The sequel to Fly-by-Night, The Team, appeared in 1975. It was a fill-in, written after Ruth’s fate with Patrick Pennington had already been decided in Pennington’s Heir, 1973. The Team picks up Ruth’s story at the age of fourteen. She has outgrown Fly, and so has no realistic chance of getting on the Pony Club Team. If she can manage to find a larger pony, she might. The Team opens with a picture of the relaxed relationship between Ruth and Peter McNair, the Hollis’ family’s former foster-child. All this changes when Ruth goes to buy a replacement for Fly at a local horse sale, and finds Peter’s beloved Toadhill Flax, the one horse he wanted his father not to sell, and whose going precipitates his falling out with his father. Ruth buys Toad, and tells Peter, fully expecting him to share in her excitement that she has managed to find herself another pony, and Toad at that. But Peter does not.
“Ruth looked at Peter in the lamplight. He looked very odd, she realized, almost shocked. She knew he was a moody character, and that his good humour and banter could subside into long periods of gloom and resentment, but she hadn’t expected this reaction from him in this particular circumstance. She had been expecting him to join in a general rejoicing. His insistence that she take the pony to his home seemed to her rather like a taking-over attitude.”
Peter’s father offers to buy Toad back, or exchange him for any pony in his stables, but Ruth refuses, as obsessed with Toad as Peter is. Ruth goes on, eventually, to ride Toad more or less successfully, and to repair her relationship with Peter. The Team maintained K M Peyton’s firm grip on realism: Ruth is unable to ride in a competition because it coincides with the first day of her period, and she is too unwell to ride. The interest of the book is far more than in what-the-pony-did-next: it is in the relationships between the characters and how they work out.
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This piece is taken from my book, Heroines on Horseback (GGB, 2013)