Tuesday, 25 February 2014

PBOTD: 25th February, Allen Seaby - Skewbald the New Forest Pony

Allen W Seaby wrote pony stories which carried on the grand tradition of the pony telling its own story. Where he differed from his predecessors was in his focus on native breeds (beside the New Forest, he also covered the Dartmoor, Welsh Pony, Shetland and Exmoor), and his concentration on the wild pony and how it related to its environment. Not for him the brushing over of the inconvenient nasties of equine life: In his Dinah the Dartmoor (1935), he describes an account of a fight between two ponies as "kicking and biting, ...strands of hair torn away.. bruises and blood-spots." It was, as he acknowledged, daring of him to include such a scene.

His first work of fiction, Skewbald, the New Forest Pony, (1923) was republished many times, and it's quite likely you'll have seen it in its later incarnations, with the sweetly domestic mare and foal scene on the front cover.

A and C Black, 1940s reprint
That is not, however, how the book's dustjacket started off. The illustration below shows the first edition with its dustjacket. Mothers and aunts expecting pretty ponies in a book aimed at their little chicks were appalled by the original, with two ponies fighting.

A and C Black, 1923 1st edition

Booksellers protested. Seaby said:
"Mothers and aunts (especially aunts), loth to put before their youthful charges such a bad example, had turned the book down, so I had to draw another illustration less inciting to evil."

A and C Black, early edition

Seaby would have no doubt been saddened by the new status of the New Forest pony: it has now been added to the Rare Breed Survival Trust's endangered list. It's listed as the least dreadful of the categories, Minority, meaning breeding mares are down to 1500-3000, but it's desperately sad that the New Forest, like nearly all other British native breeds, is now on the endangered list.

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More about the work of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust
For more on Allen Seaby, and illustrations of the covers of all his books, see his page on my website.

3 comments:

fiona moate said...

People should be encouraged to buy British stock, both ponies and horses. Lets see some proper horses bred from our native breeds, crossed with thoroughbreds (that are preferably ND free or minimal ND) less "continental Sport Horses" & warm bloods.
Good job I'm not Prime Minister isn't it? I'd also ban redtops & MacDonalds.

Kate Lattey said...

I have a Welsh Cob x TB, does that count? He's a superstar and is always much admired, including by several top riders who can't believe his breeding - I swear they're always looking for a fancy warmblood branding somewhere on him but he's half pony, half racehorse - all heart though :) And he got the pony brain 100%, which is what makes him so fun.

janebadgerbooks said...

He sounds great! You can't beat pony brain.