Although Bold Beauty, 3rd in the Winnie the Horse Gentler series, has a few unfavorable reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I found it less objectionable in terms of horse content than the first two books.
What people in the other reviews objected to primarily is that Winnie is convinced to participate in a debate about abortion in her 7th grade class. Some of the other reviews objected to Winnie taking the pro-life side. I don't have a problem with that, as I'm extremely pro-life myself. The big question is why this was ever included in a horse book targeted for 8 to 12-year-olds?
Winnie is convinced on Friday to join the pro-life students for the debate, which is scheduled for the next day. Not sure when they practiced or prepared, if ever. The debate is covered in the last ten pages of the book. Rape and "back-alley abortions" are mentioned, also probably not anything 8-year-olds need to be concerned with. :(
From a pro-abortion student:
"What about someone who's been raped? Should she have to raise that baby? Wouldn't the child have a sad life? That's why I think the mother should choose."
Winnie considers that the best argument from the opposing team.
"It was the best argument so far from their side. I knew Barker would have something to say in rebuttal about how few pregnancies resulted from rape and about doing what was right no matter what."
But, on to the horsey details. In the first two books, Winnie is given the impossible task of training a horse in a week. In this one, I was glad to see that time was doubled. (sarcasm-still totally unrealistic) She has two weeks to train a jumper who has developed the habit of refusing at tall jumps.
The evil Spidells are mistreating a horse again at their boarding/training stable, Stable-Mart. Winnie comes to the rescue after Richard and Summer Spidell give up on the horse and suggest that the mare's owners sell her.
Bold Beauty's owners, the Howards, agree to give Winnie a chance with the horse - two weeks while they're away on their honeymoon. Since Winnie is twelve, cannot drive, and has no horse trailer, she says she will ride Beauty down the road from Stable-Mart to her home. Mackall states that the mare is 17 1/2 hands tall. Typically that would be written as 17.2. One hand being four inches. Either way, Beauty is a very tall horse.
Kids riding horses in traffic is not a good idea (where is Winnie's father?) The mare is skittish and definitely not the type to be ridden near a road, but Winnie claims she'll cure her of that problem also. Richard Spidell drives by, scares Beauty, and the mare rears and "topples over" into the ditch, but Winnie and the horse emerge unscathed and continue on their way home. p. 38
Dad, meanwhile, is working on another ridiculous invention - a "rocker powered" fan. p. 48 A fan activated by rocking a rocking chair, which Mr. Willis does furiously, to the point of sweating, at several places in the book. This portrayal of the dad as foolish really bothers me.
Pat Haven, owner of the local pet store, is teaching Winnie's life science class. Winnie calls her by her first name, Pat. Maybe I'm old-school - okay no maybes about it, I am old school. I don't like children calling adults by their first names. Catman refers to his parents by their first names also - Claire and Bart.
One thing I liked in the book is the list Winnie's mother compiled of the "Top 10 Spooky Objects for Horses." p. 56
As prey animals with a strong flight instinct, horses are afraid of what we horse owners consider the dumbest things. I can confirm all the items from her list, based on real-life experience, except for number 6 - probably only because I've never owned a plaid horse blanket. Plus, I could add several more. :)
The gist of the story is that Winnie believes the only thing keeping Beauty from jumping high jumps is a loss of confidence - for the mare and on the part of her riders. Since Winnie is confident the horse can jump, that will be conveyed to the horse - problem solved.
When Winnie attempts to jump Beauty over a five-foot hedge in her pasture, the horse doesn't clear it cleanly and stumbles on the landing. Winnie falls off, landing on her face and shoulder, resulting in a black eye and bruised arm from her shoulder to her elbow. p. 64
Winnie lies to everyone about how she got the black eye. First saying she "fell" which was a partial truth, but later saying she ran into a door.
As a result of the fall, Winnie is afraid to get back on the horse. Honestly, this is the most believable thing I've read in the first three books. Falling off a horse is a scary experience!
Winnie learns the Howards are returning early - so she only had one week to train the horse after all. They're returning the same day as the abortion debate, and Winnie hasn't ridden the horse since the fall.
That Saturday morning, Mr. Willis says of his rocker invention, "God sends me a perfect breeze without even trying." p. 147
That's the inspiration Winnie needed.
"That's it! Dad, you're a genius!" My dad had just given me the missing piece to my confidence puzzle. And I was sure he had no idea that I needed it! Maybe I couldn't lick that hedge, but God could. p. 147
Mackall likes exclamation points. :)
This time I was riding double. God was there in the rhythm of the hoofbeats, the breath of Bold Beauty. p. 152
Winnie and Beauty clear the hedge jump multiple times in a demonstration for the Spidells and the Howards. If only training/riding horses were that easy.
The final, brief chapter was encouraging. A positive scene bringing Winnie and her father closer - initiated by Winnie of course, but it did make me smile.