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Natalie Keller Reinert Books

The Sweetheart Horse (Ocala Horse Girls: Book Two) Paperback

The Sweetheart Horse (Ocala Horse Girls: Book Two) Paperback

Regular price $19.99 USD
Regular price Sale price $19.99 USD
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Read the charming and surprising sequel to The Project Horse! The Sweetheart Horse is a light-hearted and fun-loving enemies-to-lovers romp through Ocala’s equestrian scene, with some unexpected characters along the way! The perfect read for beach days, rainy evenings, or when you just want to escape reality for a while.

The Sweetheart Horse is Book Two in the Ocala Horse Girls series. Read on their own or together, these romantic comedy novels focus on friendship, love, and the thrill of horsemanship in Florida's beautiful horse country. These books are set in the same lush and detailed world as Natalie Keller Reinert's previous bestselling series, including...

  • The Eventing Series
  • The Alex & Alexander Series
  • The Show Barn Blues Series
  • The Briar Hill Farm Series

These novels include overlapping characters, events, and locales which create a community of equestrians you'll love recognizing and catching up with in each book!

This paperback ships directly from the printer. Please add your name to the "Notes" box at check-out to have a signed book-plate to add to your book! It will be mailed separately.

Other Editions: Find the ebook here.


Kayla Moore came to Ocala in search of Mr. Right. Horse, that is. But following her dreams to the Horse Capital of the World hasn’t quite turned out the way she hoped. No accolades, no achievements, and even her job farm-sitting at a posh equestrian center is coming to an end with no prospects for the future. When she tries grooming for a show jumping hopeful, the last thing she needs is an insult from some handsome up-and-comer on a gorgeous horse.

Scratch that, the last thing she needs is to share a house and a barn with him.

Kayla is thrilled when her farm-sitting job gets an unexpected extension, and she can’t believe her luck when the owners offer her the ride on a new horse as partial payment. Feather is exactly the kind of talented jumper she needs to make it to the next level. But when they also present her with a house-mate — the attractive and arrogant Basil Han — she realizes this sweetheart deal comes with serious strings.

Stick out six months with Basil in the house and concentrate on training her new horse? Should be a cinch . . . but it turns out Basil isn’t going to be easy to ignore. This elegant equestrian has a soft touch in the saddle that makes Kayla feel swoony, and when it turns out he’s harboring a strange secret, she’s too intrigued to stay on her side of the house.

Look Inside: Chapter One

In The Sweetheart Horse's opening chapter, Kayla has an unfortunate run-in with a certain rider while she's trying to hang onto her job. Here's an excerpt from Chapter One...


Time is running out.

If I don’t get it together, I’m going to be out of a job before the night is over. And I need this job.

“Get it together, Kayla,” I mutter. “Come on, this isn’t rocket science. You’re just looking for stupid little noseband…gah!”

I stick my pricked finger in my mouth for a second—no, less than that, because it tastes medicinal. I forgot about the liniment bath I mixed up right before I gave my boss a leg-up and sent her off to the warm-up ring. Have you ever slurped on a blend of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, and assorted herbal tinctures which supposedly ease a show horse’s aching muscles and tendons? I can’t say I recommend it.

But there’s no time to get a drink and wash this disgusting flavor out of my mouth. Every moment counts in show jumping—literally, in a jump-off between tied competitors, we can often measure the difference between winning and losing by mere fractions of a second. That’s why Melody sent me back here to find a noseband that cranks tighter. She got to the warm-up ring, saw the quality galloping around out there, and I swear her eyes got ten times bigger. She looked back at me and gestured until I was right at her boot, cupping a hand to my ear so I could hear her frantic whispers.

The long and the short of it? Melody’s first Grand Prix is probably a leap into the deep end of the pool when she’s barely swimming the dog paddle. Hence: she’s making a desperate bid for extra control over her horse, with a tougher noseband, which I need to find immediately and get back to the arena, or I can look for new work on Monday.

I bend back over the tack trunk, scrabbling madly through the heaped saddle pads and bandages inside, while the loudspeaker at the end of the barn aisle coughs its way through a countdown, ominously creeping towards my eventual termination of employment. Every two minutes, the announcer calls a rider just one more digit closer to my rider’s number. When there are six riders still to go—no, five—I give up, panting, and lean against the front of the lacquered wooden trunk.

“I’m never going to find her stupid crank noseband,” I whimper, and I’m instantly embarrassed by the sound of my own voice. Melody isn’t the only equestrian employing grooms in Ocala, the horse capital of the world. I’ll find another job.


Quickly enough to save some money before my current live-in farm-sitting job ends?

Probably not.

Okay, time to focus. I can do this. I just have to lift out these saddle pads…and these gallop boots…and, oh, this entire bag of bridle pieces…

“Crud, crud, crud,” I mutter. “So much stuff.”

I’m making a mess, piling the contents of Melody’s huge tack trunk on the spotless barn aisle behind me. If anyone saw me, they’d think I was a thief searching for something valuable, like a diamond-encrusted needle in a haystack. Luckily, everyone is home in their pajamas, or sitting in the stands for the Grand Prix, or warming up for their turn under the bright lights.

