Since It Can’t All Be About Books

Things have been a little quiet over the last week, and will probably be a little on the slow side this week as well.  I was in Columbus, Ohio most of last week, attending Morgan Gold Cup.  My mare, Elle, made her English Pleasure driving debut, and my big girl did me proud.  She had a great show, she had a wonderful work ethic, and she looked like she was having some fun, too.  If anyone is interested, let me know and I will post more about the show.  Otherwise, here are a few pictures – book coverage will begin again on Tuesday.

Heading into her in-hand class

Final adjustments before her driving class

Decked out in her reserve champion ribbon

Review: Horse Show by Kate Hayden

 

Title: Horse Show

Author: Kate Hayden

Publisher: DK Readers

ISBN: 978-0789473714

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Lucy, Alice, and Jack are getting ready for the horse show. Whose horse will win the ribbon? Find out what happens when the big day arrives! Longer sentences and an expanded vocabulary make this series of 48-page books slightly more challenging: Level 2 is appropriate for children who have started to read but still need help. Information boxes full of background information will stimulate inquisitive minds. These books contain between 700 and 850 words, and they are approximately 70 percent pictures and 30 percent text. The Dorling Kindersley Readers combine an enticing visual layout with high-interest, easy-to-read stories to captivate and delight young bookworms who are just getting started. Written by leading children’s authors and compiled in consultation with literacy experts, these engaging books build reader confidence along with a lifelong appreciation for nonfiction, classic stories, and biographies. There is a DK Reader to interest every child at every level, from preschool to grade 4.

Review:

I’m at a horse show this week, so when I saw that one of the girls from my barn had this book, I asked if I could borrow it.  She was very happy to share it with me, and I have to say that I really enjoyed this beginning reader book.  I have never heard of publisher DK  before, but if all of their titles are as well written and interesting as this one, I will definitely be adding them to my list of pubs to further explore at the library.

Horse Show has a reading level of 2, which in the DK scheme of things means Beginning to Read Alone.  This book is packed with vivid photos of ponies, and each picture helps to provide a visual key to highlight the activity taking place on the page.  Three young riders are preparing for a horse show, and the book follows, with a great deal of accuracy, the steps involved.  You can’t just load your mount and go to the fairgrounds.  Nope!  There is tack to clean, ponies to wash, and a trailer to load.  Even the riders are expected to present themselves neatly and professionally.  I have helped with all of these pre-show chores, including tail washing.  Everything felt very familiar to me.

On show day, one of the young riders is challenged because his safe, comfortable mount has injured himself.  Instead, Tom must take the less reliable and more temperamental Chester to the show, and Chester is a handful! I could really relate to Tom!  Blondie can be a handful, too!  She gets all wound up getting ready for shows, and she is just as fussy as Chester!  It was fun reading along as Tom gained confidence with his difficult, but ultimately rewarding,  pony.

Horse Show is a wonderfully accurate portrayal of the steps necessary to get ready for a show.  The pictures add depth to the simple narrative, and as well as reinforce new terminology that is introduced throughout the text.  The language is easy to understand, and this book will appeal to young readers who love horses and animals.  I am glad I had the opportunity to borrow the book from my little horse loving friend.

Grade: A

Review copy borrowed from a friend

Review: The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

 

Title: The A Circuit

Author: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

ISBN: 978-1599906348

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse shows. It’s a world with its own rules and superprivileged lifestyles. Teens travel the circuit all year, showing horses that cost as much as some homes.

Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student-every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. She’s used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then there’s Zara. She’s the wild child of a famous rockstar, but she’s ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?

Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against the backdrop of competitive horseback riding.

Review:

Warning – Very long and rambling post; my apologies

It seems like I have waited forever to read this book!  When I first saw it, with that pretty horse on the cover, all shiny clean, wearing show tack, and ready to put on a show, I wanted to read it, even though I am usually disappointed by books with horses.  Most of them have left me underwhelmed, because the horse facts are wrong.  Before I had horses, that never bothered me. I read horse stories all the time, and loved them.  Now, in my life with horses, I don’t enjoy them as much, because most of the time, they don’t feel authentic.  I know that Georgina Bloomberg shows competitively, so I had high hopes for this book. Probably too high!  But I enjoyed it so much!

First off, this book is soap opera with horses.  If you don’t like horses, think they stink, can’t imagine shoveling their poop, The A Circuit is probably not for you.  Most of the action takes place at the show grounds or the barn, with minimal time spent elsewhere.  When the characters aren’t at the barn, they want to be at the barn.  That feeling certainly resonated with me!

