Brugman, Alyssa

About the author

Alyssa Brugman grew up reading pony books set in England or America: with plenty of pony content, but things alien to Australia like hunting and ranches. When she grew up, she was determined to write pony books which Australian readers would recognise, and this was the start of the Shelby series. She has written other, non-horsey, books for teenagers, and these have been picked up by Faber in the UK.

So what are the Shelby books like?

The books come very highly recommended by the Australian members on the forum on my old website. Stardust said:

‘To me, Alyssa’s books capture the true essence of the love and bond shared between a girl and her pony. This dedication is beautifully blended into plots that feature true to life situations which we all at times encounter in the ‘Horsey World’. Alyssa has a light and entertaining style but is also adept at portraying humour, suspense, compassion and intrigue. The human characters are those you feel you may have met before, or may already [know]. You may even recognise parts of your own self in the books somewhere! The horsey characters are a delight, and you can feel yourself developing a connection with them too. Much as I adore our British counterparts, it was so refreshing to read pony fiction from a great Aussie author who obviously knows horses, people and how to concoct the two to ensure a fabulous read for the young, and young at heart!’

Finding the books
Now available as ebooks. Some do turn up secondhand in the UK.

Links and sources
Alyssa Brugman at Faber
Alyssa has kindly written something for this site on her books.

Alyssa Brugman writes:

Lots of Australian books are set in the bush. My books have Australian kids living in the outskirts of Sydney, so that might be something a bit different for your readers.

With my series I had a number of aims – one was to write an adventure story featuring Australian girls riding the types of horses that are typical here. I wanted to include a number of disciplines and have the girls riding through landscapes, both natural and built that should be familiar to most Australian horsey readers.

I wanted to accurately describe equine management in an Australian climate, with a particular emphasis on barefoot hoof care and natural horsemanship techniques, while at the same time factoring in the limitations of an urban environment. It’s all well and good to apply natural horsemanship principles if you have 1000 acres and unlimited time, but what if you live in Sydney, and you have half an hour before school?

When faced with a horse care issue, which she does in each book, Shelby seeks a number of opinions from the adults in her life. They always provide varying, and sometimes contradictory answers. Shelby’s job is to take aspects of those answers and apply them to her own situation, which is a valuable skill in life, not only in animal care.

An undercurrent of each of the books is the differing financial situations of the families of the girls. Anyone involved in horses cannot help being aware of the influence money has over one’s capacity to succeed in competition. It’s a reality, and something that I wanted to explore without necessarily smacking readers around the head with it.

It has also been my aim to make the adults real, with faults, flaws and vulnerabilities, including the whole ‘soccer mum’ phenomenon, which is even more intense in equestrian competition because the financial value of the animal (which can run into thousands and tens of thousands) is determinant on the child’s ability.

The other realistic element that I have been at pains to include is school. Once you factor in the school week, suddenly you have homework, you have classes to write about, teachers, and incidents in the playground. It’s so much easier to set an adventure novel in holiday time, but the reality is that kids have to go to school most of the time, and so Shelby does too.

I do have an agenda with these books. Shoeing of horses is still widespread in this country. Most children would not be familiar with barefoot principles, and so I am introducing them in these stories.

The overwhelming response I get from readers (and most of the girls who write to me own ponies) is that the girls in these stories are ‘just like us’. That’s very gratifying. 

Alyssa Brugmann


For Sale or Swap
Beginner’s Luck
Hot Potato
Hide & Seek
Greener Pastures

Bibliography (pony books only)

For Sale or Swap

Random House Australia, 2004

My review of For Sale or Swap

Shelby, the heroine, is convinced she will improve her riding with a different pony, so swaps her own Blue for Maxshine Celtic Copper. The swap is a disaster: Copper, it turns out, is stolen and after returning her Shelby has no pony. There is no trace of Blue. How Shelby reacts to her setbacks make this a really involving read.

Beginner’s Luck

Random House Australia, 2005

Shelby has to find somewhere else to keep Blue, fast, and enters the Matchstick Town Challenge to try and win money to keep Blue.

Hide & Seek

Random House Australia, 2007

Shelby and her mum look for Diablo, a prize stallion gone missing from the stables. After a trick-riding troupe come to town, Shelby starts to learn some of their tricks, and it looks as if Blue is a perfect trick-riding pony.

Hot Potato

Random House Australia, 2006, reprinted 2007

Shelby and her friends buy a pony going cheap at an auction, convinced they can sell the pony on for more than they paid. However, none of the girls are actually allowed to have a new horse, so each tells her parents the pony belongs to one of the others: and nothing else goes quite to plan, either…

Greener Pastures

Random House Australia, 2008

Shelby has outgrown Blue, and that is not the only change happening in her life.

The Equen Queen

Ford Street Publishing, Australia, 2008

While moored to a new world Quentaris is approached by another sky-city. The sky-traders onboard seem friendly and generous, offering the Quentarans food and gems, but are in fact setting a trap. What are the equens and can they really heal the sick? Despite losing hers pecial powers, Tab Vidler must find some answers fast, before all is lost.
This book is part of the Quentaris series, which has been written by a range of different authors.