Pine Hollow: A Magic Space For Education

Bonnie Bryant, author of the Saddle Club books, has created a magic space for education:  Pine Hollow.  Surrounded by horses and vast fields, this space is truly what Ukrainian educator, Vasilii Sukhomlinsky called the school”under the blue sky.”  It is interesting to note that Russians have two words for education:  “vospitanie”(upbringing, but a better translation would be moral and social education, and “obrazovanie”(formal education.)  It is clearly the former that has the most significance at Pine Hollow.  However, a few situations concerning formal education do occur:  Lisa Atwood’s problems with geography and her mother’s threat to expel her from her riding classes at Pine Hollow Stables if her grades don’t approve, and Lisa Atwood’s advice to Rafael the gypsy to complete his school work so he can compete better in the “real world.”  But there is no joy in formal education here.  It is simply a requirement one must reconcile oneself to.  On the other hand, the unforced learning that comes from experiences at Pine Hollow is often a source of joy and wonder.  The teachers not only include the people that supervise Pine Hollow, but nature itself:  the expansive fields, the creeks, the mines, and surrounding wildlife.  The girls learn the importance of chores by mucking out stables and taking care of horses.  The girls learn to be more sensitive to other people’s feelings as well, which includes the often commanding, condescending Veronica di Angelo.  In essence, all the adolescents of Pine Hollow are taking steps towards learning”how to care, and be cared for”, a tenet from Stanford educator, Nel Noddings, so they can be wise and understanding parents in the years to come.  The girls are also learning how to express and recognize the different aspects of their personalities.  According to Rod Newton, Director of Hidden Springs Wellness Center in Ashland, Oregon, a healthy human being needs to come to grips with the different characteristics that make up his/her personality.  In the episode, Scooter encourages Veronica to do just that.  Veronica tries to behave like an adult and refers with derision to the “juvenile nature of The Saddle Club.”  She struts around with an impatient air of importance giving orders(like an adult.)  But her attitude causes her to be isolated and inwardly unhappy.  Scooter challenges Veronica to look into herself, and not suppress the carefree, playful child, which is also a part of her.  Throughout the series we witness Veronica’s struggles, climaxing in an intense inner dialogue.  Scooter’s probing question, “What is it you really want, Veronica?” reminds all of us to focus on what is truly meaningful in our lives.

When Opposites Do Not Attract: Veronica di Angelo Meet Lisa Atwood

When Veronica di Angelo and Lisa Atwood meet for the first time there is a clash of opposite personalities; Veronica is domineering, coldly analytical, concerned with power, and sarcastic, while Lisa is gentle,  guided by her feelings, willing to share, and sensitive to the feelings of others.  The writers and directors of Saddle Club Series 2 were astute enough to recognize the drama in the confrontation of capable actresses Heli Simpson and Lara Jean Marshall.  Therefore, much to our delight, Lisa and Veronica confront each other in several episodes. It is a tribute to the ability of Heli Simpson that Veronica can change in an instant from a domineering, commanding teenager to a clinging, whining, wheedling Daddy’s girl.   Veronica is probably given some of the best, most memorable lines, which Heli Simpson delivers with brio, a malicious, self-satisfied smile, and mocking eyes.  Lara Jean’s beautiful, questioning eyes are also not neglected by the camera, nor is the girlish smile she often can’t suppress. Together Veronica and Lisa spark off some of the most intense verbal and facial fireworks in the series.  As the series evolves, Veronica changes gradually as she begins to reveal hidden qualities such as warmth and understanding, and Lisa grows in confidence and riding ability.  At the end, the two diverse personalities of Veronica di Angelo and Lisa Atwood, reach an understanding that comes from maturity.