Told through alternating points of view, the story focuses on three teens: Tommi, Zara, and Kate.  Tommi and Zara come from money, while Kate, the daughter of a cop, has had to work day and night for the opportunity to ride.  She doesn’t have a horse, but she is able to show the barn owner’s string, or catch ride for clients.  I liked Kate.  I felt for Kate.  I understood Kate.  Horses are like a drug.  When you aren’t around them, they are all you think about.  Chilling at the barn, forging that bond between yourself and an animal that weighs half a ton and could stomp the life out of you if it got a burr up its butt.  Why do we work ourselves to the bone to experience this rewarding, though occasionally unnerving pursuit?  I have no idea, but if I ever figure it out, I will write up a post about it.

Zara rubbed me the wrong way, and I wanted to beat her with a riding whip or strangle her with a lead rope.  Which ever was closer would have worked.  She has no respect for anyone, including herself.  She is out of control, and she takes her anger out on everyone, including her horses.  She doesn’t beat them, she is just very rough and demanding with them.  It made me angry.  The general rule is ask for a little, reward a lot, but this is a foreign concept to Zara.  She has no discipline, and I wonder why she rides at all.  She wants to ride and train on her terms, and she should have been sent packing the first time she put a horse in harm’s way.  But no, money talks just as loudly in the horse world as it does anywhere else.  Unfortunately.

Both Tommi and Zara take their horses for granted.  Both of their fathers pick up their training and show tabs with nary a fuss.  Tommi, at least, is trying to think of a way to keep doing the horsey thing after she finishes high school, despite her family’s insistence that she attend a prestigious college and get a high profile job.  That’s just not her thing.  I admired her drive to find a way to pay her own way, and was even more intrigued with her self-doubts.  Was she good enough to train a horse capable of showing on the A circuit?  Her self-confidence takes a beating, and I am so curious to see how she progresses – really hoping for a sequel for this!

Without spoiling anything, I was so disappointed with both Tommi and Kate when they are involved, indirectly, in a display of blatant stupidity that injures a horse.  That is so not cool!  Their silence was painful for me, and they both took the easy way out of a difficult situation.  To me, they didn’t learn from a mistake that could have gotten someone killed.  You can’t goof off around horses; their size makes them dangerous if you aren’t paying attention.  I get a little sick when I think back on that scene in the book. So senseless and such a waste, and nobody has proved to me that they learned a darned thing from it!

The A Circuit was everything that I had hoped for, and more.  It is a soap opera set in a barn, with a group of angsty teens and their horses in starring roles.  Their little dramas kept me engaged in the story, and the show scenes made me wish I was at the fairgrounds. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Site Update – Gold Cup

I was at a horse show last week, and didn’t get a chance to get much reading done because I was having too much fun eating and hanging out. Oh, I rode a couple of times, too!  Here are some pictures from the show.  I will be adding more over the next few days.  My goal is to get back up to speed with reviews by the end of the week.  Until then, enjoy the pix!

Canterwood Crest: Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart Novel Review

 

Title: Canterwood Crest: Taking the Reins

Author: Jessica Burkhart

Publisher: Aladdin MIX

ISBN: 978-1416958406

 

May Contain Spoilers

From the back of the book:

When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she’s in trouble. She’s not exactly welcomed with open arms. One group of girls in particular is used to being the best, the brightest, and the prettiest on the team, and when Sasha shows her skills in the arena, the girls’ claws come out.

Sasha is determined to prove that she belongs at Canterwood. Will she rise to the occasion and make the advanced riding team by the end of her first semester? Or will the pressure send Sasha packing?

This was a quick, unchallenging read.  Sasha begins her academic career at exclusive Canterwood Crest, an elite school where she hopes to realize her dreams of becoming an accomplished equestrian.  The school has a highly competitive riding program, and Sasha is eager to begin working hard to hone her riding skills.  But first she has to prove that she deserves her spot on the team, and with rival Heather and her followers dogging her steps, that’s not going to be easy!

This book piqued my interest because it’s about horses.  Yeah, I am pretty one-dimensional.  I like comics, books, horses, and video games.  Simple.  Sasha gets to live a dream of mine; her parents are willing to foot the bill to send her and her horse to school.  I had to wait until I was old and gray to take riding lessons, and even now I have to scramble to keep my ponies feed.  How lovely it would be to have someone else worry about covering all of the bills for me.  Next life, maybe.

Getting back to Sasha, she and her horse, Charm, are hunter/jumpers.  This was interesting, because I ride saddleseat, and don’t really know all that much about leaping over standing obstacles.  Since my bones are brittle, it just doesn’t sound like a good idea to go barreling over fences.  Sasha and Charm are fairly good at it, and Sasha has dreams of competing on an international level. That would be exciting.  I know that competing at the World Championship show in my discipline is thrilling and I work all summer just to compete in Oklahoma.    Right off the bat I understand Sasha and share her ambitions.

