The book obviously had a mythical status with other pony book fans as well, because when I started to read them again, and hunt for them on eBay, early editions of Six Ponies went for stonking amounts: far beyond my purse. Eventually I uncovered an Armada paperback (the one with the skewbald on the cover, which I rather like) and read it, wondering as I did if it was the same book. It was, and yet it wasn't. There were bits I was sure I remembered happening, but they didn't appear to be in the book I read. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on, glad that at least I'd found the book.
|Collins, first edition, 1946, illus Anne Bullen|
|Armada, paperback, 1971|
Josephine had run a riding school with her sisters, but had left to go and do war work. After a spell in a remount depot, she moved on to work as a telephone engineer at a telephone exchange in Reading, on whose roof she wrote Six Ponies. Although written during the war, the book doesn't mention war at all. Josephine told me that it was a deliberate decision to leave the war, and all its grimness, out of the book, and so, although she tried to place the book in the future, it was set in the England of the 1930s.
|Armada, paperback, 1979|
And explore them she did. Six Ponies was the first of what was to become a series of five books about the West Barsetshire Pony Club and their ponies, and their instructor, Major Holbrooke. Six Ponies introduces the pony club members. There is hapless Noel, almost crippled by her lack of confidence, superior June, cheerful, nouveau-riche Susan, occasionally violent John and the rackety Radcliffe family. A friend of Major Holbrooke's bets him that the Pony Club will not be able to break in six New Forest ponies. Major Holbrooke accepts the challenge, and the ponies are divided out amongst the riding club.
|Swift, laminated boards, 1987|
|Fidra, paperback, 2007|
Six Ponies was first published by Collins in 1946, with a cover and illustrations by Anne Bullen. It was reprinted several times in that format. Its first paperback publication (much cut) was by Armada in 1971, with a cover I much like, but whose artist I haven't been able to discover. Armada published the book again in 1979, this time with photographic covers, and Swift published it again, with laminated boards and a rather fanciful cover illustration of wild horses, in 1987. Fidra published the book, uncut, and with all the original illustrations, in 2007.
The Noel and Henry series:
Six Ponies (1946)
Pony Club Team (1950)
The Radney Riding Club (1951)
One Day Event (1954)
Pony Club Camp (1957)
For more on Josephine Pullein-Thompson, see her page on my website. There's an interview with her, a piece on the Noel and Henry series, and much more.