Scholastic Canada: Heartland

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Heartland #1: Coming Home

In the rolling hills of northeastern Virginia, Marion Fleming, "the horse lady," works her magic at Heartland, a rescue home for horses, ponies, and donkeys. Horses come here to be healed and to have the scars of the past lifted away.

Amy grinned. She liked that line. She read on:

Marion Fleming, once one of the world's finest female show jumpers, started Heartland following the breakup of her marriage twelve years ago. A fall at the show-jumping World Championships left her husband, British show jumper Tim Fleming, in a wheelchair and unable to ride again. The couple separated soon after.

Frowning, Amy quickly read over the rest of the paragraph. It was about her father's accident. He had been the favorite to win the gold medal. Racing against the clock, he had steered his horse, Pegasus, too sharply to the last fence. Unable to take off properly, Pegasus had caught the top rail of the jump between his legs and had come crashing down, landing on his rider. Tim Fleming had been temporarily paralyzed in the fall.

Uncomfortable feelings prickled through Amy. She had only been three at the time and didn't have any clear memories of the accident or the aftermath when her father, unable to cope with his injuries, had abandoned them. Her first real memories were at Heartland, her grandpa's home, where she and her mom had eventually come to live with Pegasus. Her eyes skipped over the words in front of her. It was a relief to read that the next paragraph focused on Heartland again:

With its thirty stalls, Heartland is a recovery center for horses that have been rescued from dreadful neglect or physical cruelty. Horses that have been deemed dangerous and unridable or that have nowhere else to go have a chance at Heartland. In treating these horses, Marion uses a mixture of conventional veterinary medicine and other remedies she learned while nursing the great Pegasus back to physical and mental health. With patience and compassion, Marion Fleming finds ways to reach these horses. When they get better, concerted efforts are made to find each horse a new and permanent home.

The article went on to explain that Marion also treated privately owned horses with behavioral problems. Amy raced through to the end.

"What do you think?" Jack Bartlett asked when she looked up.

"It's great!" Amy exclaimed, her bad mood forgotten. "It makes Mom sound totally amazing. We'll have loads of people who want to bring their horses here!" She jumped to her feet.

"Now, Amy, don't go counting your chickens."

But Amy shrugged off his practical words. Excitement bubbled through her. "Has Mom seen it?" she asked eagerly.

"Not yet," Grandpa replied.

"I've got to go show her!" Amy said.

She pulled on her sneakers and raced to the yard, hoping that her mom would have finished with Copper by now. Her mind was buzzing with ideas. The article was bound to bring them a lot more paying clients and that meant more money, which meant they could afford to help more horses. Her imagination took over. She saw a new twenty-stall barn and another horse trailer and pickup. Maybe even an indoor ring for the winter when the outdoor riding rings were often hock-deep in mud. Her biggest ambition was for Heartland to be as successful as possible. This could be just the way for that to happen!

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