Veronica di Angelo And Her Struggle For Perfection

Veronica di Angelo is nonplussed when things go awry in her life.  In one episode she attributes her misfortune to is superstition.  More specifically, a curse.  She believes that nothing will go right with her until the curse is removed.  This belief hearkens back to ancient times, representing a primal fear of chaos.  Mrs. Reg advises Veronica”to save perfection for heaven, for you certainly won’t find it here.”  It is only when Veronica accepts her circumstances that her life returns to normal.  The situation is surely an instance of Barry Stevens’s famous saying,”Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.”  The Saddle Club, though decidedly a program for young teenage girls, contains many nuggets of wisdom such as the one above.

Lisa Atwood As Mother Figure In The Saddle Club

Of the three adolescent girls that form The Saddle Club, it is Lisa Atwood who is the mother figure.  She is the one who is constantly looking out for others, even when they don’t want her to.  Lisa is guided by a strong love of horses and compassion for human beings. She attempts to gain the trust and love of an abused horse that everyone, including her own friends, consider hopeless, and succeeds!  She also has the courage and will to follow her maternal instinct no matter where it leads her, and it sometimes leads her into trouble!  Lisa asks people about their past so that she can learn how to help them.  She is acutely aware of people’s feelings and the members of the Pine Hollow family have deep affection for her.  When Lisa is lying in a coma in the hospital after suffering a severe concussion, her friends from Pine Hollow come to express their feelings, including the often cold, condescending, Veronica di Angelo.  When she does waken, she encourages Phil to discuss his problems with Stevie with her, even though she was near death!  The beautiful, understanding, and highly expressive eyes of actress Lara Jean Marshall add much to our perception of Lisa Atwood.  In her we can truly see the mother that is, and the mother that will be.

A Daily Dose Of Veronica di Angelo? It Just Might Work.

Veronica di Angelo, the overbearing, conceited, self-absorbed, and highly intelligent member of Pine Hollow, might offer the proper medicine for girls with low self-esteem.  A daily dose of Veronica’s qualities diluted in water could supply the necessary strength and polish to boost any girl’s self image.  Veronica is a doer, and never lets any doubts interfere with her goals.  She is confident that she understands life, and hence can master it.  She is conscious of her appearance, and knows how to look her best.  Low self-esteem in girls(and boys) is something which plagues our society.  Measuring self-esteem is as important as measuring blood pressure.  How wonderful it would be if every girl could be supplied with a daily dose of Veronica!  It just might work.

Friendship And Wisdom In The Saddle Club

Carole Hanson and Stevie Lake have become close horse pals during their stay at Pine Hollow Stables.  Their friendship is given a jolt by the arrival of a new girl, Lisa Atwood.  Lisa is not as skilled in riding as the other two, and her mother wants to remove her since she considers riding too dangerous.  In the end, though, her mother learns of  her daughter Lisa’s skills, and Lisa also gains the respect of Stevie and Carole.  Indeed, it is Lisa who comes up with the term The Saddle Club.  Together they face many adversities, especially the wiles of rich, sophisticated Veronica, who displays a self- satisfied malicious smile whenever she attempts to break them up.  But Elizabeth Regnery, “Mrs. Reg” co-owner of Pine Hollow Stables with her son Max, sees The Saddle Club as something special.  She recognizes the deep meaning of friendship, which will serve the girls throughout adulthood. For that reason, when Pine Hollow is threatened with extinction, she makes the girls promise to continue The Saddle Club.  Besides The Saddle Club, Veronica and Kristi are friends, united by their wealthy backgrounds  However, their friendship is rather possessive.  When Scooter enters, he becomes one of Veronica’s best friends, and later boyfriend.  Ashley and Melanie are bound by their youth; they are the youngest members of Pine Hollow.  Their love for each other is shown when they perform a charming number to obtain money for the salvation of Pine Hollow.  Thus friendship is a major presence in Pine Hollow.

