DiscoverMiddle Grade

Always a Champion

By

Not for me 😔

A plain little horse keeps her dream in sight even as the world refuses to see her for who she truly is.

Synopsis

Lucy has big dreams and she’s determined to reach them, but what can a plain little horse do to get noticed in a world that values beauty? Secretly, she worries that the world will never notice her, and she tries desperately to stand out, but it’s never quite enough. Every time life takes a turn it seems to pull her farther from her dream, and doubt settles deeper into her heart. Lucy knows if she wants to make it to her “happily every after,” she must face her fear, hold onto hope, and trust that no matter what happens, she will always be a champion.

Life is challenging when one fails to fit a predictable mold. In this second installment of the Cardinal Farm series by Tiffany Reese, Lucy the plain little mare struggles to find her place in the world. As a filly, she tries to convince the bevy of humans around her that she is more talented than the other horses, even if they have more dynamic coloring. Her mother encourages Lucy to keep working hard and following her dreams, even when things seem hopeless. So, Lucy practices harder than the others, determined to become the best show horse she can be. Initially, her practice pays off as she is sold for more than Jeffrey, the most handsome but least well behaved colt from her farm. At her new home, Lucy is trained by a man named Jason who looks past her outward appearance to see the princess inside. However, when the farm goes bankrupt just before her debut performance, Lucy watches her dream evaporate. She is sold to another farm and then another, ultimately being bred instead of shown. Despite the setbacks, Lucy maintains a sliver of hope; when her new owner Peggy least expects it, Lucy demonstrates what she is capable of. It is easy to feel inadequate in a world where looks are prized over talent. This story about Lucy the horse is much like the experience of many young girls who may feel they lack traditional beauty but have much to offer the world. Written in short sentences and chapters, this book is ideally suited to readers who are beginning to become comfortable reading chapter books independently. Though punctuation, design, and usage errors pepper the book, the story proceeds relatively smoothly from beginning to end. Lucy encounters much tribulation; every time she settles into one space, it seems, she is thrust into another. This feels jarring at times as there is very little development of the plot, but Lucy’s determination remains a common thread throughout the story. By the end, readers are rooting for Lucy to persevere and receive her coveted trophy. Young female readers who enjoy horses will appreciate this reminder that what truly matters in life is found on the inside.


Grades 1-3

Reviewed by

My career has focused on children’s literature, primarily, but I have a love for YA books, too. I began reviewing books in 2015, since which time I have had over 500 published reviews!

I primarily write reviews, but will create video reviews like this upon request: https://youtu.be/9MQx-u_NFI8

Synopsis

Lucy has big dreams and she’s determined to reach them, but what can a plain little horse do to get noticed in a world that values beauty? Secretly, she worries that the world will never notice her, and she tries desperately to stand out, but it’s never quite enough. Every time life takes a turn it seems to pull her farther from her dream, and doubt settles deeper into her heart. Lucy knows if she wants to make it to her “happily every after,” she must face her fear, hold onto hope, and trust that no matter what happens, she will always be a champion.

Lucy was born for greatness. Her father was known all over the country as a champion western pleasure horse. Her mother, Star, had numerous state titles, and her siblings were making their names known in show rings all over the area. Lucy’s dream was bigger. She was laser focused on being, not just a champion, but a world champion. Hardly a thought went through her mind that didn’t involve ribbons, trophies, and silver accented saddles. She was determined to make her name known.

The filly seemed ready to take over the world, but in the deepest darkest part of her heart lurked the fear that it could all be taken away because people wouldn’t notice her. Lucy was a common reddish brown from the tip of her ears to the tip of her tail except for one white star on her forehead that would be covered as soon as her forelock fully grew in. “I have to work harder than anyone else because I blend into the dirt,” she complained to her mother. Lucy often chose to practice while the other foals played because she felt she had prove herself better than any of them. 

Nothing her mother said could ease the fear. Lucy had a keen eye and sharp mind that wouldn’t be fooled. She could see the bold and unique colors of the other foals, and she knew the people watched them a little longer than they ever watched her. She did her best to ignore this fear and keep it hidden, but it always seemed to rise back up in her mind.


