Ponies Plot is a 1965 curio by the British naval historian C. Northcote Parkinson. Curious because it sends up the classic pony book delightfully. It tells the story of a riding school on the verge of closing, where the ponies conspire to end up with the right kind of little girl who will cater to their whims – as you’ll see from the cover, it’s most definitely the ponies who are on top here. As the preface explains, “This … is a book about children, written for ponies.” In this extract, the ponies are gathered in their field and discussing ways to get themselves thrown out of the riding school. The oldest, Smokey, takes them all to task:
“You youngsters don’t see what the problem is. It is not enough to be unwanted here. You have first to find the girl you want and a home you would prefer. You must learn to look ahead! Decide, first of all, what it is you want.”
“Well,” said Skylark, “I should choose a girl of about nine, standing about fifteen hooves and weighing not more than four stone twleve pounds.”
“Or less,” said Dunblane quickly.
“She should have a snub nose,” said Brighty in a dreamy way, “with fair or red hair – yes, and freckles –”
“Freckles, yes,” agreed Skylark. “But a brunette can be all right too, so long as her back is straight and her legs are long.”
“I actually prefer a brunette with straight hair,” said Spice. “But she needs to be dependable, generous and kind, nicely mannered and reasonably intelligent.”
“Not too confident or rash,” suggested Dunblane.
“But with at least three years’ experience,” said Unbeatable.
“All right!” grunted Smokey. “Those are the Points we look for in the child. But what about her family and background?”
“She should have a prosperous father,” Unbeatable replied, “a doting mother – both reasy to help out in the stables. Yes, and two younger sisters aged five and one.”
“And what about brothers?”
“Only one, I think,” said Unbeatable. “Well-behaved and useful with apples.”