WORKING TROT by Jessie Haas
Kirkus Star


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For God's sake, he wanted to ride horses? For a career?"" With the psychological and verbal acuity that made Keeping Barney a horse-story-plus, Haas zeroes in on preppy James MacLiesh, come to the horse farm of his cousins Marion and Tom in preference to college. Also on the premises, squabbling, are two girls around James' age: Marion and Tom's daughter Gloria, ""half way in their world,"" and fellow-student/helper Jennifer, an intense, ambitious rider. James, interested in dressage, is quickly reminded that before he can train white stallion Ghazal, he has to retrain himself--seat, legs, hands. Apart from Tom's stern tutelage, he is put to studying books--but also reminded (one of the reverberating fine-points) ""that you can learn to ride wrong from books too."" James rises to the unrelenting regimen, and he and Ghazal make progress. Still, seeing Marion and Tom each crack, he realizes that ""you can't stop being a horseman just because something else was on your mind."" Seeing how little they make even when they sell a MacLiesh-trained horse for a big profit reminds him of his banker-father's objections. The house is messy, moreover, and the isolation seems monastic. Is it all worthwhile--or is it indeed trivial? As much as any, the book probes the attraction of the horse world--lightly and personally too, in James' good times and frank talks with Gloria. Only in the wind-up do the gears mesh too blatantly. James, facing down his parents, will stay on--perhaps to become Marion and Tom's partner. Gloria, avowing her interest in photographing horses, will stick around too. With Jen, they'll work-up a reading program--aided by a Dartmouth-professor/horseman. James, newly smitten, will specialize in Vermont's own Morgans: it's enough, at this point, to evoke an Amen. (It's also a little much when we hear about the deportment and diction of horsepeople.) Nonetheless top-of-the-line, engrossing reading for the most part--that might benefit from special handling as regards age: in appearance and style, it's geared to the subteen horsey set; but the characters are mature and so are the insights--at least on a par with teenage books of horse interest.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Greenwillow