Thursday, 24 July 2014

PBOTD 24th July: Judith M Berrisford - Jackie and the Pony Trekkers

I can't do a series on Welsh ponies without featuring the uber Welsh pony of the pony book world: Judith M Berrisford's Misty. Misty is the pony Jacqueline Hope wins in a competition, and who stars with her in a sixteen book series that was for decades the longest British pony series.

Jackie and the Pony Trekkers (1963) sees Jackie and Misty, and Jackie's cousin Babs, embark on their usual holiday adventure away from their family. Jackie and Babs are off to help at a pony trekking centre in Wales. Although Jackie and Babs constantly want to help, their efforts always meet with failure, at least to start with, and so it goes with Jackie and the Pony Trekkers. Misty is denounced as a kicker, and Jackie and Babs get the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong after that: and a lot does go wrong.

As ever, they manage to redeem themselves at last.

The Jackie series:
Jackie Won a Pony, 1958
Ten Ponies and Jackie, 1959
Jackie’s Pony Patrol, 1961
Jackie and the Pony Trekkers, 1963
Jackie’s Pony Camp Summer, 1968
Jackie and the Pony Boys, 1970
Jackie’s Show Jumping Surprise, 1973
Jackie and the Misfit Pony, 1976
Jackie on Pony Island, 1977
Jackie and the Pony Thieves, 1978
Jackie and the Phantom Ponies, 1979
Jackie and the Moonlight Pony, 1980
Jackie and the Pony Rivals, 1981
Jackie and the Missing Showjumper, 1982
Change Ponies, Jackie! 1983
Jackie’s Steeplechase Adventure, 1984
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More on Judith M Berrisford
The Royal Welsh Show

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

PBOTD 23rd July: Paul Brown - Silver Heels

The Welsh pony is just as loved in America as he is in the UK, and he features in several American pony stories. Probably the most beautiful of them is Paul Brown's Silver Heels (1951). It's the story of a part Welsh pony who was a natural jumper, and who felt it was his duty to join every fox hunt. When he heard the hounds, there was no keeping the pony in, no matter where you'd put him.

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More on Paul Brown
The Royal Welsh Show

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

PBOTD 22nd July: Allen Seaby - Mona the Welsh Pony

The PBOTD continues to focus on the Welsh pony. The Welsh pony, almost uniquely, is a British breed which is not endangered. Virtually all other British breeds of pony are, with the exception of the Shetland, who is probably too bloody minded to become rare. When I think back to the ponies I rode in my youth, most of them were of ancestry so mixed it would have been hard to identify anything, but those who laid claim to an actual breed were all Welsh. 

The very first pony I rode, Dandini, or Dini for short, was Welsh. He was white all over, though I very soon learned that it was heresy to call him that, and that I should call him grey, which I did ever afterwards, carefully correcting anyone who made the mistake of calling him white. How they must have loved me. Dini had the pony's usual attitude to learners: a casual cynicism. He put up with learners, because the alternative, being given over to children with greater aspirations than simply staying on, would have involved far too much energy. I can vividly remember my pathetic efforts to get Dini to do what I wanted. They almost all failed. Dini would go his own sweet way, deaf to my small heels drumming on his side, and just as deaf to the riding school owner's shouts. 

I remember she once, in fury, got on Dini herself, and I remember how, with ears pinned flat against his head, and an expression of suppressed fury on his face (someone would suffer for this, he just hadn't worked out who) he gave a very creditable effort at a collected trot, showing that there might, after all, have been some credence in the tales that he'd been, in a former life, a successful show pony.

Fortunately I soon outgrew Dini, and he settled into being a leading rein pony, drifiting almost asleep round the school, propping himself up on whatever hapless child had been seconded into leading him for that particular lesson. The last time I rode Dini was when another child was turfed off, and I was told to get on him and get him over a (very small) jump. With a total lack of style, heels drumming and with sheer determination, I got him over it. The instructor turned to the poor child who'd been turfed off and told her that was how you did it, but we all knew it wasn't. I'd got lucky, and caught Dini by surprise.

Mona, in Allen Seaby's Mona the Welsh Pony (1948) is another in his series of pony stories welded on to natural history. Fortunately this Mona is nothing like Dini. 