Mrs. Reg is the embodiment of wisdom in Pine Hollow.  A clear authoritarian figure, she never yells at the girls.  Nor does she preach.  She often tries to get them to reflect on their actions, but like a true teacher she encourages self-discovery.  She serves as a model for the girls, who all respect her.  She is a master cook, whose “famous gourmet sandwiches”  help to create a romantic mood for Max and Deborah.  She is an experienced rider, whose knowledge of horses puts the girls in awe.  She is an independent woman with the freedom to do as she likes.  Thus she serves as an important role model for all the girls as they witness the numerous capabilities of the mature woman.  She guides them through birth, death, courtship and marriage.  Through her they learn to gain compassion for others who are very different from themselves, but who have their own troubles.  And throughout her many conversations with the girls, there is usually a dollop of wisdom.

A Little Romance From The Saddle Club

A little romance from The Saddle Club occurs when the self- confident, arrogant Veronica di Angelo, played by Heli Simpson, meets Brian Mulcahy, “Scooter”, a waiter at JB’s cafe, and part- time assistant at Pine Hollow Stables, played by Alex Marriott.   Their relationship does not begin auspiciously;  the first time they meet, Veronica accuses him of stealing some items from Pine Hollow when he is innocent.  To Veronica the world is simple if you follow all the rules.  Immaturity for her is the lack of knowing and applying these rules.  The rules apply to relationships between males and females as well.  When her friend Kristi is distraught over her feelings for a boy, Veronica says, “It’s only hormones.  Get over it!”  Her advice about males:  “Men are like a jukebox.  You just have to know what buttons to push.”  However, the easy-going Irish lad doesn’t agree with Veronica’s assessment of the world and relationships.  He challenges her supposed security by saying, “I can see right through you, Veronica.”  The confused Veronica admits:  “You are a strange one, Scooter.”  Another time he asks her:  “What is it you really want, Veronica?”  He admits that he likes her, and says liking her is something automatic.  However, she considers herself above him, and says, “Scooter, I’m way out of your league.”  After Veronica has left,  a reflective Scooter replies, “Maybe.  Maybe not.”  When he invites Veronica to a party, she turns him down with an air of condescension: “Scooter, why don’t you join a library?”  Later at the party when Veronica sees Scooter without a date, she says:  “I guess you couldn’t find a date.”  He replies:  “One date, no.  I found two.  I took your advice.  They(his two dates) work at the library.”  Thus, Veronica learns that even though Scooter likes her, she cannot take him for granted.    Scooter sees the inherent goodness in Veronica while the others at Pine Hollow do not since to them she is conceited and overbearing.  Veronica’s concern for status and inheritance is deflated by Scooter:  ”  Isn’t it where are you now that’s important, and not where you’ve come from?   That’s why it’s called background.  It’s in the background.”  Although Scooter is not the poor boy he appears to be, he never discusses his own background until the end.  He wants Veronica to “take the time to smell the flowers”, and put money in its proper place, which is subordinate to the heart.  It is only after Veronica’s father loses his fortune that Veronica shows her desperate feelings to Scooter.  He again downplays the importance of money, and emphasizes the value of true friendship, causing her to say, “Thanks, Scooter.  You always make me feel better.”   When Scooter invites Veronica to a picnic by the water, Veronica finally lets her hair down literally.  After Veronica shows her true feelings and tells Scooter, “Kiss me, stupid!”  Scooter answers calmly, “I won’t kiss you, stupid, but I will kiss you.”  That kiss causes Veronica to realize what she really values after an intense debate with herself.  Scooter has already invited Veronica to see his family in Dublin, and there is little doubt that Veronica’s romantic relationship will continue to uncover new depths.  Veronica has learned another facet of maturity: the ability to perceive someone else’s sense of reality as well as her own.

Scooter’s knowledge of the internet and Veronica’s acuity and perseverance ultimately save Pine Hollow from financial ruin.  It is interesting to see how Veronica changes.  In the beginning, she does all she can to undermine The Saddle Club.  But, in the end, she becomes part of the Pine Hollow family, something she always desired, but could never admit to herself.