Controversial: Riding Magazine and equestrian controversy in the 1940s II

The Forward Seat, by Henry Baron (December 1940)
The next topic in Riding Magazine’s series on controversial subjects of the day (here's the first) was one that would have generated pages of choleric spleen had it been written 30 years earlier. By 1940, using the forward seat while jumping, and while riding cross-country, was already pretty much accepted, but the very fact the subject made it into this series suggests that those who commissioned articles for Riding were aware of a small, but presumably persistent, group still using the backward seat.

If we look forward a decade, there is evidence for this, as it appears this group was still alive and well in the 1950s. Josephine Pullein-Thompson, in Show Jumping Secret, which appeared in 1955, tells the story of polio-stricken Charles, whose cousins all ride. They attempt to teach him to ride – sitting well back, feet well forward so he can see them, and hands in his lap. It does not go well. Charles goes to have riding lessons at…

Controversy: Riding Magazine and equestrian controversy in the 1940s

On my Facebook page a few weeks back, I posted a cover of Riding Magazine from 1941, really because it was the Pullein-Thompsons’ first appearance in print (Cocktail Capitulates – a piece written by all three on the schooling of a difficult pony). The whole point of a front cover is to encourage people to dive into the delights contained within, and as the magical pull of this edition had not faded over the 70 plus years since it was published, people wanted to know what was the controversy mentioned on the front cover?
The controversial horse was a series of articles appearing each month on a topical controversy. I’ve found three so far, and when I’ve found the rest of my 1941 copies, I shall be able to tell you if they continued beyond that. The series kicked off a couple of months before the issue above, with an article on how best to control the horse.
(i) Using physical or mental methods to control the horse (November 1940)
If you fought off the temptation to go straight to the a…

Seahorses, wolves and the Labrador who wouldn't: a conversation with animal photographer, Deanne Ward

I’m taking a slightly different tack here to my usual interviews-with-authors, and interviewing a photographer, Deanne Ward, who specialises in horses and dogs. I happen to know this particular photographer, and have done since we were horse-mad girls at school together, made felt ponies together, had model pony gymkhanas, rode real ponies …. and now, after detours for both of us, we’re both working with horses, although Deanne gets closer up than me. You’ll see just how close in a bit.

And so, one sunny May morning, Deanne came to visit, armed with her photography equipment. I provided tea, an elderly Labrador who made sure Deanne spilled that tea over her lap, and who then, having been virtually comatose up to the point of having her photo done, decided she was going to prove just how good Deanne is at working with animals who, well, are just not feeling it.
JB: Welcome to my blog Deanne – so, how did you get started – have you always been keen on photography?
DW: Well, I actually st…

Interview: Gillian Baxter

Did you have any of these, I wonder? The books you knew existed, because you'd seen them mentioned on the dustjackets of books you had read, but which you never managed to track down? Gillian Baxter fell into that category for me. Not one did I manage to find, not a single one until Louise Simmonds started Ozbek Books, selling vintage pony literature. Through her, at the advanced age of 40+, I finally found Gillian Baxter. She was well worth the wait. A few years after that, I interviewed Gillian, who's still involved in the horse world, and is still writing

When you write pony books, it makes life much easier if you have ponies trotting through your own consciousness: the Black Boy you learned to ride on, or the evil Benjamin who dumped you on your first riding lesson. When I talked to her, I was struck by just how many of Gillian Baxter's equine characters were based on her own horses and ponies. Her books are full of ponies she has known or owned.

But ponies weren&#…

Interview: Kate Cuthbert, author

It's been a while since I did an interview, but knowing Kate Cuthbert had released For the Love of Fly has sparked me into action. The book's had a long journey to publication. When Kate first got in touch with me, a publisher had just decided that the mixture of horses and school wouldn't work for today's children. I worked on the story with Kate (and on book number two), and she's now brought it out as a paperback.

Today, I talk to Kate about why she thinks combining horses and school does work, and on how she's got to publication.
JB: Welcome Kate! It's good to have you on the blog. First things first: how did you start writing?

I enjoyed writing when I was younger. I used to write stories set in a stable yard and I would draw out a map of the yard to go with it, writing a horse’s name into each little square that represented a stable. As I got older I followed a more scientific path, eventually gaining BSc and MSc degrees, and, because of this, I con…

Camden Stables – in Search of Horse Ghosts

In most towns and cities, you can probably, if you look hard enough, find evidence of the working horse, even if it’s just in the names of streets. And although many buildings have disappeared entirely, some still survive, even if they have found other uses entirely.
One such is the railway stables that served the goods yards of Euston Station and the surrounding canals. Inner city stables like these housed an astonishing number of horses, often in surprisingly small spaces. If you are used to the open spaces of most modern yards, it’s difficult to imagine that once hundreds of horses were stabled around Chalk Farm Road, in what has become known as Camden Stables. At its peak, the goods stables housed 700–800 horses, with more stables at the termini for those horses who transported passengers.
The first run of stables was built in 1839, but they and the surrounding buildings saw decades of expansion and rebuilding. The earliest range of stables that still survives today was built in …

Ten pony book covers you’ll wish you hadn’t seen

There are some wonderful pony book covers out there, and then there are the ones that stick in your mind for all the wrong reasons.

The original hardback edition of Gillian Baxter's Horses in the Glen had a prettycover by Elisabeth Grant. The Children's Book Club edition had something copied, rather badly, from Mathilde Windisch-Graetz's The Spanish Riding School.

 The Children's Book Club had form for producing iffy covers. Here is their version of Monica Dickens's Cobbler's Dream (which arguably is not a children's book anyway – or at least only for a child with a strong stomach). The Michael Joseph first edition is infinitely better.

Possibly the most glorious Children's Book Club effort is this one, for Monica Edwards's The Wanderer, which does make you wonder if the illustrator had ever seen an actual horse.

Fortunately the original artist, Joan Wanklyn, had.

Scholastic Book Services (who, like the Children's Book Club, did also produce som…