“And thank goodness, because I do not need a spectator for this—”

A clatter of horseshoes scares the absolute bejesus out of me. I leap up automatically, all of my equestrian instincts kicking in to keep me from being trampled by a loose horse. Because if there’s a horse out here now, it must have gotten out of a stall and is running around the place scared, and a scared horse can be a dangerous horse—

In the half-light cast by the dimmed overhead lamps, I see a horse rear back in terror—because of me, the horrifying leaping specter in the darkness—and realize not only is it not just a loose horse from another barn, it is a saddled, bridled, and ridden horse. And the horse’s rider is moving fast to stay in the saddle while the animal plunges and backs away, tail swishing and head high.

“Dammit!” the rider shouts, voice half-strangled with shock but still noticeably baritone.

A male rider, then.

And he’s pissed.

At me.

I stand still and give the horse a moment to understand I’m a human. “Sorry,” I whisper. “Very sorry about that.”

“Be careful, why don’t you,” the rider bites out, a taut British accent in a disapproving tone, but his horse at least appreciates my voice, because now it knows I’m a human. The horse stops scrambling to escape and blows a loud snort at me, as if to ask why I had to go and scare them like that. Through this recalculation, the rider sits carefully in the center of the horse, hands wide and low on the reins. A sympathetic position.

At least the horse gets a little sympathy. The rider’s expression is anything but forgiving.

Hey! I don’t deserve this. I was minding my business when he turned up.

“I am careful,” I defend myself. “It was an accident. I didn’t expect anyone to ride through the barn in the middle of the night.” It’s only nine o’clock, but it feels much later to me, since I’ve been working since six a.m., trying to balance my farm-sitting gig with this new grooming job. I had to take care of six retired show horses before hustling over here to muck out, polish tack, and bathe and braid Otto.

The rider is slowly circling his horse to get its attention back, his hands still moving gently on the reins. Impressive, honestly, that he can stay mad at me while maintaining such a gentle feel on his horse’s mouth. He’s clearly a very kind rider. I wish he was this nice to grooms.

He snaps at me again. “Some of us are trying to get to the ring without grooms popping up like jack-in-the-boxes.”

“Jacks-in-the-boxes,” I mutter, unable to stop myself.

“What’s that?” He cocks his head, as if he had trouble hearing me. Beneath the brim of his elegant, expensive riding helmet, I see a firm chin and a strong nose, a thin line of a mouth that’s turned down at me. His eyes flash under the dim lights.

Handsome, sure, but I’ve got his measure. What we have here is just another rich boy. And he should have enough expensive private schooling to get his grammar straight.

“Jacks-in-the-boxes,” I repeat, louder. For the jerks in the back. “And you’re not supposed to be riding in the barns.”
I hitch my head towards the doorway a few feet away, where I know there’s a red-lettered sign which reads NO RIDING IN THE BARN in what is definitely a snippy tone.

He splutters in response, which is exactly what I expected of him, and I turn back to the tack trunk I’ve left in a state of total disarray. The loudspeaker ticks on and Prissy, the Australian woman who does the announcements during the big show classes, lets everyone know, and me in particular, that Rider 278 is on deck.

Melody O’Leno is Rider 279.

That’s it…I’m officially out of time.

There’s no way I can find this missing noseband, get it to the warm-up ring and transferred onto Otto, Melody’s beautiful and excitable Oldenburg gelding. Even without the time it would take to get to the arenas, Otto is seventeen-point-three hands high of sheer attitude and mischief. Wrestling a new noseband onto his ginormous head while he flings himself around like a ballet dancer wearing metal shoes could never be just a two-minute endeavor.

“Dammit, Kayla,” I whisper to myself, surveying the messy tack trunks. “Why didn’t you just stick with racehorses?”

Meanwhile, the man on horseback loses interest in shouting at me and rides off, heading for the arenas himself. So, he was just using the barn as a shortcut—pretty arrogant and rude of him, actually, since we aren’t supposed to even walk through stables where we don’t have horses stalled, let alone ride through them. But I’ve met plenty of people like him over the past week. Five days grooming for Melody O’Leno at Legends Equestrian Center’s summer hunter/jumper circuit, and I already have a fresh distaste for the entire human race.

But that’s all over now. Melody will tell me this trial period didn’t work out, I’ll be out of a job, and I can figure out something else. I pile saddle pads back into place and close the top of the tack trunk. Something stops it from latching properly. And then I see the problem, hanging out of the back of the trunk, wedged under the hinged lid. Just another leather strap in a sea of leather straps.
“You stinker!” I snap up the noseband and stand up so quickly my knees crack—a sound they probably shouldn’t be making in a woman only in her mid-twenties, but whatever. I squeeze the padded leather and wonder if there’s any reason to even try to get to this thing to the ring.

From the direction of the Grand Prix arena, a sound breathes over the barns: a loud, collective sigh.

Oh, I know that sigh.

Someone just fell off.

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