Leap Of Faith
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher
Jessica Harrington is a veteran of the horse circuit, having competed since she was a child. Spurred on and trained by her ambitious father, Jessica has traded up for better mounts constantly all in pursuit of one day representing her country. Now her father and instructor is gone and Jessica is left to prepare for events alone. She has talented horses but without his input and mentoring, she finds herself questioning her choices and preparation.
When a fall at the Adelaide International Horse Trials leads to Jessica breaking her ankle, she finds herself facing a crisis of confidence. She makes a snap decision to sell her two mounts, claiming that she is retiring from the sport forever. Without her dad, she just can’t make it.
Jessica is irritated when her farmer husband, who has never been into the horses brings home a malnourished and forlorn looking mare from a clearing sale. At first she wants nothing to do with the horse, who is named Faith but yet she doesn’t see the point of her just being a paddock ornament. For Jessica, horses have a purpose and that purpose is to get you higher up the grades of competition. When she is able to ride again, Jessica is tempted into working with Faith and now that she’s stronger, finds a well trained horse with lovely gaits. But it isn’t until a terrible thunderstorm threatens the stock on the farm that Jessica comes to truly appreciate how brave and special Faith really is, if Jessica can trust herself and Faith together as a team.
I’m not a competitive rider but I like horses and my high school years were spent being friends with horsey and pony clubber types and going to watch their various T-shirt days, gymkhanas, local shows, etc. I always enjoyed watching the events and I also really like watching the equestrian at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. A couple of years ago I discovered quite a few European circuit events are televised on ESPN and I watch them when I remember they’re on. To be honest, girls like Jessica were always kind of the worst.
Jessica is a product of what seems like an overly ambitious parent who didn’t realise his own potential due to circumstances outside of his control and has now taken that and shaped his daughter to be an efficiently obedient competitive machine. Jessica seems to hold little to no opinions that aren’t a reflection of her father’s and most of those tend to be pretty elitist. She’s derisive about her friend, who competes purely in dressage, mentally berating her for being gutless and a wimp, not having the get up and go to do cross country although she tries to temper it by claiming that she knows dressage has a point and is much more than making your horse go forward and backward. Jessica doesn’t have much respect for someone who is supposed to be her best friend, someone who competes for fun, who loves her horses and more importantly, someone who would do anything for her. In being an eventer, you’d think Jessica would be quite used to tumbles and falls – they happen at every level, the Olympics included. Instead she falls off after mistiming/judging a jump at the Horse Trials and lands in the water at the water jump. She breaks her ankle but her horse is fine. However within days she’s made the decision to sell both her horses and quit the sport forever. That seemed the reaction of a young girl having her first fall than a mature, experienced competitor. Yes her father is no longer around but if she hasn’t learned enough to make some of her own judgement and acknowledge and learn from the wrong ones then her father wasn’t all that good of a mentor. She’s so negative and down on everything, even when her husband Steve brings home a horse badly in need of TLC. She’s resentful of it – even though it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with her. He’s never been interested in her competition horses but he’s quite happy for Faith to recuperate on their farm and spend her days in leisure. Jessica doesn’t see the point of horses as pets, you buy them to get the best out of them and trade up to better ones when you’re ready.
The story does improve when Jessica begins to work with Faith and kind of pulls her head in and begins to realise that some things might be different to the way she’s always believed them to be but even her judgement about Faith after she learns a piece of information about her past does tend to read like she’s very inexperienced with horses. No one else is particularly bothered by it (most people are already aware of it) and it’s really only Jessica that freaks out about it although thankfully it’s rather short lived. I think it takes too long for Faith to arrive into the story and I would’ve liked more scenes with Jessica and her once Jessica begins to decide working with her. Instead everything almost pretty much falls into place with one lunging session and riding session even though Faith would probably have needed more work to build up her fitness again after being so emaciated when she arrived.
I think I’d have enjoyed this more if Jessica were less negative and there had been more of an emphasis on spending time establishing a bond between her and Faith, rehabilitating them both.
Book #74 of 2015
Leap Of Faith is the 28th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015