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Mystery May
The Mystery of the Missing Riding Crop

The Mystery of the Missing Riding Crop
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.21

     challenging words:    sheepskin, stallion, extension, gingerly, mischievous, shorthaired, wizened, mounted, canter, normally, fluid, fearsome, sneaky, warning, investigate, arena

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The Mystery of the Missing Riding Crop
By Colleen Messina

1     Shamrock Stable's indoor arena was fairly quiet as Tiffany prepared to warm up her horse before a riding lesson. The indoor arena was empty except for Tiffany, Cisco, and two playful barn kittens rolling around in the dust. The shafts of golden afternoon sunlight would have been lovely, except that they were clouded by dust particles rising from the arena floor.
2     One kitten had long, fluffy fur and a white bib at her neck, which had inspired her name -- Tuxedo. The other, a shorthaired gray kitten, had a face that looked slightly smashed and wizened, almost like a little old man. He was called Yoda, and he was a clever little cat. The kittens ferociously chased a seemingly dangerous lead rope and attacked an apparently fearsome grooming brush. They acted as though they had each just lapped up an energy drink!
3     Tuxedo and Yoda tried to get too close to Cisco's hooves while Tiffany was saddling up. The normally gentle mare gingerly stomped to give them a warning. They soon learned their lesson. The frisky, friendly felines decided to occupy themselves by attacking the two slender black riding crops that were next to the grooming bag by the arena gate. Tiffany mounted Cisco to do some warm-up work.
4     Tiffany was an English rider, and gentle taps with those crops helped Cisco during lessons. The crops were an extension of Tiffany's body to show her horse where to move. The end result of an English rider correctly using the crops is that the horse is able to respond better to light leg pressure and is more in tune with its rider.
5     "Hey, Tif," called Annie. "How much warming up have you done?"
6     "I did some walking and trot work but no cantering yet," said Tiffany.
7     Annie was Tiffany's English riding teacher and had just arrived at the arena. On this cold November day, she wore a thick sheepskin coat as well as a colorfully striped wool cap and matching gloves. Winter came early to Montana, and the mountains were already sugar-dusted with snow. Cold blasts of wind whistled through the rafters. One end of the arena had a metal gate that led to a long corridor of the stable. On each side of the corridor, horses stood in stalls, listening to the blaring country music and nibbling on crispy piles of hay.
8     Annie set up four small orange cones around the arena. She explained that going around in a square was a good precision exercise. Tiffany and Cisco rode around the cones, and then they worked on some transitions. The most challenging one for them was going right from a walk to a canter. This move required concentration and a conscious connection between the rider and the horse. Tiffany tried this harder move several times before having success. Then she felt as though she was flying around the arena with a smooth, fluid motion as Cisco gracefully arched her neck and snorted.
9     "There!" said Annie as she began to clap. "That was perfect! Give her a good pat as a reward. Did you notice how that felt? Your muscle memory of that move will help you do it right away next time. Now let's get out your crops."

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