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Literature / The Saddle Club

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Yes, that is the 82nd book in the series. There were 22 more.
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.
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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 owns a horse named Starlight beginning in Book 13. Stevie is a tomboy; raised with three brothers, she's more comfortable with the guys than the girls. Riding is about the only "girly" activity she enjoys. Partway through the series, her parents buy her a horse that she names 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. Her parents occasionally bring up the possibility of buying a horse for her, but for one reason or another it never comes to fruition.

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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 larger roles in the Pine Hollow books.
    • Emily Williams too in the earlier Pine Hollow books, since she's the one helping Callie with her therapeutic riding after Callie's accident.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. Several books revolve around what can happen if you don't take proper care of the horse (or sometimes just through pure bad luck), 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.
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  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Technically, Carole has black hair, but Stevie is blonde and Lisa is a redhead, so the rest fits.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Toyed with. Throughout the final Pine Hollow book, several potential fire hazards are introduced: a stablehand who won't stop smoking on the job, a snobby girl's fancy, electric-powered water bucket, some construction occurring on the property. At the book's climax, the entire barn burns down, but it's never revealed which of the aforementioned hazards was responsible. In fact, it's not even made clear that any of them were; for all the reader knows, the fire could have had another cause altogether.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Deconstructed with Carole and Cam in Pine Hollow. Carole sees their rekindled relationship as this, but Cam has become a jerk in the intervening years and doesn't really care about Carole; he only starts dating her because he wants to sleep with her.
    • Played straight with Phil and Stevie.
  • Darker and Edgier: In keeping with the increased ages of the characters, the non-horse related plots in Pine Hollow tend to be a lot more serious and higher-stakes than anything that showed up in the original Saddle Club, including arcs around alcoholism, stalking, and post-traumatic stressnote , just to name a few.
  • Downer Ending: The Pine Hollow series ends with Pine Hollow burning down, resulting in the deaths of five horses.
  • 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.
  • Jerk Jock: Cam in the Pine Hollow series.
  • Junior High: The girls are in seventh and eighth grade (and never age, despite going on many, many summer vacations).
  • Left Hanging: In the final Pine Hollow book, it's never revealed what started the fire; whether it was Maureen's smoking, Kelsey's electric water bucket, the construction, or something else altogether.
  • Lethal Chef: Stevie in the TV series. In The Saddle Club, Carole compares Stevie's cookies to hockey pucks.
    • This seems to be averted with Stevie's chocolate chip muffins though. In the episode Herdbound, she gives some to Lisa as a going away present.
    • Zig-zagged in one book where Lisa and Stevie are learning to cook over a school break (Lisa to get a leg up on her home ec classes, and Stevie just because she thinks it sounds fun). They do pretty well for the most part, but at one point they decide to attempt some recipes that are a bit too advanced for them. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Mathematician's Answer: In one episode of the TV series, after Stevie spills soda on a shirt she "borrowed" from her brother without his permission.
    Stevie: What do you do with soda?
    Carole: (deadpan) Most people drink it.
  • Missing Mom: Carole's mother passed away before the beginning of the books.
  • 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.
  • No Ending: The final book in the Pine Hollow series just...stops in the immediate aftermath of the climax, without any real resolution. It would be an abrupt ending if it was for a book in the middle of the series, let alone for the series finale.
  • One of the Boys: Stevie has three brothers, plays football, spits, and does nothing girly except riding.
    • The book Sidesaddle has Stevie attempting to avert this trope after she becomes jealous of a fellow rider who is very girly. From everyone else's point of view, it's just plain bizarre. (In the end, Stevie realizes how silly she's being and everything goes back to normal.)
    • Subverted in a couple of books involving school dances and the like. Turns out Stevie does have a girly side.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In one of the specials, Stevie takes a blow to the head and is acting out of sorts, which concerns Carole and Lisa a little bit, but only a little. Then they buy her one of her signature strange ice cream sundaes and Stevie gags upon tasting it, asking who would be crazy enough to want that; now her friends are worried for real.
  • 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.
  • Pet Heir: In Million Dollar Horse Pine Hollow boards a mare whose deceased owner put the bulk of her multi-million dollar fortune into a trust with the mare as the sole beneficiary. Justified to some extent given that keeping and caring for a horse is much more expensive than keeping an ordinary pet, and this particular mare is too old to sell; the owner just wanted to ensure that the mare would be well cared for instead of being dumped somewhere to be neglected. It doesn't hurt either that the owner's only living human relative, her nephew, was a jerk who stuck around for the sole purpose of getting his hands on her money and who spends most of the book trying to find a non-obvious way to shorten the mare's life so he can inherit as much and as soon as possible (he gets whatever's left in the trust after the mare dies), so nobody has much sympathy for him.
  • 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 books, Delilah dies from an incurable virus, and in the Pine Hollow series, Prancer dies of complications after becoming pregnant with twins. Neither of them die in the TV show, though Delilah isn't seen or mentioned after season 1.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Said about Stevie, the resident tomboy, on the somewhat rare occasion that she dresses up.
  • 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, and both Stevie and Lisa for Carole/Cam (at least until Cam turns out to be a creep). Stevie and Lisa are a little more hesitant about Carole/Ben (following Carole's breakup with Cam), but Callie is on board right away, and the other two eventually come around after seeing how well Carole and Ben get along.
    • 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, 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'.
    • In the books, Lisa befriends a girl named Tessa while on vacation with her family in England, after Tessa is thrown from her horse. Tessa turns out to be literal royalty, but she's kind and down-to-earth in all of her subsequent appearances.
      • On the same vacation, Lisa also encounters one of the Italian boys who had visited Pine Hollow in an earlier book, who invites Lisa and her parents to stay at his family's house when he learns the hotel lost their reservation. Said "house" turns out to be one step down from a palace. Lampshaded in a later book, when one of the girls comments, "I never would have figured him for a zillionaire, he's so normal."
  • Stalker with a Crush: Callie has one in the Pine Hollow series, a fellow rider named George Wheeler. It starts as just a regular, if slightly intense, crush, but in later books he starts increasingly crossing the line, constantly showing up wherever she happens to be, peeking through windows at her house, and even trying to engineer a situation on the trail where she'd have no choice but to accept his "help" (this one backfires when he ends up getting himself knocked unconscious in the process). In the penultimate book, she finally has the realization of how not okay his behavior is and tells him off, which he responds to by cornering her in her horse's stall and trying to forcibly kiss her. After this incident, she reports the stalking and gets a restraining order against him; the final book reveals that his family abruptly moved out of town after the order was filed, much to Callie's relief.
  • Token Minority: Carole, who is black.
  • Tomboyish Name: Stevie; her given name is Stephanie but she refuses to let anyone call her that.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: In the original Saddle Club series, Carole's sort-of-boyfriend Cam is a nice boy who they get along with pretty well. In Pine Hollow, he's turned into a complete Jerk Jock; he dumps Carole because she won't have sex with him, and she later learns that he was dating another girl before the breakup. Stevie specifically has this thought when Carole tells her what happened.
  • Where the 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 high school boy who brings her to hang out with his friends. When they ask what year in school she's in, she tells them that she'll "be a freshman", which they take to mean college rather than high school. She almost corrects them, but decides not to because she wanted to fit in and didn't want them to see her as some little kid. Somehow not one of them ever thinks that she looks a little young to be a senior in high school.

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