- Four in the Saddle – M&J: #313 (10 May 1997) – #314 (17 May 1997)
- Four in the Saddle – Mandy Annual 1998
- Artist: Julian Vivas
Cassie and Cindy Bridges live in Parkerville, a small town in Arizona, along with their friend Lori. They all like to ride their horses and also have an understanding with Mystery, leader of a wild herd of horses. Cassie and Cindy’s father is the town sheriff, so would like his daughters to set a good example and stay out of trouble. When new neighbours move into ranch nearby, Cassie is quite taken by the son, Jed. Cindy is of the opinion they don’t need boys in the group, Lori, the more quieter and sensible member of the group, think they should get to know him better first. The next day when the girls are out riding, Jed comes across them as he is riding to get help for a calf stuck down a ravine. Lori always prepared has a rope on hand and together they free the calf. When they question Jed about how he found the calf he says a wild black horse led him there. Knowing this must be Mystery, Cindy and Lori agree that the horse is usually right about people and that it would be okay for Jed to come riding with them.
In the Annual story, the girls are riding with Jed, they are watching out for Mystery and the other wild horses and they see something is wrong. They go closer to investigate. One of the horses collapses and Cassie convinces Mystery to let her have a closer look. Cindy and Jed go to fetch the vet, Mr Ewart, when he arrives he diagnoses the mare with equine flu, not usually fatal but dangerous for wild horses. He take the mare back to town for treatment. Cassie and the others keep an eye on the other wild horses and notice more sick. When they ask if Mr Ewart could vaccinate them, he says it would be impossible to inoculate all of them, even if he could catch them. The best action would be to isolate them but there is nowhere suitable, so likely the flu will spread and it will be survival of the fittest.
The group is horrified to hear this and try to come up with a plan to help Mystery and the other horses. Jed suggests a place in the foothills, known as The Lost Valley, the others say its too far for the horses in their condition. But they agree it might work if they leave the worst affected who can be treated by the vet. It is not an easy journey for the gang as they round up the wild horses, one mare dies along the way and they have a run in with a mountain lion (luckily it’s a young one that doesn’t attack), but eventually they make it. The group set up camp to keep an eye on the horses, a foul dies, but Cassie has idea to pair up that mare, with the motherless foal. Over a week later the herd are doing better, Mystery rears up as if thanking them. Everyone is happy that the herd was saved.
This story only lasted 2 episodes and although it promised “more next week” it did not appear in the next issue, which was actually the last issue of M&J, nor did it continue in Bunty after the merger. It seems the finish of M&J led to its sudden discontinuation. It’s an interesting case as it seemed to be set-up as replacement for the long running Pine Tree Grove another soap story involving horses, so potentially could have continued for quite a while. It had an a more unusual setting in Arizona, the art by Julian Vivas was good and similar to other M&J soaps it had some potentially interesting characters. The appearance of the story in the annual shows they had some story-lines set up. As annuals are made in advance, it’s hard to tell if this story was just made for the annual or potentially it was unused episodes for M&J that they decided to fit in the annual. I can see the story in the annual fitting fine split into the weekly issues. Either way as I had not got the annual until recently, I only thought there were just the 2 episodes, so it was nice to see some sort of conclusion for the story.