Saturday, 19 April 2014

PBOTD 19th April: H M Peel - Easter the Show Jumper

Today's PBOTD is another which is appropriate for the time of year: it's H M Peel's Easter the Show Jumper. Easter is the third in the Leysham Stud series. Ann and Jim Henderson have a stud, whose stallion is her piebald stallion, Pilot. In the first two books, Ann's managed to get over Pilot's dreadful temper, and he's turned into a talented hunter (Pilot the Hunter, 1962) and chaser (Pilot the Chaser, 1964). 


Harrap, 1965, 1st edn, illus Michael Lyne
The equine heroine of the third book is Easter, Pilot's sister. She has inherited his temperament (as indeed do several horses in the succeeding novels, which though it makes for good dramatic reads, does make you glad they're not breeding for temperament, because it's failing).

Fidra Books, pb, 2009

Easter has ability in spades, but for Ann to make her into a serious show jumper is going to take Herculean efforts. Easter is unpredictable; often jumping, but just as often refusing or bolting. She's not the only equine problem: there's Magic the Shetland, the mount of Ann and Jim's nephew. He's a demon for opening gates and he lets out the prize colt, Night Storm.

I loved the series when I first found them in the local library. They were filed with the horsey non fiction: I assume because they are relatively realistic portrayals of different equine disciplines. H M Peel uses the Leysham Stud series to cover racing, polo, trotting and eventing as well as show jumping: a wealth of ability most studs would give their eye teeth to possess. H M Peel had a background herself in numerous disciplines. In my interview with her, I asked how difficult it had been to reasearch the series:
“Piece of cake because I had already worked in a variety of stables ranging from hunters, livery, point-to-point and show jumpers:  too heavy for racing stables.  I kept moving around to acquire knowledge even if it was the hard way and I was treated pretty badly in quite a few of my digs.” 
The central characters, Ann and Jim Henderson are portrayed as pretty well ideal employers, a world away from the treatment HM Peel hinted at in the first comment. I asked her to tell me more about what it had been like working in the horse world after the war:
“My first  horsey job at 15 years was at some livery stables near Grimsby where I had the most incredible tutor who was stone deaf. This lady and her livery stables became ever afterwards my bench mark. I was badly treated in my digs; kept so short of food (everything was still rationed) I was driven to trying to eat the horses’ food. Ever been that hungry and when growing and doing hard, physical labour? I vowed I would never be hungry again when adult and no one, NO ONE, would ever shove me around. They haven’t either.” 
When I interviewed her, I asked H M Peel if the Hendersons were based on real people:
 “My human characters are all invented.  Safer that way re litigation!” 
Sadly, although Easter is reasonably easy to find as Fidra reprinted it, the rest of the series is monstrously difficult to find.
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For more on H M Peel, including an interview, see her page on my website.

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