Tuesday, 11 February 2014

PBOTD: 11th February, Shirley Faulkner-Horne - Pat and Her Polo Pony

Shirley Faulkner-Horne's Pat and Her Polo Pony - The Power of a Charm is today's Pony Book of the Day. The heroine, Pat, was one of those children who cropped up fairly often in inter-war books: the child of parents living in India who was shipped back to the mother country for the sake either of their health, or their education. Pat's father, it must be said, only serves in India because he can't afford to hunt and play polo in England.

Country Life, first edition, 1939
Pat is sent off to stay with cousins she's never ever met, dreading it as they are horse mad and she is petrified of ponies, after she broke her arm in a fall. In another sign of the times, her uncle is a vicar who is able to keep several ponies, something very difficult to achieve on a vicar's salary these days. 

This book has a strong moral bias, though at times it does seem conveniently to forget it. It's hard work, politeness and grit that gets you somewhere, and that's what comes to Pat's aid (as well as the charm her ayah gave her) when it comes to looking after her cousin's New Forest, Star, when she's ill. Pat, once she gets down to it, is a phenomenal achiever, getting the Pony Club B with 84% after riding for only six months. Her father's so impressed by this feat he says she can buy a pony, and Pat decides to buy a pony and train it to play polo at the local club. 

Pat gets this pony, Nala, by deliberately turning on the tears when she's at the dealer's. This grates, but not as much as the episode where she persuades a regimental groom to lie that the pony her father wants to ride in a polo match is lame, so he'll be forced to choose Nala. It's not incredibly impressive to get what you want by being manipulative, but making someone else lie, when you're in a position of power over them because your father is their superior officer, really irks. 

Pat and her Polo Pony is, however, the first, and so far one of the few, books to feature polo. Polo, with its need to have more than one pony, is generally beyond most pony owners, and it's remained a minority sport in the pony book field. 
Junior Country Life Library edition
Pat and Her Polo Pony was published by Country Life in 1939. At that time, Country Life produced considerably more than just the Country Life magazine. They published Riding magazine, and had their own publishing arm too. Country Life reprinted many of their children's books as part of the Junior Country Life Library, usually with the cover illustration from the original, with a coloured band surrounding it, and Pat made an appearance as a Junioir Country Life Library title. As far as I know, it wasn't republished after that.


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For more on Shirley Faulkner-Horne and her works, she has a page on my website.
If you'd like to see the Junior Country  Life in most of its glory (I don't have pictures of all the titles, by any means), you can see that here.

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