Harold the Cross Country Pony

I've just finished reading Patricia Leitch's Cross Country Pony. It's one of those books I've read before, known I've liked, but forgotten why. In many ways I like this book more than the Jinny series: it's written with a lighter heart and humour, and without the angst that sometimes makes the Jinny books a bit of a tortuous read. Some pony books succeed because the ponies in them are so wonderfully recognisable, and I think Harold (the cross country pony himself) is one of these. Jinty, who rides him, says:

Cynically Harold regarded me, a gleam in his wicked little eyes. I was
absolutely at his mercy. It was merely a question of what he decided to do
with me.

I used to ride a pony called Bear who was much like Harold: he summed you up in an instant and would then mercilessly exploit any weakness. He obviously found life at the riding stables a little dull, as he was constantly thinking up new and exciting ways to misbehave. When the stables built a new indoor school, further away from the stables than the existing outdoor schools, Bear soon discovered that most people leading him towards the school would lose concentration at some point, so he could whisk his reins out of their hands and be off. To get round this, you had to get on Bear in his stable. And be prepared to battle hard to prevent him detouring into the Feed Room on the way, had the door been left open. The lovely sand in the new school also provided an excellent rolling surface - far better than the bark in the outdoor school, but this did prove his undoing as rolling with the clients wasn't exactly Health and Safety.

Bear and I got on fine as long as I was on his back - he loved jumping and so did I, so that was ok, but Bear had me beat in the stable and he knew it. After my last attempt at bridling him had led to me being whirled round the stable being gawped at by the students I gave up attempting doing anything with him in the stable.

Fortunately Harold, the cross country pony, didn't have all the devilish aspects of Bear. I can't, at the moment, think of any pony or horse who had quite his demonic attributes. Black Boy he certainly wasn't.


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