Posts

Showing posts from November, 2016

Of Christmas. And unicorns. And glittery bathbombs.

Image
A highlight of my year as a child was when the November horse and pony magazines hit the shelves, together with their Christmas gift guides. Why not this charming pair of jodhs from Swaine, Adeney, Brigg for double the price of my entire riding kit? Or this extraordinarily expensive china horse at roughly the same price as a small car? Why not indeed? I could always hope.
So, in tribute to those long ago, black and white pages of glory, here is my own selection of horse-themed gifts. Like those articles, I have chosen things at which you will gasp and say What is she on? And also the odd, more reasonable contribution.
If you no longer wish to smell of the stable, then you might like to try Parfums de Marly, whose creations are mostly named after horses. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have said the Galloway (probably ancestor of the Dales and Fell ponies) was elegant and white, but here in the world of splendidly expensive French perfumery that’s exactly what it is. The scent …

Review: Carl Hester – Valegro, the Little Horse with the Big Dream

Image
Ah, Valegro. Superstar dressage horse who made all our hearts flutter in the last two Olympics. If you’ve ever wondered how Valegro started off, and what life is like if you’re a horse on Carl Hester’s yard (and indeed if you’re a dog, a guinea fowl, or a human) then this is the book for you.


There’s not a great deal of narrative excitement in the book, as obviously we all know what’s going to happen. What we don’t know, however, is how Valegro got there, and that’s what this book covers – or at least his early life. The book is the first of a series and I admit I am looking forward to what happens when Valegro meets the woman who was to become his rider, Charlotte Dujardin. What this book tells you is what happens when Valegro is first shipped from Holland over to Carl Hester’s yard. 
We’re probably all familiar with some elements of his story, but this book introduces you to things you probably didn’t know, such as the Hester naming convention (all horses the year Valegro arrived w…

Pony Tails and Puffin Books II

Image
Puffin Picture Books to me had it just right. Their illustrations were things of simple beauty. They weren’t in any way child-like, quirky, or hitting a particular, temporary, zeitgeist. The illustrations of the only Puffin Picture Book I had as a child (Henry Wynmalen’s Riding for Children, found at a Methodist missionary society jumble sale) gave me a sunlit, rural world in which lived a perfectly behaved grey pony, and a kind and expert instructor who gave considered and elegant riding lessons where you had no need to wonder why you were being taught the hands-in-lap show ring style that had been out of fashion for decades. 
It, and its fellows, were the idea of Noel Carrington (1884-1989), who in the 1930s was working for publishers Country Life as an editor and designer. He had tried to interest them in his idea of a series of factual books for children that explained the world around them in books that were inexpensive, yet profusely illustrated in colour. Country Life already …

Pony Tales and Puffin Books I

Image
When I wrote Heroines on Horseback, I looked briefly at the impact that the development of paperback publishing had on the pony story. I was looking then at publishers like Armada, the paperback arm of Collins, whose business model was to produce paperback versions of books children wanted to read, in an often standardised and abridged format. Armada and Dragon tended to concentrate on popular series and genres: school stories, Enid Blyton, and of course the pony story. Puffin’s publishing model was subtly different. Puffin’s first editor, Eleanor Graham, aimed to give children the best of children’s literature, a model Kaye Webb, its next editor, followed and developed.

It’s interesting to look at the horse stories that Puffin published in the light of this, and that’s what this short series of blogs will do.
Eleanor Graham (1896-1984) was born to a father who was the editor of Country Life and a mother whose passion was books. After a brief interlude when she studied medicine, Ele…

Review: Caroline Akrill - The Last Baronet

Image
It’s been a while. It’s been a long while, but Caroline Akrill is back. After writing the best-selling Eventers’ Trilogy and a raft of other sharply observed and witty horse stories (not words that often go together) Caroline went off to do Other Things, like run J A Allen equestrian publishers, and run a hotel.
The hotel obviously provided rich comic fodder, much of which has surfaced in this book. Her first book for adults, it is a gloriously sweary, brilliant, vital read, which moves effortlessly from the comic to the dark and on to the romantic.

Set in the 1980s, when new money had not yet rushed through the world of the English country house and refurbished it, Rushbroke Hall has reached a state of almost terminal decline, reeking with rot, roof timbers open to the skies. Its owner, Sir Vivian Rushbroke, is in hock to the bank for staggering, sick-making sums of money. Rushbroke Hall needs a saviour, and it finds one in the unexpected form of Anna, a chef. A chef with secrets. A…