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February 2019



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Pony Mad: Heroines on Horseback by Jane Badger


Could there be a more enticing book cover than one showing shelves full of books? (I’d lose those Puffin picture books floating around at the top.) Studying the picture closely, as I have done, I’ve been surprised to find just how many of these books I’ve read and even owned at some time. For an un-horsy person I’ve certainly read a lot of pony books, so I’ve been keenly anticipating this book’s publication. I wasn’t disappointed.

Jane Badger is a pony book expert and dealer. Her website (see link on left) is a wonderful resource, with information on just about all the pony books ever written. She hasn’t set out to write academically on the subject; nevertheless the book is rigorously organised, based on wide knowledge and research, and includes some trenchant criticism. First she gives an overview of the history of the pony book, from the early, pony biography (e.g. Black Beauty), to instructional works, through the adventure stories of the pony book heyday from the thirties to the sixties, to modern series like The Saddle Club and the regrettable ‘pink and sparkly’ image given to the pony books of today.

A few authors get chapters to themselves, for example the Pullein-Thompson sisters, Ruby Ferguson and Monica Edwards. Much as I love Monica Edwards, I do think it’s cheating a little to include every book she wrote. If Edwards, why not Stephen Mogridge (a lesser writer, admittedly), whose New Forest series’ characters have many of their adventures while riding? K M Peyton is praised to the skies. I’m prepared to accept the opinion of almost everyone else that her books are wonderful but, sadly, she’s one of my blind spots; I just don’t like her books. The publishers, Girls Gone By, have been lavish with reproductions of book covers and text illustrations and there’s a chapter on the artists. I was pleased to see my own favourite, Anne Bullen, so esteemed. Her pictures of Tamzin and Cascade are so familiar to me they leap off the page. Pony magazines and annuals are also discussed; I can’t think of a topic Jane hasn’t covered. Heroines on Horseback, subtitled The Pony Book in Children’s Fiction, is as enjoyable to read as a good pony story and would appeal to anyone interested in children’s books. I heartily recommend it.

some of my pony books

My favourite pony books:
Anything by Monica Edwards, especially The Summer of the Great Secret
The Wednesday Pony, Primrose Cumming
We Couldn’t Take Dinah, Mary Treadgold
Jill’s Gymkhana, Ruby Ferguson
The Ten-Pound Pony, Veronica Westlake. This one is my utter favourite.

Everything I know about horses I learned from reading books like these. As you can tell from the list, for me a pony book has to be about more than ponies. Jane takes the same view, that the best pony books should have a strong sense of place and believable, likeable characters, both human and equine.



Having lived in the New Forest (or more precisely Dibden Purlieu and a 5 minute walk to the cattle grid to enter the forest) you'd think I'd love books about horses but I don't. I do, however, love books about the New Forest, fiction and non fiction. The Children Of The New Forest is a classic I enjoy although it's not to everyone's taste. I have it on my kindle as a freebie :)
I can think of lots more books set in or around the New Forest. It was obviously very popular with children's authors. I'm about forty minutes to an hour away, depending on the traffic.
You live in an ideal area with some lovely places close by :)
I love your icon! Would you mind if I took it for use on Dreamwidth (with credit of course)?
Do you mean this one (girl reading by Edward Ardizzone) or the book one (some of my John and Mary books)? You're welcome.
No, sorry, I actually meant gwendraith's tea-rex icon! (Although I do love those book spines, but one shouldn't have the same icons as one's friends IMO, it would be confusing.)
gwendraith's icons are brilliant!
I'm sorry but I've made both icons for my own use, the tea one just days ago. The summer one is my current default at dreamwidth where my main blog is so I'd prefer if no one else used them, at least while I am using them :(
No problem, I totally understand.
Living in London (sounds like a book) as a child, I was absolutely horse mad, and would only read books with horses and ponies in them. I couldn't understand my parents' amusement when I came home from school one day with a House Point for my story 'The Day I Became a Horse'.

I love the line drawings within these books; seemingly the same artist as in the BHS instructional books, as I recall. That bottom right cover is stunning.
Did you fantasise about keeping a pony in your back garden?

That was a wonderful era for children's book illustration. The cover you like is by Peter Biegel.
No, I couldn't imagine a pony out the back, but got occasional rides on Wimbledon Common.

The illustrations really were wonderful. Also, Pat Smythe wrote some good pony adventures stories. I trust that she did write them!
I used to have all those Pat Smythe books, but I sold them when I realised I was only keeping them for the beautiful wraparound dustwrappers. I'd wondered whether she wrote them, because the first book, Jacqueline Rides for a Fall, was described as the first of a series and there was a club to join. It seems she really did write the books though. Hard to imagine now just how famous she was at one time. Jane Badger points out in the book that in the days when The Horse of the Year Show was televised, top showjumpers were household names.
The only pony book I ever read was Follyfoot by Monica Dickens. But I do have Thelwell's Pony Cavalcade, a very amusing collection of cartoons.
I haven't read the Follyfoot books, or seen the TV series. Thelwell is lovely and very collectable.
The Follyfoot TV series was better than the books, IMO. I was so disappointed in her children's books - I tried World's End in Winter and didn't like it either. I think she was a better writer for adults.
In my opinion, the Follyfoot books are very poor, as are the Messenger books. But Cobbler's Dream, Dickens' horse story for adults which inspired Follyfoot, is very good. Definitely a better writer for the older audience. (Though my daughter loved the World's End books when she was 10 or 11 years old.)
I must look out for Cobbler's Dream!
Thank you! It's nothing to what it would be if I'd kept everything :-)
I'm waiting for my copy to arrive and am looking forward to it so much! My favourites were the Jills (Ruby Ferguson), the Jackies (Judith M Beresford), Diana Pullein-Thompson and the Georgias (Mary Gervaise), which were actually more boarding-school story than pony book.
I'm sure you'll love the book. I've been disappointed by some of the GGB non-fiction titles, but not by this one.

I once had all the Jill books, sold them, then started buying again! My preferred Pullein-Thompson sister is Josephine, though I like some of Diana's books.
Isn't this great? Was going to bring Miranda's copy that I've nabbed now this afternoon for you to see, but then saw this first. We both loved it. I must readThe Ten-Pound Pony!
Glad you both enjoyed it, too!


Pony & Horse books

I was never 'pony mad' as a girl, although loads of my pals were. But for both passions of little girls, i.e ponies & ballet, what about Lorna Hill's books?
My two favourite pony/riding books were The Silver Eagle Riding School and Silver Eagle Carries on (author Primrose Cumming?)
But I never read many of them, preferring as I say, Lorna Hill and the Famous Five!
Margaret P

Re: Pony & Horse books

Don't tell me you were a fan of Lorna Hill's Guy, with his penchant for spanking girls? :-) I had all her Patience and Msrjorie books at one time, but have only kept the Wells series. I do like Silver Eagle but not as much as Primrose Cumming's 'singles'.


Re: Pony & Horse books

I'm behind with blogging at the moment but I do love the books you mention and the memories you bring back for me.
Susie V

Re: Pony & Horse books

I'm glad of that.