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Jane Badger Books

Patricia Leitch: A Devil to Ride (eBook)

Patricia Leitch: A Devil to Ride (eBook)

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Pre-order released 20 June

Jinny dreams of riding Shantih, galloping with her over the moors, parading successfully around the show ring, but no one has told Shantih this. She does not want to be ridden—at least by Jinny—and she throws Jinny off time after time.

Jinny is desperate. More than anything she longs to ride her horse. Then she learns that an English family are coming up to their Highland home, close to Finmory. They ride, and better still they’re bringing their horses. Surely the Burnleys will be only too keen, thinks Jinny, to help her? Surely they’ll want to pass on the gift of horsemanship, like all those people in pony books?

They do not. They ignore her, even when she falls off Shantih in front of them. And Jinny finds herself trying to change herself and everything she believes to fit in with them and win their approval.

Jinny series 2

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Read a sample

The chestnut Arab bucked suddenly, heels high, her head tucked between her front legs, her body twisting as she bucked again and again. Jinny Manders clutched the front of the saddle with both hands, tightened the hold of her bony knees and clung on desperately. She didn’t know what else she could do.

“Whoa, Shantih, whoa the horse. Steady, Steady.”

The words were jolted out of Jinny’s mouth and scattered into the silence of the April evening. Bramble and Punch, the two Highland ponies who were grazing in a far corner of the field, didn’t even flicker their ears at the sound of Jinny’s voice. The waves lapped up the deserted sands of Finmory Bay, the moors and mountains that surrounded Finmory House were wrapt in their own mysteries. For hundreds of years they had seen humans come and go while they stood still. The skinny girl and the violent Arab horse were no concern of theirs.

“Whoa. Steady. Stop it. Stop it. Steady now.”

After the fourth buck the Arab paused. Jinny relaxed her hold and patted the sweated neck. Shantih bucked again; heels flung skywards, head and neck disappearing from in front of Jinny as she went soaring through the air, her long, straight, red-gold hair flying out behind her.

Jinny landed on her feet as neatly as a cat, Shantih’s reins still clasped tightly in her hand. It had happened so often to her in the past few weeks that Jinny was beginning to wonder if she couldn’t work in a somersault before she landed. But she only wondered that to stop herself from thinking too much about what would happen if her mother or father or Petra, her elder sister, were to see one of Shantih’s explosions. Mike, her younger brother, had seen Shantih rearing with Jinny one night.

“She is pretty wild, isn’t she?” he’d said.

“ ’Course not,” said Jinny sharply. “If you knew anything about horses you’d know that she’s just fresh.”

“That’s not what your book says,” replied Mike. “It says rearing is a dangerous vice. They can fall over backwards and churumphch. Strawberry jam!”

“She doesn’t always rear. Sometimes she only bucks. And anyway I’d jump off before she came down.”

“Rather you than me, but you’d better be a bit careful, hadn’t you?”

“You may not have noticed, but it is a horse I’m riding – not a knitted donkey. No one expects a pure-bred Arab to behave like an ancient pony.”

“Well, be careful you don’t let Mum see you,” Mike had replied, and Jinny had been doing her best to exercise Shantih in the early mornings or late evenings when her family were less likely to be about. It was so unlike her brother to tell anyone to be careful that Jinny knew he must have been impressed by Shantih’s rodeo.

“Why are you so silly?” Jinny asked her horse.

Shantih sighed gustily and rested her head against Jinny’s arm. She was calm and gentle now, all her temper vanished. Her huge Arab eyes with their long lashes looked mildly around her, her muzzle, pushing hopefully against Jinny’s hand, was as soft as plush velvet.

“Don’t think it,” Jinny told her, doing her best to make her voice sound severe. “You are getting nothing from me. Not a thing. Pig of a horse. I hate you.”

But Jinny didn’t. She loved her. Loved her so much that there was nothing else in her life that really mattered, only her drawing and Shantih. There were the other things that Jinny really took for granted – her family and her home. Even living in the Scottish Highlands surrounded by sea and sky and open country was beginning to be the way things always were, although it was only last summer that Mr. Manders had stopped being a probation officer in Stopton and had brought his family away from the city streets and the continual traffic to make a new life in the Highlands. They had come to live in Finmory House, a large, grey, stone house standing by itself between the hills and the sea. Mike and Jinny rode two trekking ponies to school in Glenbost village, and Mr. MacKenzie’s farm was the only other house near Finmory.

Standing scratching Shantih’s neck, Jinny remembered how she had first seen the Arab in a circus, billed as ‘Yasmin, the Killer Horse’. So many things had happened between the night when Jinny had fallen in love with Shantih and last month when at last the Arab had belonged to her.

