maverick, knowing he was going home, walked out briskly. Soon they were clear of Tarent and riding between trees and high hedges with country sounds reaching them through the rainy dusk.

Page length: 150

Original publication date: 1967

Who's in the book?

Jacky Munro, Miss Henderson, Celia Grunter, Mrs Grunter, Roderick and Erica Dawson
Maverick, Dimsie, Flicka, Firebird

Other titles published as:

Jacky Jumps to the Top

Series order

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