RS (rainbowstevie) wrote,

The Saddle Club: A Retrospective

This post is actually not about the Saddle Club TV series, unlike my last one under this tag, but rather about me finally buckling down and trying to remember all of the Saddle Club books I have read in my life.

Which is no small feat because this series is 101 books long, plus 7 Super Editions, plus 17 books in high school spin-off Pine Hollow. Plus, apparently, 16 books in a spin-off I just learned about called Pony Tails, featuring different and younger girls, which started in 1995 and which my library clearly did not have because otherwise I would have been ALL OVER THAT.

PSA: you're gonna wanna start scrolling now if you want to get directly to specific title talk.

Anyway, back to The Saddle Club. I have absolutely no idea when I started reading it, because it is almost as old as I am, but I would imagine I started in 5th grade if not even a little earlier; I do know that I intensely loved it in middle school, but I only read 2 books after that.

One reason I know how intensely I loved it in middle school is that while looking at the covers, I felt some memory shocks as strong as a kick to the stomach about how beautiful some of these illustrated horses are, and how I specifically remember thinking that when I added them to whatever sim horse games I started out playing in grade 6 (prior to the lifelong Great Big Complex Fictional Universe-origin one I joined in 7th).

I also know that I read it courtesy of the public library -- for various reasons, I rarely used my middle school library -- and was too busy collecting Thoroughbred and Animorphs books to add another series, so the only one I ever owned was The Secret of the Stallion, because my mom let me sign up for 1 month of a mail-order club that offered this book for free or very reduced cost on an introductory/trial basis, and it came with a little horse charm bracelet or necklace (lost long ago).

...I can't believe I forgot about the mail-order club (mail-order clubs were ALL THE RAGE for kids in the 90s, you guys; they were subscription boxes before subscription boxes were a Thing. They probably cost roughly the same amount, proportionate to the times, but at least you knew what book you were getting every time: one from the series that you loved with all your heart.)

One last thing before we begin: a quick overview of my general feelings about the book characters, semi-copied from my previous post, but more streamlined.
[click to ope]

  • ALL THE GREAT HORSES: Starlight! Prancer! Comanche! Belle! Garnet! Penny, and Dime! So many names come flooding back to me instantly.

  • Stevie was mostly my favorite book character (*points @ username*)

  • I legit do not remember how I felt about Phil, Stevie's boyfriend, which means at best I thought he was fine. I keep thinking I've been a lifelong shipper in everything, and maybe I have re: film and TV (SIMBA/NALA OTP), but when it comes to childhood/teen reads I have CONSTANTLY forgotten that boys were ever involved in stories about my fave girls.

  • Carole regularly traded off with Stevie as my favorite, and is objectively the coolest character

  • I always thought of Lisa as more withdrawn and quiet, far less interesting than either of the above, but fine. (ironically, as an academic with the least amount of horse experience in the trio, she was probably the most like me, AND YET)

  • Snooty Veronica DiAngelo: one of many in a long line of Spoiled Rich Girl Villains from kids' books of the time. She was great for what she was.

  • Max Regnery was always so grumpy in the books that I found him very unpleasant, even in his occasional 'softie' moments where the girls would show why they liked him, and I was never comfortable with him on the page. I preferred Red.

  • (And though I didn't see the Australian TV show until years later, my allegiance flipped IMMEDIATELY upon seeing 1 scene w/ Max as played by Brett Tucker. HEY THERE HANDSOME, HI, HELLO.)

AND NOW, WHAT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR: My thoughts on the books I think I've read.

Quick Goodreads link to the series: The Saddle Club
I actually don't think I ever read the first book, so moving right along...

2. Horse Shy
OH COBALT. That story never stops being gut-wrenching. I did not realize it happened so early.

3. Horse Sense?
Maybe?? Hard to remember so far back. I remember Cobalt siring a foal, I vaguely recall his mate Delilah (palomino, right?), but I'm not sure if that's from this book. The stuff about a new girl doesn't sound that familiar.

11. Horse Wise
On the other hand, this cover with the little foal in the woods looks very familiar. Also features the start of Pony Club, which apparently was not always a thing?

13. Starlight Christmas
I definitely remember when Carol got Starlight. It's weird to remember how many books exist before him, actually. It's almost like I remember Cobalt and Starlight being in different series.

