Blog Tour: Wonder Horse | Anita Daher
Today I am very happy to be a part of the official blog tour for 'Wonder Horse' by Anita Daher. I am excited to tell you that we have been allowed to post an excerpt from the book which you can read down below.
Fitting into a new school in a new city isn’t easy, but dreams come true for Sera with a gift from her parents: a gorgeous and spirited American Paint horse. Sera’s bubble bursts when a mean girl, Brittany, tells her that neither she nor her less than well-trained horse belong with the rest of the “reiners” in their riding class. As Sera sets out to prove Brittany wrong, she risks losing her passion for training and the friendship of Dev, another girl who truly understands her.
Wager pokes his nose through the slats and blows soft warm breath against my offered palm. It tickles, but I stay steady and bring my own nose to his. We share breath as if we were both horses, meeting in a field. He smells like grassy goodness. I look into his big, wet eyes and swear I see a smile. He sighs and goes back to nibbling clover inside his pen. “You really bought him?”
Dad laughs. “Perhaps we need to take Sera to an ear doctor, Brygida.”
“I think her ears are in shock, Brunyon.” Mom turns to me. “You go ahead and ride. Your father and I have details to sort out with Clint.”
Wager calls to his buddies as we pass by the big pens where mamas and geldings graze, and a handful of colts and fillies frolic. Like most horse babies, they were born in the spring. Wager was a September baby, which makes him extra special because he’s a little smaller than the other three-year-olds. Another late-bloomer.
I smell the dampness of the earth and appreciate the warmth of Wager’s body radiating through my jeans. I settle into the saddle and enjoy its rhythmic creak as this beautiful boy—my beautiful boy!—keeps a steady pace. A golden beam from the setting sun hits me full in the eyes, and it feels like we are walking into another world. We might as well be. I know with absolute certainty that in this moment, my life is forever changed. It is joined with another, this incredible friend, my horsy partner, Wager. A thrill buzzes up and down my spine as I wonder what adventures we might have together.
Mom calls in the distance. “Seraaaa!”
I look toward her. The fields of alfalfa stubble have suddenly acquired a pink and orange glow, except for places where giant bales leave long shadows. We’re about to lose the day’s light.
While I stand beside Wager, stroking his soft, soft neck, he licks out his food trough like a puppy dog. He finishes and twists his head around to snuffle me, then shifts in his stall until he’s facing me. I marvel at how he’s careful not to bump me. Dani’s training has been good for both of us. “You’re a good boy,” I say, and he nods his head once up, and once down, which makes me laugh. “Ohh . . . I think you want a treat.” I give him a piece of carrot from my pocket, and he closes his eyes and crunches, as if it is the second best food he’s ever tasted.
I get an idea.
Wager keeps his eyes glued on me as I pull another piece of carrot from my pocket, and press it against my cheek. “Kiss!” I say. “Give me a kiss.”
Wager reaches for the carrot. As soon as his nose touches my cheek, I pull my face away, give him the carrot, and tell him he’s a good boy. I do it again and again. After five tries, I don’t even need to hold the carrot against my face. He understands, and I feel happiness run all the way through me, from my nose to my toes. “You really are a trick pony.”
A soft creak behind me makes me jump. I turn and see Brittany leaning against the stall door. “Don’t let Dani see you do that.”
She shrugs. “At best she’ll think it’s stupid. At worst she’ll think it’ll lead to bad habits. Either way she won’t like it.”
“We’re just having fun.”
Brittany studies Wager, and a line appears between her eyebrows, like the one Mom gets when she’s reading, or when she’s talking to me and really wants me to listen. She shakes her head. “The only thing that counts is what happens in the arena.”
“Wager is smart. He could be a champion . . . .”
Brittany gives me the same look as that day in the lunch room—like I’m from another world. “That’s not what his pedigree says, but maybe he’ll surprise us.” She flips her ponytail and walks away, while my big flood of happy dries into dust.
From the moment I agreed to compete in the winter show, I have lived, breathed, and sometimes even eaten barn dust. Two weeks into it, I feel like I’ve crawled up and down a mountain on my hands and knees. I have never been so tired—or so saddle sore! Nat and Brit pick me up every night right after supper. We groom, ride, groom again, then I’m home doing homework.
I give Dev a sleepy smile from across the cafeteria room table. We’ve started eating in the caf instead of the art room at my insistence. I suggested Dev treat it as a social experiment—or more fodder for life drawing. Today, I’m thinking lunch would be better on the couch in the office. Lying down. Last night I was so beat that I fell asleep while talking on the phone with Dev, of which she is taking great pleasure in reminding me.
“Do it again and I’ll do a subliminal thing,” she teases. “I’ll give you all the wrong answers for your Social Studies exam.”