Take the Reins skewed a little young for me, though, and I had some difficulty finding some of predictable plot points intriguing.  Heather and her friends set out to make Sasha’s life miserable by playing pranks on her and setting her up to get in trouble with the riding coach. Which brings up another disappointment; all of the adults are either dumb or clueless or both.  Mind games are part of any competitive sports, and riding is no different.  If you can intimidate your opponents before they even get into the ring, you have created a huge edge for yourself.  Heather loves to play mind games, and Sasha is at first taken aback by these cut-throat tactics.  Mr Conner, the riding coach, would have seen intimidation tactics in action a hundred times in the past, yet he comes across as being oblivious to, and even a little surprised by, all of the team infighting. 

I liked the book enough to place a request for the next volume at the library, but I was still a little disappointed with the cookie cutter plot.  I was hoping for more horsey stuff and less of Sasha studying to keep up in her classes.  I am still enamored with the thought of actually getting to take a horse to boarding school.  I wonder if I can take mine to the nursing home?

Grade: C+

This book was rented from my local library.  Support your library!

Out of Town for the Weekend

I am out of town for the weekend in beautiful Ludington, Michigan and probably won’t be able to update until next week.  I’ll be trying to fit in time at the beach with the pile of manga that I brought, but so far, sitting around and enjoying the breeze time has been sadly lacking.  The sand dunes ride was awesome, though!

Off-Line for a Bit

I am out of town at a horse show this weekend, so there probably won’t be any updates until Sunday evening.  Yesterday was horribly hot and muggy, making hanging around half ton furnaces extremely uncomfortable.  Hopefully we’ll get a break in the weather today and it won’t be so humid. 

More Alike than You Might Think

After spending the weekend at a horse show, I suddenly realized that anime cons and horse shows have a lot in common.  Far fetched though it may sound, here’s proof beyond a doubt that equestrians and otakus have more in common than first meets the eye.

Cos-play – Just as anime fans feel the need to celebrate their favorite series by spending hours crafting the perfect costume, cos-play abounds at horse shows.  I’m mystified as to why it’s necessary to dress up like fox hunters or plantation owners in order to ride a horse, but it’s generally required to wear these outlandish costumes in order to participate in the festivities.  Driving classes demand fussing up in dresses, which makes about as much sense as wearing flip-flops to either show.  Besides getting nasty blisters walking around the dealer hall at a con, who knows what you’ll step in at a horse show.

Gender bending – Gender bending doesn’t only exist in manga!  Check out the local saddleseat show for proof that it happily exists in real life.  Look at all of those women decked out in their Sunday finest.  Wait, why are they all wearing suits?  And ties?  Like many an anime series, this ritual makes little sense, but it sure gives you a feeling superiority knowing that your Double Windsor looks so much neater than everybody else’s!

Really bad expensive food – This is another reason to eat a healthy breakfast.  Like you’ll find at anime conventions, the food at horse shows is over-priced, and just plain bad for you.  Full of empty calories and not especially appetizing, the day is much too hectic to strike off in search of cheaper, better options.  Trapped at the fairgrounds, or the convention center, you’re a sitting duck for the greedy food vendors.

Lack of sleep – Trying to catch another anime episode or hit that late night panel?  Horse shows are jam packed with too many activities as well.  Getting up at 5:30 in the morning to help wash tails or braid manes, the day is just crammed with too much to do!  Even after the last class of the evening, there are still horses to be worked into the wee hours of the night.  Catching a catnap while waiting around soon becomes a necessary art at both events.

Constant schedule changes – Just missed that panel on cel collecting because of an unexpected schedule change?  Did the arcade not open until two hours after the official posted time?  Just like the frustration at anime cons, the printed schedule at the horse show is just about worthless.  Class run over because a horse threw a shoe?  Was there a hold between classes because of a necessary equipment change?  These unexpected schedule delays at anime cons and horse shows are one of the major reasons that we are forced to eat the really bad expensive food!  You’re taking a gamble if you count on the schedule running smoothly and try to actually make plans around it.

The need for soap – And you thought only otakus needed to be reminded to shower!  While most participants at the horse show do start the day off with a liberal application of soap, wearing a three piece suit in 90 degree weather soon makes that shower a distant memory.  Since many of us only have one costume, we are stuck wearing that smelly thing the entire horse show.  Phew!

Well, there you have it.  Anime conventions and horse shows are just flip sides of each other.  Can’t make it to a major con this year?  Don’t worry!  Just trot over to the local horse show!  Just don’t wear your flip flops!