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A Horse Called Trouble

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MUSEITYOUNG: A troubled teen must overcome her abusive past to save the defiant horse that has taught her to love and trust again.
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Sales price: $5.50
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Author: C.K. Volnek
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Genre: Tween/Young Adult social issues/coming of age

Editor: Christine I. Speakman
Cover Artist: Kaytalin Platt
Pages: 162
Ebook Price: $5.50
ISBN: 978-1-927361-14-6

Blurb: 

A troubled teen must overcome her abusive past to save the defiant horse that has taught her to love and trust again.

Abandoned by her mother at the young age of seven, Tara Cumming’s been passed from foster home to foster home; not wanted anywhere by anyone. At thirteen she finds herself skeptic and suspicious, with no family, no friends, and forced to participate in horse therapy. 

Horse therapy “will teach trust, perseverance, respect and the value of teamwork,” or so says the program’s instructor. Tara is unconvinced. Trust only got her heart broken, perseverance only gets her put down, and no one respects or wants to team up with the misfit foster kid. 

At the stable, Tara meets Trouble, an angry horse bent on destroying everything and everyone around him. When Tara realizes he’s just as misunderstood and untrusting as she is, she pushes aside her fear and a special relationship is formed. Trouble trusts Tara, and Tara in turn finds hope and acceptance as well as the will to love and trust again herself.

But Tara’s confidence is shaken as a great challenge looms ahead. Trouble’s manipulative owner is determined to have him destroyed because of his ‘dangerous’ nature. Tara must overcome her own limitations and fight to save the horse that has freed her heart and given her life value and meaning.

Excerpt:

Homer nuzzled Tara’s arm. His warm breath felt good. She tried to relax as she turned to the box. Her mind buzzed. So many things to remember. Left side, feet in stirrups, nudge, don’t kick. Simone had already mounted her horse and Philly was struggling to pull his baggy pants up enough to swing his leg over his.

Tara wiped a sweaty hand on her worn jeans. They might not be fashionable, but at least they were practical for riding. She stepped up on the wooden box, her hands and legs trembling. Homer stood patiently as she collected the reins the way Cindy had shown her. She stepped into the silver stirrup and swung her right leg in a large arch over the gray back. Settling lightly into the scoop of the saddle, she placed her right foot in the free stirrup and let out a nervous breath. She was on. Homer turned and sniffed at the toe of her boot.

Tara nudged Homer with her heel and smiled when he stepped forward on cue.

“Good job, Tara,” Cindy called.

Tara’s cheeks warmed. “Thanks.”

She reined Homer to circle the arena, feeling his strength, even in his walk. Solid. Powerful. His muscles rippled. His ears pricked forward. She swayed in rhythm to his body, peaceful, calm, confident, drinking in the fresh air and the smell of plowed earth. The trees surrounding the arena seemed to come alive. Sunlight glistened between the leaves like liquid sliver. Robins whistled to each other and hopped among the branches. Could heaven be any better than this? She thought not.

“Trot your horses,” Robin called.

Tara nudged Homer with her heel as Robin had shown. Homer shifted into a slow trot. Remembering Robin’s words, “grip with your thighs,” she squeezed, balancing in the middle of the saddle.

“Very good, Tara,” Robin called again. “Simone, Philly, can’t you get your horses to cooperate?”

Tara trotted Homer past Cindy. Cindy smiled and nodded. A new warmth filled her. Not only did she feel a connection with Homer, she felt something with Cindy. Never before had an adult made her feel so special. Never before had anyone made her feel special. Except for Grandma Kay.

“Tara,” Robin called again. “Since you’ve obviously ridden before…why don’t you show the other kids a canter?”

Canter? Tara’s mind raced. Cindy made a rolling motion with her hands.

Tara swallowed. Canter.

Homer’s ears flickered.

Tara leaned forward as Cindy gestured and nudged Homer again with her heel. Her shoulders stiffened and she braced for what might come next. Would he buck? Would she fall off? Did it hurt to break an arm or leg?

Homer’s shoulders rose as he pushed his front legs out in front of him, breaking into a lope around the corral. Tara’s heart skipped. The smooth gait of the gray rolled under her. The ground blurred and long strands of black mane flowed over her hands as they breezed around the arena. Homer’s shoulders pumped and the faint clop of his hooves hitting the ground resonated in Tara’s ears. She didn’t ever want this ever to end.

“Okay, you can stop and bring him in,” Robin called.

With a heavy sigh, Tara pulled Homer to a walk, heading to where Cindy sat on the top rail, clapping, a wide smile on her face. Homer grunted and blew out a breath, shaking his head.

“You never told me you knew how to ride,” Cindy said, her eyes shining.

Tara looked down, feeling a blush rise to her face. “I don’t. I’ve never been on a horse before.”

“You’re kidding.” Cindy rubbed Homer’s nose. “You’re a natural then. With a few riding lessons, you could be really good.”

Lessons? Really good? Tara’s heart skipped, watching Cindy move on to help Simone untangle her horse’s reins. Tara couldn’t help but wonder if it would be possible to come back and ride at the farm once the program was over? And take lessons? A glimmer of hope snuck into her thoughts.

But just as quick as the glimmer had risen, it disappeared, like a mouse into its mouse hole. Tara’s shoulders slumped, reality slapping her over the head. Where would she ever get money for lessons? And how would she get out to the farm? June would never waste her time or money riding lessons.

“Get out of the way!” a man yelled from the other side of the arena fence.

The sound of galloping hooves and angry shouts scattered Tara’s thoughts. Trouble hurtled down the lane, Richard and Sam raced after him. Richard stopped in the middle of the road, chest heaving and glaring at the fleeing horse. Sam continued running after Trouble in a futile attempt to catch him.

The world seemed to stop. The only thing moving was Trouble, bursting through the open gate into the ring, the fancy saddle askew on his side, the stirrups slapping up and down, beating at his red hide. Clancy and Brandy scrambled up the board rails of the fence, barely getting out of reach as Trouble charged by, bucking and kicking. Cindy clambered to the other side of the fence.

“Tara,” she yelled, terror shaking her voice. “Get out of the way!”

Trouble raced directly at Tara, a twisting, bucking ball of fury.

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