Twin siblings care for an older horse that was taken from an abusive owner. They’re from a very horsey family- I gather the book is part of a series about these kids because not much information or background is given there’s just a lot of things it’s assumed the reader will know. That the kids have a handful of show ponies, the parents are both competitive riders, etc. Anyway, the children are put in charge of this old horse. They name him Charlie and under a veterinarian’s guidance, carefully nurse him back to health- dosing him with medicine, gradually exercising him, until he’s able to be ridden. Then they find out he’s terrified of approaching a simple jump in an exercise ring, but later discover he’ll readily jump natural obstacles out on trail rides. They grow very fond of Charlie and imagine he must have a distinguished history (before the abusive owner).
Soon after there’s a prestigious Hunt Trial, that uses teams (I don’t know much about this kind of thing). One of the horses goes lame and they’d have to withdraw, but the team owner has heard about Charlie and he’s a perfect color match to the other horses (I guess this is important). The parents are reluctant because the competition is rigorous, but finally they agree, and then it turns out the rider doesn’t want to be on a strange horse, so they let one of the kids go! He’s supposed to stop if the horse shows signs of strain, but doesn’t want to disappoint the team so continues even though it’s too much. The horse finishes the competition but has overdone it, so then he has another long convalescent period. Meanwhile the old horse caught some attention in the Hunt Trial, and an older gentleman comes asking for him, claims to have known Charlie in the past. Now the kids will finally know some of the horse’s individual history, but this also means they have to decide: will they keep him, or give him back to the previous owner?
This is a really nice horse story, and the admirable illustrations by Paul Brown are so crisp and expressive. I enjoyed it very much, although it moves at such a quick pace. It’s well-told, but the author doesn’t linger long on any details. I would really like to read more of her books- she wrote quite a few about these kids and their various ponies- but they’re not easy to find! (or afford, being rare). Mine is an ex-library book with very worn edges, torn pages, scribbles in various places and dogeared corners- so would be considered a “reading copy” only- but still I felt a bit faint when I looked online and saw a few prices. Well, another author to keep my eye out for now, when I’m at secondhand shops, library sales and the like! Maybe another beat-up one will come my way someday. Worn out just like this old horse was, but still good for a read.