“And now you’re mine,” Jinny told Shantih, “so why do you have to start all this nonsense? You are a nit.”

Jinny put the reins back over Shantih’s head and remounted. She knew from the light that it was getting late, too late to start another fight to try and make Shantih trot in a circle. Jinny walked her on a loose rein round the field. Once Shantih realised that there were to be no more attempts at schooling she pricked her ears and walked out willingly, whinnying to the Highlands as she passed them but not trying to join them.

“I’ll ride you round once,” Jinny told her. “That’s the right thing to do. ‘Always finish your schooling on a happy note so that both rider and mount feel satisfied with what they have achieved’,” Jinny quoted from her book. “So that’s what we’ll do. Not that we’ve achieved much,” she added, knowing that if she tried to take Shantih round the field twice there wouldn’t be a happy note.

Jinny’s book also said that if your horse was misbehaving you were to use your legs strongly, backed up by your stick. When Jinny had backed up her strongly used legs – which she took to mean kicking – with a stick from the hedge, Shantih had gone mad. Her first furious buck had sent Jinny smashing into the ground; then, rearing and bucking, she had galloped round and round the field. When Jinny had at last managed to grab her reins and hold on to them, Shantih had stood wide-eyed and shaking with fear. Her chestnut coat had been curded with sweat and she had flinched away from Jinny’s touch.

It was the first and only time that Jinny had tried to use a stick on her. “She thought she was back in that circus. She thought I was the ringmaster that whipped her,” Jinny had accused herself as she broke the stick into pieces and threw it away.

After this, the only solution that Jinny could think of was to hold on while Shantih reared or bucked. “If only I could get better at staying on then she would get fed up with trying to get me off and start to behave herself,” Jinny reasoned. But somehow Jinny nearly always ended up on the ground.

“Jinny,” called a voice from the field gate.

Jinny dismounted quickly, just in case, and led Shantih towards the gate.

It was Ken. He was standing by the hedge, almost invisible in the gathering spring dusk. His black sweater and faded jeans blended into the shadows of the hedge; his bony face was calm and still and his fair hair grew long past his shoulders. The Manders had first got to know Ken when he had been on probation for being with other boys who had broken into a Stopton warehouse. When his probation was over Ken had said to Mr. Manders, “I’d nothing to do with it.”

“I know,” Mr. Manders had acknowledged.

Ken had arrived at Finmory on the Manders’ first day there, bringing Kelly, a grey-thatched, yellow-eyed dog, with him. Ken was seventeen. His parents had washed their hands of him except to send a monthly cheque to him through their bank. “I’ll stay, if you’ll have me,” Ken had said, and they had all gladly accepted his offer. He worked with Mr. Manders in the room that they had converted into a pottery, knowing far more about it than Mr. Manders did, and he had dug a kitchen garden out of Finmory’s overgrown wilderness. “Feed us all,” Ken said. “What do you want to go on eating animals for when the earth’s bursting itself to feed us?” Jinny had never known Ken to eat anything that came from an animal.
It was Ken who had helped Jinny to save Shantih. Ken who had saved Jinny’s life.

“How’s she doing then?” asked Ken, reaching out his long-fingered hand to gentle Shantih’s head.

“I’ve just finished riding her,” Jinny said hurriedly. “She’s looking better, isn’t she?”

“Beautiful,” agreed Ken. “Rather see her without all that gear strapped on to her though.”

“I’ve got to ride her,” exclaimed Jinny. “No one has a horse and doesn’t ride it.”

“There was some old bloke somewhere used to read from the Bible and his horse came to listen.”

“I expect he was a saint,” said Jinny, knowing Ken’s old blokes. “And I’m me. I’m going to ride everywhere on Shantih, trekking and cross country and dressage.”

Jinny saw clearly the flat dressage arena, the white test markers, the crowds round the corded barrier. She felt Shantih stop correctly in front of the judges as she lifted her stick and touched the brim of her bowler, remembering to smile.

“Mike seemed to think you were using her as a means of suicide, and your Mum sent me to say what about the milk?”

The dressage arena vanished. Jinny began to say, “What did Mike tell you … ” then clapped her hand to her mouth. “I forgot again!”

Page length: 125

Original publication date: 1976

Who's in the book?

Humans: Jinny, Mike, Petra and Mr and Mrs Manders, Ken, Mr MacKenzie, Dolina, Mr Gorman, Miss Tuke Clare, Spencer and Mr and Mrs Burnley. Lady Gilbert.

Horses: Shantih, Bramble, Punch, Huston, Jasper

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