Desert Island Pony Books: Gillian Baxter

Gillian Baxter doesn't need much of an introduction from me: she's written some of the best-regarded pony books out there. She's the author of Jump for the Stars, The Difficult Summer, Tan and Tarmac,  The Stables at Hampton, and the Pantomime Ponies series, to name just a few. She's now writing again, with With Vacant Possession?, the story of a woman who moves to a remote Welsh farm with her horses, and gets a lot more than she bargained for.

So I'm really excited to be able to hand over to Gillian to tell you about what books she would (and wouldn't) take away on a desert island with her.


What books would I like to have beside me on my desert island? First, a book that will transport me home to the scents and sounds and weather of the British countryside, and the thrills and struggles of a brilliant but difficult pony. 

The Team by K M Peyton
For this I would choose KM Peyton’s The Team, the story of Ruth, who is inexperienced but driven by her dream of owning and competing on the pony she had bought, with borrowed money in the market, the difficult one-time-winner Toadhill Flax.  Sold by his high class dealer owner against his son’s wishes, and spoiled by his next owner, Ruth knows that if she can manage him, Toad could fulfil all her dreams. We feel with Ruth the warm winds and the hot sun, the rain in our faces, and the scents of trampled grass and warm horses.

The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes 
My next book is about another girl driven by a dream, Sarah, in The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes. I think this is the most original horse-related book I have read, though it is not a children’s book. It deals with a girl whose grandfather was dispelled from the Cadre noir riding academy in France, and who now, in later life, buys a Selle Francais horse to train, with his daughter, in the art of high school.The horse is kept at an inner city farm, and when her grandfather dies and gipsies want the horse for road trotter racing, she rides it away and makes her way across southern England. With many problems, she gets across to France and eventually to the Cadre noir. It is vividly written, and highly believable, and demands to be read more than once.

Not Quite a Horsewoman by Caroline Akrill
For my third book I would like to laugh, and what better than Caroline Akrill’s Not Quite a Horsewoman? Her misadventures with show ponies and hunting are hilarious and believable. Who cannot laugh at the show pony mistakenly stabled at a show in the police kitchen in the temporary showground stables?

Riders by Jilly Cooper
Fourth I would have to take Jilly Cooper’s Riders for sheer length as well as a wonderful assortment of horses and characters, settings and dramas. I think it is the only genuine horse-based blockbuster, and although there is plenty to object to on the whole it is a really good read and would transport me away from my lonely palm tree.

The Wednesday Pony by Primrose Cumming
Finally, a pony book which I have not seen for many years, but which was one of the first I remember reading, The Wednesday Pony by Primrose Cumming. This is the story of two children who love to ride, but can only borrow the butcher's trap pony on early closing day. He is a saint of a pony, only to be really appreciated when they get a much showier riding pony who teaches them that not every pony has the kind heart and manners of the butcher's pony.This book takes us back to the time, not so long ago, when the delivery pony and cart horse were a central part of life and not the luxuries that they are today.

Not to be taken, through no fault of its own—it is a wonderful classic—is Black Beauty. I could not bear to sit under my palm tree and read about poor Ginger, and remember that so many horses around the world are still suffering from similar treatment. I shall be sorrowful enough, stranded on the hot beach, without seeing that ginger horse with its head hanging lifeless over the end of the cart in the uncaring London street.


Thank you very much Gillian! If you'd like to read more about Gillian and her books, I have a page on my website about her here.


callmemadam said…
This is such an interesting series, Jane!

The Wednesday Pony would be one of my top five books, too. I love the story, the large format and the illustrations.

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