Thursday, 30 October 2014

PBOTD 30th October: Paul Brown - Hi Guy, the Cinderella Horse

Today's book is a real life story. It's written and illustrated by Paul Brown, probably the most sought after equine illustrator in America. Paul Brown started his career as a commercial illustrator, a career interrupted when he left America to serve with the First Light Infantry Division in World War I. He missed death by inches when a grenade shot past him just as he turned his head. When he returned to America, he picked up the reins of his business again, and carried on doing commercial illustration.

He wrote and illustrated several children's stories, one of which is Hi Guy, the Cinderella Horse (1944)The horse, Robin, was rescued from a pound after his owner abandoned the horse when he moved away, and left the horse to starve. Just before he was about to be destroyed, the horse was bought by a riding academy owner for $5. The horse, renamed Hi Guy, more than repaid the $5 purchase price. Once fit, he went from strength to strength, showing an unexpected talent for jumping. He competed, and won, at Madison Square Gardens.

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More on Paul Brown
The National Horse Show

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

PBOTD 6th November: Josephine Pullein-Thompson - Prince Among Ponies

I have an uneasy feeling I might have already covered this book once, but I do not care. It's one of my favourite pony books, let alone one of my favourite JPTs. And it has one of my favourite covers. I have no idea who did the beautiful illustration for the 1970s Armada edition (pictured below), and I wish I did, because I'd love to tell them how very much loved that cover is: and not just by me.

Prince Among Ponies (1952) features someone who popped up frequently in her books: the person who will not listen. Six Ponies was dripping with them, with Evelyn Radcliffe being possibly one of the worst. In Prince Among Ponies, it's bolshy Jane who takes this role. Hero and heroine of the book Patrick and Sara have gone to stay for the summer with Jane’s family, the Merrimans. Patrick and Sara live in suburban London, where they have learned to ride with an instructor who has Pullein-Thompson approved attitudes to equitation. 

The Merriman family have horses, but have learned to ride in a much less formal school: they stick on and kick. Youngest daughter Jane is the kickiest of them all. Her beautiful grey pony, Adonis, has taken grave exception to this approach, and no one is now allowed to ride him as he is considered unsafe. Patrick and Sara ride him in secret, and armed with the theories of their teacher, Captain Stefinski, succeed in persuading Adonis to behave. Once their secret has been discovered, Jane refuses to believe that they have had any real effect on the horse. Once he is fit, she says, he will run away with them. Her father disagrees. 

“Nevertheless,” said Mr Merriman, laying down his paper and helping himself to marmalade, “they have quite a different effect from you, on Adonis. One wouldn’t think that he was the same pony. And it isn’t” he went on firmly, ignoring Jane’s attempt to interrupt, “anything to do with him being lazy – he seems just as fresh as ever. But he looks like the pony we bought. You remember how much we all admired him when we saw him ridden by those Dawson girls?”
“They’d probably doped him,” said Jane. 

I do love the humour of this book: Jane's snarky snarling, and the slapstick comedy of the mushrooms which get squashed to smithereens when Adonis dumps his rider on top of them. Prince Among Ponies is still a great read, and if you want to read just one JPT, this is probably the best place to start.

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PBOTD 29th October: Margaret S Johnson - Silver Dawn

Today's PBOTD is Margaret S Johnson's Silver Dawn (1958), the next in my National Horse Show series. This one is about Julia Braddock, and her horse Silver Dawn. Julia's father runs a training stable, and he helps Julia get Silver Dawn ready for Madison Square Garden. It's one of those bittersweet stories. As often happens when your parent earns their living from horses, those horses have to be sold, and the more successful they are, the more money you get for them. Sadly for Julia, that is exactly what happens to her.

Author Margaret S Johnson wrote and illustrated Silver Dawn, but several of her other books were illustrated by her mother, Helen Lossing Johnson. Below is Stablemates (1942), which is particularly pretty. 

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

PBOTD 28th October: Eric Hatch - Year of the Horse

Today's PBOTD, and those for the next few days are all related (sometimes a bit tenuously, I admit) to the National Horse Show in America. When I was researching this post I found out a whole load of things I hadn't known before. The show was held at not one, but three versions of Madison Square Gardens in New York. It was started in 1883 by a group of sportsmen, and in 1890 moved to the second Madison Square Gardens. And in 1926, it moved to the third Madison Square Gardens. In 2011, it moved yet again, but this time right out of New York to the Kentucky Horse Park.