****


“Are you ready to go to the weanling pasture tomorrow, Lucy?” Star nuzzled the filly by her side. “Of course I am!” Lucy’s eyes were bright as she looked at her mother. “I am, and always will be a champion.”  

“Yes, but what else do you have to remember?”  

“Work hard and stay focused.”

“And?”

“Don’t give up hope, but Mama, I don’t need to hope because I already know I’m the best.”

“We both know you’re the best, Lucy, but humans decide our fate and sometimes we end up having to wait for our dreams or change them completely.”

Lucy sighed. “I know, Mama, but they just HAVE to see I’m the best. I don’t want to do anything else.” Her eyes pleaded for reassurance and Star couldn’t break the filly’s heart. Lucy was the most talented baby Star had ever seen, but she knew not many buyers would look past Lucy’s plain chestnut body because, unfortunately, too many people seemed to care more about looks than talent. As she looked at her filly on the last night they would be together, Star hoped Lucy’s focus and determination would carry her through any disappointments she might face in life and said, “I’m sure everyone will know your name one day.” Lucy beamed with pride and promised to help the other babies be brave the next morning.

It was late and Lucy was tired, but she just couldn’t go to sleep. She was nervous and excited and her eyes refused to stay closed. “Mama, will you tell me one more bedtime story? Please?” “Alright, one story, but then get some sleep.” “Yes, Mama.” Lucy settled down into the straw and listened to her mother.

“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess pony.”

“Why are the princess ponies always beautiful, Mama? Why don’t they ever look like me?”

“Because all horses are beautiful, Lucy.”

“No one says I’m beautiful. The princess ponies all have jet black hair, or golden coats, or perfect dapples. I’m just brown. Princesses are never just plain old sorrels or chestnuts.”

“Well, this one is. This one has a coat that shines like a copper penny in the sun and a long brown mane and tail that ripple in the breeze.”

“Mine are short.”

“They’ll grow, now just listen.”

“Yes, Mama.”

“So, the beautiful princess pony was also very smart, kind, and brave. She was supposed to be queen over all the other ponies in the land, but an evil donkey was jealous because the ponies loved the princess so much.”

“Are all donkey’s evil, Mama?”

“No, not all of them, but this one was, now let me finish the story.” 

“Okay, Mama, but don’t make the donkey too evil.”

“I won’t. The donkey was a witch and tricked the princess pony into leaving her castle. Then, the donkey hid the princess in a far away pasture hoping the other ponies would forget about her. The princess was very sad and lonely for a long time. Her mane got tangled and the donkey chewed her tail off so short the princess could barely swat flies. But the good princess never gave up hope. Year after year she waited, looking for any sign of rescue or escape. She was never hungry or thirsty, but she longed to be queen and wondered if she would ever get out of her prison.  

"One day a human happened upon the hidden pasture. The donkey brayed and kicked and tried to chase the human away, but the human had an apple and easily distracted the evil donkey. The human didn’t know the pony was a princess. She was dirty and scruffy, but she carried herself with grace and he was drawn to her gentle eyes.  

"The human led the pony through the enchanted gate and as she passed through, the dirt and mud fell from her coat and she again shined in the sun. The tangles in her mane released and her tail grew until it touched the ground. The human closed the gate trapping the donkey in the hidden pasture forever, and the princess returned to her land where she became a beloved queen. She allowed the human to stay because of his good deed and everyone, except the donkey, lived happily ever after.”

Lucy smiled as her eyes gently closed. “Goodnight, Mama. I love you.” Star blew gently on the filly’s face. “Goodnight, Lucy. I love you too little princess.”


About the author

Tiffany Reese grew up showing quarter horses in Texas. She took a break from horses for 25 years before jumping back in to share their magic with her family. She has always had a love of writing and looks forward to sharing more of her stories in the future. view profile

Published on September 24, 2020

10000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by

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