“I’ll say them over and over and over and they’ll imprint in your brain. Think how impressed Mrs. S. will be when you write your essay question on how World War I started over a Scrabble game gone bad.”
I grin. “The way you play, that’s almost believable.”
Suddenly, Brittany is there. “Come to the library, Sera,” she says, offering a bright smile. “I’ll show you some reining patterns so you’ll know what to expect in the show.”
This is about the last thing I want to do right now, but the Snow Slide will be here before I know it—just two and a half more weeks! I’m grateful that Brittany has been so nice about helping me. It’s as if just because I said I would do the show, I’m suddenly worth talking to. It’s kind of fun, actually, because Brittany hangs with a more popular crowd at school. It’s not that I want to be one of them, but . . . I don’t know. I can’t really explain it. “Okay.” I turn to Dev. “You want to come?”
Dev opens her mouth to answer, but before she does, Brittany rushes, “She’ll only be bored.” Then she loops her arm in mine, and steers me toward the door.
I look over my shoulder and mouth “sorry” to Dev. She shrugs and waves a hand like she wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with someone like Brittany. But I think I see something else in her eyes and feel a pang of guilt.
As we walk our horses toward the arena door, I see Brittany watching us, and she doesn’t look happy. Talk about jealous! As usual, her mare flattens her ears at Wager. That mare might benefit from Mom and Dad’s lecture on actions and reactions.
“Dani,” Brittany calls, “have you seen some of the other things Wager can do?”
“What do you mean?” Dani asks.
“Yeah, what do you mean?” I echo.
“He’s a good looking horse,” she says. “Flashy.”
She looks at me, as if expecting me to say something. Like what? I’m way too surprised.
“Since they’re going to be at the winter show anyway, why don’t they enter a showmanship class?”
Dani cocks her head to the side. “I wonder,” she says. “Sera, what do you think?”
I’ve watched showmanship classes in Calgary. It wouldn’t be like our lesson. Wager would have to be groomed to look like a million bucks—not a problem for my boy—and must respond instantly to my cues to walk, trot or halt. He’d also have to stand still for very long periods of time.
“Honestly? I don’t think he’s patient enough.”
“Well let’s see,” she says. “Go ahead and walk a small circle with him.”
I feel like today’s lesson has been three-in-one! We walk, trot, stop, and start and backup on Dani’s cues. Finally she calls us in. “I think you’ll do fine if you’d like to try it,” she says. “Good idea, Brittany.”
“No problem,” Brittany says, and I see a strange glint in her eyes. “Wager’s a good boy.” She looks at him. “Aren’t you. Wager? Such a good boy!”
I’m so busy thinking about the show that I don’t notice how closely Wager is listening to Brittany. I catch on just in time to watch Wager offer a vigorous “yes” head-bob, which unfortunately catches Dani’s chin on the upswing.
“Son of a gun!” she shouts after a sharp cry of pain. She’s holding her chin, but manages to look at me and spit out, “What is that?”
“A trick,” I say, my voice small.
She shakes her head. “Bad idea, Sera. Does he always do that when someone tells him he’s a good boy?”
“Pretty much,” I say. “You have to be looking at him.”
“And what if a showmanship judge tells him the same thing?” She lets go of her jaw and gives her head a roll, as if to work out the kinks, and I get the sense she’s not really waiting for me to answer. Her chin is red where Wager whacked her. “I’m not confident that we can train that out of him in one week. Stick to reining this time around, Sera. We’ll work on showmanship another time.” She turns and—muttering the whole way—leads Spike out of the arena.
“Why did you do that, Brittany?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, smirking. “Clearly, Wager is a special boy, but that doesn’t mean he can be good at everything.” She sniffs. “You don’t have to show him, you know. He’s a nice riding horse. Why don’t you stick with that?”
My heart and every bit of happy I had in me drops to the arena floor. I don’t know what I did to turn Brittany against us, but it’s pretty clear she doesn’t want us in her world.
We’ll show her, Wager. We’ve got to.
I stroke Wager’s nose. Brittany’s right about one thing. He is a nice riding horse. We used to have so much fun together. When exactly did riding stop being fun?
About The Author:
Anita Daher has been entrenched in the book publishing industry since 1995, writing middle grade and teen novels, including fan favourites Spider's Song, Two Foot Punch and Racing for Diamonds. Living in an ADHD dominated household has influenced the stories she writes, and her presentations, which are geared toward captivating those who are "attention different." In 2007 she received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Author. Aside from short stints as grave-plot seller, tour guide, and children's party clown, she's worked in aviation, publishing, and broadcasting. When not word wrangling she enjoys inhabiting characters on stage and screen.
Link to Goodreads:
Giveaway Information: Winner will be drawn June 26, 2015
· Two (2) winners will received a physical copy of Wonder Horse by Anita Daher (US/Canada)
· Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Wonder Horse by Anita Daher (INT)