Business-minded teens and pre-teens in the 1980s and 1990s had The Baby-Sitters Club. For the horse-crazy, there was The Saddle Club.
Set in Virginia, primarily at Pine Hollow Stables, the books revolved around three good friends, Carole Hanson, Stephanie "Stevie" Lake, and Lisa Atwood. They all attend school together and share a passion for riding and horses, though only Carole and Stevie own their own. Other notable characters include their trainer, Max, and rich rival, Veronica diAngelo.
In general, Carole is the most dedicated to riding and has probably been doing it the longest. She lives with her father, an Army colonel, and eventually owns the horse Starlight. Stevie, on the other hand, is a tomboy. With three brothers, she's more comfortable with the guys than the girls. Riding is about the only "girly" activity she enjoys, but her struggles in school means her parents often threaten to pull the riding unless she does better. She eventually owns the horse Belle. Lisa is the newest member of the group. Though a year older than the other two, she just started riding and is the greenest of all. Through her, less horse-involved readers learn the ins and outs of riding and equine ownership. She started riding because her mother thought it would be proper for a lady, but eventually grows to love it. She never owns a horse, though her parents offer to buy her one several times.
The series spawned two spin-offs, Pine Hollow (which followed the girls at high school ages and revolved more around their personal lives than horses) and Pony Tails (aimed at younger kids, following around three younger girls from the same barn).
The books were eventually adapted into a Australian live-action series.
This series provides examples of:
- Alpha Bitch - Veronica.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: In the TV series more than in the books, although she has her moments there, too.
- Ascended Extra- Alex Lake and Phil's friend AJ have more larger roles in the Pine Hollow books
- Automaton Horses - Averted. Several books revolve around what can happen if you don't take proper care of the horse, including injuries and illnesses like colic.
- Bizarre Taste in Food - Stevie is known for ordering bizarre and outlandish combinations of ice cream and toppings when the girls go for sundaes. Pretty much nobody will eat them but her.
- In a "Christmas special"-type book, Lisa's cousins visit from Scotland. Turns out one of those cousins, Eliot, has the same penchant for weird ice cream, which Stevie, of course, appreciates.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead - Technically, Carole has black hair, but Stevie is blonde and Lisa is a redhead, so the rest fits.
- Everybody Cries: In the episode of the TV series, "Herdbound", when Lisa's mother prepares to have Lisa removed from Pine Hollow and enrolled at Wentworth Academy, a boarding school that is far away, Carole and Stevie give Lisa a box of souvenirs to help her remember the time she had at Pine Hollow. This soon culminates in the girls breaking down in tears.
- Friendship Moment - Many throughout the series.
- Junior High - The girls are in seventh and eighth grade (and never age, despite going on many, many summer vacations).
- Lethal Chef - Stevie. In The Saddle Club, Carole compares Stevie's cookies to hockey pucks.
- Missing Mom - Carole's mother passed away before the beginning of the books.
- Disappeared Dad - We never see Lisa's and Melanie's dad in the TV show.
- Negative Continuity - The girls never age and never get older, although some plots in books are given a nod in others, which makes the whole thing rather hard to decipher.
- New Transfer Student - Lisa, in the very beginning. She provides a viewpoint as she gets to know Stevie and Carole, and is also new to the equestrian scene. Through her, readers learn about both the characters and the horses. In the Pine Hollow books Callie and Scott Forester
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain! - In the first episode of the series Veronica tells Lisa not to tell Stevie or Carole about a pager she implanted under Comanche's saddle. Lisa does and not only saves Stevie and Comanche from nasty injuries, but brings the Saddle Club together.
- One of the Boys - Stevie has four brothers, plays football, spits, and does nothing girly except riding.
- Overprotective Dad - Carole's father sometimes fits this bill. He lost his wife a long time ago, and was also a colonel in the army, which can lead to being rather strict at times. But he also bought his daughter a horse, so all's good.
- A mother variant, Lisa's mother fits this bill. In Herdbound, she tries to send Lisa to boarding school so her grades will come back up.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! - Lisa, Carole and Stevie decide to kidnap Prancer in the middle of the night because she was being abused by David McCloud and from going to the slaughter house. The Irony? In the books themselves, David McCloud is a kind man who helps run the local animal shelter.
- Series Continuity Error - Lisa has gotten the chicken pox at least twice, each time acting as though she never had it before. See Negative Continuity above.
- Spared by the Adaptation - Pepper was put down in the book 'Autumn Trial' after he was put out to pasture. But in the episode 'The Home Straight', Pepper was bought by Bud and looked after.
- In the Pine Hollow series, Delilah dies from the Equine Virus and Prancer dies while giving birth to twins. Neither of them die in the TV show, though Delilah isn't seen or mentioned after season 1, and Prancer never becomes a mother.
- She Cleans Up Nicely - Said about Stevie, the resident tomboy.
- Sheep in Sheep's Clothing - Chelsea Smith is this in Bloodlines.
- Shipper on Deck - Carole and Lisa were this for Stevie x Phil in seasons 1 and 2. Also, Stevie and Carole were this for Lisa's odd crush here and there.
- More of them in the Pine Hollow series (not entirely surprising given the characters' increased ages). Stevie/Phil is too well-established for anyone to pay attention, but Stevie is this for Lisa/Alex, Callie when Lisa starts dating Scott, both Stevie and Lisa for Carole/Cam (at least until Cam turns out to be a creep). In the minor character department, Carole, Stevie, Lisa, and Phil are all very much in favor of their friend AJ's relationship at the beginning of the series.
- Shrunk in the Wash: In Show Ponies Part 1 Ashley rode Comanche. Veronica gave Ashley her coat after it shrunk in the wash since it wouldn't fit her anymore.
- Spoiled Sweet - Desi Beggins is almost as rich as Veronica and Kristi, if not more so. Yet she gets along well with everyone regardless of this, and according to Melanie and Jess 'she gives smiles, hugs and love, she's not like Veronica at all'.
- Token Minority - Carole, who is black.
- Tomboyish Name - Stevie; her given name is Stephanie but she refuses to let anyone call her that.
- Wherethe Hell Is Springfield? - Valley Vista, where Callie and Scott Forester moved from is said to be on the West Coast, though it wasn't mention what state it was in
- Wild Teen Party - Happens in the Pine Hollow books. Stevie's brother accidentally leaves beer in the basement.
- Younger Than They Look - One of the later books has Lisa flirting with a college student who somehow mistakes her, an eighth grader, for a high school senior. She doesn't bother to correct him.
- The actual would-be boyfriend is a high school student, and he knows how old she is. But he hangs out with a much older crowd, and when they mistake Lisa's comment "I'll be a freshman next year" as referring to college instead of high school, she fears they'll reject her if they find out how young she is. (Though it turns out she might have been better off for it.)