17. Horsenapped!
Not sure, but this cover seems familiar. A horse-napping story w/ a ransom note seems WILD and like exactly what I would have wanted.

19. Star Rider
SKYE RANSOM!! (I think you mean So Handsome) I remember this whole plot so vividly, haha.

21. Racehorse?
This cover w/ the little exercise pony just looks so familiar, and unlike R.L. Stine books, there's no way I ever chose not to read a book from this series that my branch of the library had (that's the reason I didn't read every book -- we only ever visited one of the 8 branches, and I didn't know or didn't care about requesting books yet). I don't think I'm confusing it with the Thoroughbred cover that had the pinto exercise pony on it...

24. Ghost Rider?
OK, I'm not actually SURE if I read this, but...GHOST HORSE MYSTERY. There is a zero percent chance I did not instantly read that if it was available.

27. Bridle Path
At first glance I didn't remember the cover, but the more I think about it, the more I suspect maybe I do? Something about the "let's have a horse wedding in costume on April Fool's Day" seems suitably insane familiar. Also, side note, the name "Dorothy DeSoto" (apparently a recurring character) just lit up my brain with recognition.

30. Autumn Trail
I recognize this cover more than the plot, and I'm guessing I blocked the plot out because Sad. Dedicated horse-book-reviewer Rena Sherwood says, "Most of the Saddle Club books are alike but not this one. For some reason, Bonnie Bryant never aged her human protagonists -- but did age the horses in the series. Now one of the horses we were introduced to in the first books is dying -- of old age." I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HORSE THAT IS. (But also...I don't? Which is why I'm not asking, even though she's still active and responded to one of my comments a few months ago.)

31. Hay Ride?
This cover + concept seems familiar; that's all I got. Might be mixing it up with a Western book (I honestly cannot remember which Western books I read. I did love the Dude Ranch, I just can't tell them apart. I might have read some even earlier in the series)

32. Chocolate Horse?
Mmmaybe? Brother + meningitis is pinging some faint memory bells in my brain.

33. High Horse?
This palomino on the cover looks familiar...

36. Riding Lesson?
Hay loft slumber party is, I'm pretty sure, something I read and forever after dreamed of doing. I thought it terribly ironic that my best friend had a barn and hay, but no loft. (sometimes those hay bales stacked up near the ceiling, though, so we definitely had fun climbing them and stretching out to read on them) Just not sure if it was this book or a non-Saddle-Club book.

38. Horse Trade
YES. SO MUCH YES. I've been iffy on a lot of the earlier books so far, but everything about this cover, from the horse and coloring, to the title to the summary -- the fancy boarded Arabian! [crossed with Saddlebred?] which, incidentally, is the kind of horse my friend had. She had two, actually: an Arab and an Arab/Saddlebred cross -- is something I vividly remember. It must have been a favorite. And I'm pretty sure that "No Name" here ends up being Belle, Stevie's permanent horse. That happens later in the series than I thought.

39. Purebred
Sidebar to say I know I did NOT read this, but I did recently buy it at a thrift store and I'm pretty excited about having a new-to-me SB book.

40. Gift Horse
See #38.

42. Saddlebags?
I have no strong memory of this story about the parents coming along to the dude ranch, BUT the phrase "Carole's dad embarrasses her by dressing like a real Eastern dude" definitely shot off some memory sparks in my brain.

46. Flying Horse
HOLY HECK would you look at that pretty pinto!! This is one million percent a book I read. I have no idea what happens, but I know that cover. It's a Chincoteague pony, right? *reads summary* I love being right.

51. Pleasure Horse
The Saddle Club members are excited since Samson, the horse they've raised from a colt, is finally ready to be ridden for the first time.

...I see what Rena meant about the horses aging in this series. Still, fun! I def. remember this cover, and vaguely recall this plot.

56. Cutting Horse?
Skye Ransom is back, so I feel like I must have read this.

59. Phantom Horse
Ghost horse, phantom horse, either way this was a GIMME. I definitely remember this cover.

61. Broken Horse
I was a sucker for a "sick, abused horse."

65. Silver Stirrups?
Don't remember it but feel like this cover rings a bell.

66. Saddle Sore
Ohhh that's another pretty pinto. I definitely read this. Sounds like a fun Western story. (I really did enjoy the Western-set ones. Western is how I learned to ride, more or less) (by which I mean I technically learned to ride bareback on a horse who responded best to English reining, but every time I've guided a horse from a saddle it's been Western)

67. Summer Horse
YES. I remember reading this SO HARD. Like, I knew without looking that it must have been published in May or June 1997, because June '97 (right after graduating from elementary school) is 100% when I read it*. Nothing will ever scream summer to me like this cover. The summer horse camp setting is just a bonus.
*And I now I know for certain that I must have started reading this series by 5th grade!