Mona is born on the Welsh hills, and Evan Evans decides he will catch her. She soon fits into life on the farm, and her training begins. Evan Evans goes off to war, and Mona eventually goes to be a sands pony. This book, as can sadly some others of the period, does show a very young pony indeed being broken in. Times do change, but even at the time, this was considered young.

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More on Allen Seaby
The Royal Welsh Show

Monday, 21 July 2014

PBOTD 21st July: Cecilia Knowles - Hippo, a Welsh Cob

The PBOTDs for the next few days are to celebrate the fact it's the Royal Welsh show, so they will all (this will surprise you) feature Welsh ponies. Or cobs. Today's book is Hippo, a Welsh Cob (1960).

Evans, 1960, illus Juliette Palmer

Hippo is a black (mostly) Welsh cob, bred by the Rivers family. They break Hippo in, but the children grow too tall for him, so Hippo is sold to Lord Elsted and his daughter Daphne. Daphne too loves him and rides him with the vim that Hippo deserves. Alas she too grows too tall to him, so on he goes to Francis and Felicity, where he is taught to be a driving pony. Once again outgrown, Hippo goes to Leila. Initially all goes well, but then her father inherits estates in Scotland and Hippo is sent North, despite Leila having promised if she ever wants to part with Hippo she will sell him back to Francis and Felicity. Hippo humiliates Leila’s father by bolting with the lunches when he is acting as a shooting pony, and he is given to a local farmer and neglected. Francis and Felicity manage to find him again, and buy him in exchange for a crate of whiskey. Hippo is by then elderly and frail, but is nursed back to health.

Hippo was based on a real pony. The dedication in Hippo reads: “This book, about a real pony, is dedicated to my son, daughter, and son-in-law. To Basil who loved and rode him, to Barbara who drove him and eventually got him back into the family, and to her husband David, who, christening him “The Immortal” has kept him in happiness for many years.”

Cecilia Knowles has the knack of observing ponies and writing about them as they actually are, without anthropomorphising them, and Hippo is well above the usual pony biography.

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More on Cecilia Knowles
The Royal Welsh Show

Sunday, 20 July 2014

PBOTD 20th July: Carolyn Henderson - The Grey Ghost

Grey Ghost was Carolyn Henderson's first work of fiction. It was published in 1992. Carolyn has not stood still since then: she's written over 30 non fiction titles on the horse, ranging from children's books for Dorling Kindersley to works on showing for J A Allen (including a book on showing written with Katie Jerram).

The Grey Ghost is one of the earliest incursions into pony book fantasy. Heroine Corinne finds a plaque with Grey Ghost’s name on it in the tack room of an old house. Corrine’s riding school is threatened with closure, so she’s not sure if she’ll be able to keep up riding. Her father is long absent, and Corinne wants to trace him, but will this cause even more problems with her mother?

It'll be interesting to see how this dream-come-true story matches up with Carolyn's latest book, which will be a coming of age story aimed at teenagers. Published by new equestrian fiction house Forelock, it's called Beside Me. 

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More on the J A Allen Junior Equestrian Fiction Library
Carolyn Henderson's website

Saturday, 19 July 2014

PBOTD 19th July: Susan Millard - Against the Odds

Today's PBOTD was a brave book for J A Allen to publish: the pony book can often shy away from the darker side of life, but Against the Odds doesn't.  Against the Odds’ heroine, Sian, leaves home to work in a racing stable, but she soon finds that the trainer’s son Justin, after the initial attraction, has a vicious, ruthless side when he rapes her. This is not described explicitly in the book, but it is quite clear what has happened, so if you’re buying this book for a child, make sure they can cope.

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More on Susan Millard
More on the J A Allen Junior Fiction Library

Friday, 18 July 2014

PBOTD 18th July: Mary Sharp - The Second Best Pony

Today's PBOTD is another in the J A Allen series. It's Mary Sharp's Second-Best Pony. It was published in 1993, and was the first of the two titles Mary Sharp wrote for the series.

It's unusual in that it features a Fell pony - not a breed which often elbows its way into pony books. There's any number of Welsh ponies, and New Forest, but not so many Fells. At least there are Fells - its cousin the Dales has virtually nothing.

Second-Best Pony is about Becky, who is going on a pony trekking holiday in the Lake District. It should all have been wonderful, but then Becky and her friend Emma manage to lose Storm, a valuable pony, and Becky sets off into the mountains alone to try and find him.
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More on Mary Sharp
More on the J A Allen Junior Fiction Library