PBOTD 18th May: Patricia Leitch - Afraid to Ride

I loved my copy of this book, which was the Collins Pony Library edition. I loved its matt cover, with its dramatic illustration, and I loved the story of poor, petrified Jill, who manages to help her cousins run the riding school, overcome her fear and save a misunderstood pony at the same time: so many boxes ticked. Having said that, the oldest character is sixteen, so him taking on the running of the stables isn't as unlikely as it might have been.

Afraid to Ride was originally published as part of the Collins Spitfire series - paperback books that would fit in a very small pocket. Patricia Leitch contributed four books to the series under the name Jane Eliot, and most of them were picked up and re-written for the Collins Pony Library in the 1970s. The one exception was Pony Club Camp, possibly because Collins already had Josephine Pullein-Thompson's novel of the same name.

Collins Spitfire, small format pb, 1967
Overcoming fear was something Patricia Leitch addressed in her first book, To Save a Pony. She was always a sympathetic author, and no one in her books has to be fearless. What they must do, though, is understand what is holding them back, and be brave enough to tackle it. The desire to save something that can't save itself is a strong motivating factor. Jane in To Save a Pony enters a jumping competition despite her fear, so that she can buy a neglected pony.  

Jill has to prove to everyone else that Diggory is not dangerous so that he's not put down. She was put off riding by an accident at a bad riding school, but when she goes to stay with her cousins and their Aunt Jo, she is faced with ponies everywhere after Aunt Jo has an accident and the cousins decide to run the stables. She won’t go near the ponies, but then she discovers the Fell Digory in a field.  He has been condemned as dangerous, but Jill likes him, and feels for him, a fellow outcast, and that's enough.

Collins Pony Library 1974
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More on Patricia Leitch


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