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Jane Badger Books

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Pony Club Challenge (paperback)

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Pony Club Challenge (paperback)

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The Woodbury Pony Club have been challenged to take part in a tetrathlon by the neighbouring Cranford Vale Pony Club. It's going to mean a lot of training, fast. Their cross country is improving, but that's not going to be enough, and they only have three weeks to improve their swimming, running and target shooting. They're starting to get better, but then a disastrous attempt to practise threatens to ruin everything.

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Alice Drummond waved goodbye to Mr Crankshaw and rode her dun pony, Saffron, down the track to the river. It was the first day of the summer holidays; she had made the long journey home from school the day before.
Home, thought Alice. Well, since her parents’ death, Aunt Margaret and Uncle Peter were always telling her that she must look upon Shawbury as her home. But then, even when her parents were alive, she had never had a proper one—a house full of brothers and sisters, dogs, kittens and rabbits, where you’ve lived for as long as you can remember. Her father had worked for a multi-national company so they had moved about the world living in smart company flats in Rio de Janeiro, Washington and Mexico City.

She hadn’t had a brother or sister—there were just the three of them, and she had never had a pet, not even a hamster, until Saffron. He had become hers after that miraculous day last holidays when the Woodbury Pony Club had won the Area Cup. She had ridden Saffron, hired for the holidays, but afterwards Clare, the youngest of her four grown-up cousins and her only real friend among them, had persuaded Aunt Margaret to buy him. He’d spent the term turned out on his ex-owner’s farm and was now fat and sleek from the rich grass of the water meadows.

The pony club fixture list was a bit of a disappointment, thought Alice, splashing through the ford. She had hoped that David Lumley, their instructor and district commissioner, who had been a famous steeplechase jockey until a crashing fall had left him disabled, would run another course. In her wildest dreams she had even imagined a camp, but there were only working rallies, a picnic ride and a test day on the fixture card. As she took the silent, leafy path through the beechwoods, she wondered whether David was all right; she did hope that they hadn’t worn him out last holidays. Then she thought about Harry Franklin and wondered if he would still want to ride with her. That was the worst of going to boarding school, you didn’t see people for ages and they changed. She conjured up Harry’s brown face, dark eyes and curly, blue-black hair. He was bound to be older and taller, but she’d telephone him as soon as she had settled Saffron and see if the rest of him was the same.

Alice heard her aunt’s champion springer spaniels barking in their kennels and saw the red-brick, gabled house through the trees. Last holidays it had seemed a dismal, dripping place, but now, on a hot summer’s day, the house and garden looked deliciously shady and cool.


The Rookes were cleaning tack in the old conservatory attached to their tall, red Victorian house on Woodbury Heights. Neither Mr Rooke, who was a solicitor, or Mrs Rooke, who was the pony club secretary, cared about plants or gardening, so the conservatory had long ago become a tack room and a general dumping ground for unwanted objects.

Generally, Lesley and Sarah, who hated doing anything together, managed to stagger their tack cleaning, but as their school had only broken up that day, there had been very little time to prepare for the first rally of the holidays. “You could have cleaned yours on Monday, you didn’t have anything like the amount of homework I had,” complained Lesley, glaring at her younger sister through thick-lensed glasses as she waited impatiently for the metal polish.

“Well, I didn’t.” Sarah shook the can with deliberate slowness and then applied the polish to her cloth with irritating precision. She was much prettier than her sister, with a narrow face, mouse-brown hair cut in a fringe and she didn’t have to wear glasses, but her mouth was rather small and thin-lipped. “Anyway, you’re lucky that Julian’s not cleaning tack too,” Sarah went on. “If Tina hadn’t cleaned his there would have been three of us sharing; that wouldn’t have pleased you.”

“Tina won’t go on cleaning it now she’s not riding Chess, and I can’t see Mummy making Julian do anything, so you’ll have two sets to clean and two ponies to look after,” Lesley told her sister. “If the great Sarah’s such a brilliant rider she has to have two ponies at her disposal, she can jolly well see to them. I’m not going to help out,” she added spitefully. She hated Sarah for being their mother’s favourite.

“You’re jealous. It’s not my fault if the only thing you’re good at is dreary old dressage. Anyway, Tina may go on helping. Just because Mummy’s put Julian down for every rally it doesn’t mean he’ll go, and if he doesn’t Tina can have Chess.”

“You can’t expect her to bike up here and do all the work on the chance of a ride.”

“I don’t see why not,” Sarah retorted. “That’s what she does at the riding school.”

“Well, if she’s fool enough to let you use her, that’s her business, but don’t think you’ll get me doing extra work so that Mummy’s pet can be in all the teams,” sneered Lesley.

“No one’s asked you. And I know what you’re afraid of,” Sarah snapped back. “You thought you were the only person who could do dressage, but now I’ve got a decently schooled pony like Bowie you’re terrified I’ll beat you at that too.”

Page length: 226

Original publication date: 1984

Who's in the book?

Human: David Lumley, Sarah, Lesley and Mrs Rooke, Paul, Lynne and Mr and Mrs Roberts, Alice Drummond, Hanif (Harry) Franklin, James Morgan, Rupert, Elizabeth, Nettie and Oliver Wheeler, Sebastian Fuller, Tina Spencer
Equines: Stardust, Chess, Berry, Banjo, Saffron, Jupiter, Ferdinand, Rosie, Rajah, Tristram, Hobbit, Sea King, Jigsaw

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