Saddle Up For A Classic Pony Book Spring

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Fidra Books of Edinburgh have recommenced rolling out their new editions of Ruby Ferguson’s Jill series with book three, Jill Has Two Ponies. This is the original text, without any politically correct snips or sections removed because long books might bore the modern kiddo. They also feature facsimiles of the wonderful 1950s illustrations by Caney. Fidra’s Facebook page is here, and their home page for the Jill series is here, with sample chapters galore. If you think you’ve outgrown Jill, think on – rereading them as a grown up left me in peals of laughter. Ferguson added some gentle satire to the standard pony book mix, and Jill has the wickedest comments to make on sappy girls and other idiots.

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Look out, too, for Jane Badger’s forthcoming book, Heroines on Horseback: The Pony Book in Children’s Fiction. It tells you the stories behind not just the great authors of the genre – Pullein Thompson, Leitch, Gervaise, Ferguson, Peyton, Edwards, Cumming et al – but also the artists who brought life to their words. Jane collects and sells pony books and her website has long been a go-to resource for all things gymkhana. It’s definitive and chockful of illustrations from your childhood, helping you sort your Silver Snaffles from your Six Ponies. My wee disclaimer: I contributed a short piece on my love for the Pullein-Thompsons’ Black Beauty’s Clan series.

If Wishes Were Horses: Young Riders

Mum and a friend's horse, Beauty, with a red rosette.

Ponymadbooklovers have a good information page on Golden Gorse, as does Jane Badger. The only pony I ever got to Christmas was an Exmoor “adopted” from the Moorland Mousie Trust in Devon, who work to preserve what is now sadly a rare breed. They have commissioned a hardback re-issue of the novel, complete with original illustrations by Lionel Dunning: impossibly good value at £11.99.

The Pony Club has a downloadable history available on their home site, as well as a collection of classic old photos of many generations in Pony Clubbers in action. Health and safety fanatics look away now!

If you’re interested in learning about Enid Bagnold – above and beyond National Velvet – this Telegraph piece by Sarah Crompton is a good place to start, and Anne Sebba’s biography gives you the measure of a very formidable (and often endearingly silly) woman. I liked Bagnold immensely after reading Sebba’s portrait, and I’m glad that it’s now available on Faber Finds. Liz Hunt interviewed Bagnold’s daughter, Laurian, Comtesse d’Harcourt, for the Telegraph: a life quite as colourful as her mother’s.

For other pony book authors like the Pullein-Thompsons, Primrose Cumming (Silver Snaffles), Joanna Cannan and Ruby Ferguson (the Jill books), there’s Jane Badger’s comprehensive site.

This post relates to a chapter of the book If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of an Equine Obsession. If you have any questions to ask about the content, please fire away in the comments. The main online index for the book is here.

The Cow Jumped Over the… Upright

15-year-old Regina jumps over an obstacle with her cow Luna in the Bavarian town of Traunstein in southern Germany. Regina decided to pursue her hobby of show jumping, despite not having a horse at her disposal

A drastic solution to the pony-mad-but-ponyless problem. Nice touch with the boots. Incidentally, “Golden Gorse” aka Muriel Wace, the author of Moorland Mousie, taught one of her father’s heifers to jump, with the end result that the entire herd leapt out of their field.

More photos here, and video here.