69. Endurance Ride
Another great summer cover. I feel like this is where I first learned about endurance riding, actually...

74. Horse Whispers
OH MY GOD. This is one of the most beautiful covers ever. Definitely a sim horse, this black mare.

76. Horse Care?
I think?? I don't remember the plot or the cover as strongly as some others, but it nevertheless speaks to me. This is one I'd like to reread, I think -- a mare staying with her injured rider and keeping her warm overnight is super sweet!

81. Wagon Trail?
82. Quarter Horse?

I'm not sure if I read both of these or only 1 (or which one), but I definitely remember them doing the makeshift Oregon Trail trip. A perfect marriage of my top two interests at the time.

86. Secret Horse
Familiar chestnut on the cover!

87. Show Jumper
Yes! I remember when this was new at the library. Gorgeous black horse.

[I'm unsure about numbers 88-93, when they switched over to photo covers (w/ young Mischa Barton standing in for Lisa!) -- I feel like I read at least # 88, w/ the appaloosa; and also leaning toward 90 and 93? -- but I can guarantee I did not read book 94 (pub. september 2000)*]

95. Show Judge
I don't remember this but it's on my 9th grade reading 2.5 stars

*Which means I also did not read 96-99.

100. Stray Horse
This is on my 10th grade list, age 15, so this was the last one I ever read. Can't believe I made it so close to the end -- literally one book away! I guess it's fitting I missed the first and last, huh? Anyway, I'm really glad to see I at least gave this 3 stars.

IN CONCLUSION: out to less than half, which considering I read this series for at least 3-4 years definitely means I have forgotten some covers, because even with all the other books on my plate I read fast. Oh well! I'm glad I at least wrote what I did before the memories crumble entirely into dust.

Super Editions
1. A Summer Without Horses
After PAINSTAKING research, I finally determined that I had indeed read this one, because one of the few scenes I could clearly remember from this series was Stevie needing to get somewhere by horseback in an emergency, but having a broken tailbone, and thus standing in the stirrups all the way. Turns out it's in this one, which I otherwise do not remember at all.

2. The Secret of the Stallion
Obviously, since I owned it. P. sure I still have it...somewhere. I want to reread it because It because its plot is straight awesome:
The Saddle Club is in England for a show on the grounds of an old estate where a past duke and his beloved stallion died and where, legend has it, the duke buried treasure.

3. Western Star
Yes! Love this cover, and the twin foals. Also fun fact, whenever I hear Lonestar's I'm Already There, I think of this book. Presumably because of the "star" part and the country aspect and the fact that I first heard and fell in love with this, the only one of theirs I know, around the time I read this.

4. Dream Horse
MAN that's a vividly familiar cover. Definitely read it, even though I don't remember the plot.

5. Before They Rode Horses?
I may have read this...not sure.

I definitely didn't read the last two, though.

Pine Hollow
We'll never know if I read any of the earlier books because they were published before September 2000, but even though they don't look familiar beyond maybe the first one, it seems unlikely I would have started in the middle of the series. Regardless, all of the following are recorded on my 9th grade list. I remember nothing from any of them, so here are the ratings to speak for Past Me.

10. Ground Training, 1.5
11. Cross Ties, 2.5
12. Back in the Saddle, 2
14. Headstrong, 2.5
16. Track Record (forgot to record rating)

(Was I just Really Annoyed about the boys, or what?? I have to assume that's it, because cripes, these summaries are so full of relationship drama I'm hard-pressed to figure out if they still ride. The other option is that these books were intended for kids and the writing was too juvenile for me at that point, which I hope is not true because that means rereading is unlikely to be satisfying, and that's a shame.)

And then in tenth grade -- holy crap, I DID read the final book of the series (# 17, Full Gallop). And even though its reviews sounded sad and awful, and I have no memory of this, apparently I thought it was great and rated it 4.5 stars?!?!

I guess that's a good way to go out as the last Bonnie Bryant book I ever read.
Tags: books, nostalgia, saddle club

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