Eric Hatch, author of today's book Year of the Horse (1965), was an author, owned a radio station, and was an expert horseman, a judge and a steward of the American Horse Shows Association.

Year of the Horse is the story of an advertising executive, Freddie Bolton, who works on Madison Avenue (I told you some of these connections were tenuous). He has an adored daughter, and when she asks for a horse, that's what he gives her. Despite the fact the whole family are already living well beyond their means. Freddie names the horse after a product he just happens to represent.

He knows nothing about horses, but finds himself growing very fond of the horse, who is, it turns out, a very capable animal indeed, more than capable enough of competing at Madison Square Gardens.

Monday, 27 October 2014

PBOTD 27th October: Samantha Alexander - the Riding School Series

I think this is going to be a post which is principally of pretty pictures, because my lovely plan, which was to read some of these stories before I featured them, hasn't actually come to anything. What I will say is that I think this series is possibly the first in the UK pony book world to write an entire series from different points of view in each book. Do correct me if you think I'm wrong. It's a format that has been used relatively recently by Kelly McKain in her Pony Camp Diaries series.

The Riding School Series

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More on Samantha Alexander

Sunday, 26 October 2014

PBOTD 26th October: Alexa Romanes - The Gift Horse

Today's PBOTD is the second pony book by Alexa Romanes. In the first, Save the Horses (1983), heroine Kelsie comes down from London to spend the summer with Roger and Toby at Crantock, their parents’Cornish farm and home for ill-treated horses. When she gets there, she steps straight into a financial crisis. The three friends try to help and their lives become very busy indeed, coping with ponies and jobs and trying to sort out the problems caused by the new and badly run local riding school. 

In the next book, The Gift Horse (1985) Kelsie is training to be a riding instructress and living with the Lanyons on their farm-cum-riding stables. Her life is perfect but for one thing: she desperately wants a horse of her own. She ends up with a skewbald gelding from the circus, who has been trained to buck people off...
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Saturday, 25 October 2014

PBOTD 25th October: Pat Leitch - To Save a Pony

I can't believe that I haven't already covered this book, but I haven't. It's Patricia Leitch's first book, To Save a Pony (1960), published under the name Pat Leitch in 1960. The Dallas family re-locate to Scotland and start a riding school in order to keep the wolf from the door. The family, including youngest child Jane, go to a local horse sale to find ponies, and Jane sees a pony she is desperate to save.

The conventional pony story would at this point either have Jane spending her little all on the pony (because she conveniently has savings, probably augmented by what she can beg from her siblings) or frantically coming up with some money making scheme in order to make the money to buy the pony. This scheme is, ultimately, successful. Jane tries to take the route of raising money, but it doesn't go according to the pony book plan. 

No miraculous means to buy the pony appear, and Jane has to wait until the end of the book before she sees the pony again, when she discovers her condemned to the dreadful pony book fate of pulling a cart. But Jane is writing a pony book, and she is sure that if she can only get the manuscript to a publisher, it will provide her with enough money to buy the pony. (This had worked for other pony book heroines; Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s Christabel in I Had Two Ponies for one). Gregory, who runs the riding school and has lived with the family since he was five, challenges Jane.
“And where will you get twenty pounds from? No, don’t tell me. I can guess. Your book!”
‘Well, why not?’ I demanded.
‘Jane! Jane! Jane! Will you never grow up? Things like that just don’t happen. You’ve got to face up to it that life is brutal and hard and not a fairy tale with you as the principal fairy godmother.”
Jane's book is rejected. 

She does, in the end, get the money, but only by conquering her fear and doing what she has flatly refused to do before: jump a pony in a show. An author refusing to allow the pony book heroine to be “the principal fairy godmother” was almost heretical at the time: pony book after pony book saw miserable ponies rescued by the strenuous efforts of the heroine. In Patricia Leitch’s world, which was a more realistic one than most, girls do not necessarily get ponies.

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