Baxter, Gillian

About the author

Gillian Baxter wrote her first book, Horses and Heather, when she was 15. Much of her writing was based on her own experience. As well as loving horses, she was a keen actor, and wrote a children’s novel, The Knightsgate Players, based on acting. She enjoyed fast cars, which made an appearance in Ribbons and Rings. Like her heroine in Tan and Tarmac, she lived in London (Kensington) and rode in Hyde Park.

Gillian Baxter wrote two series of books: the Bracken Stables trilogy, and the Magic and Moonshine series, about a pair of driving ponies. The Bracken Stables Trilogy (Jump to the Stars, The Difficult Summer and The Perfect Horse) is about Roberta, her show jumping mare Shelta, and the Bracken Hills Riding Stables, run by Guy Mathews. The books were aimed at slightly older readers than the Jill books. Bobby (Roberta) is nearly at the end of her school career when the series opens, and she eventually leaves education to work at Bracken Stables. Gillian has now added substantially to the series, and you can buy these books as eBooks from Amazon.

In her entry into adulthood, Bobby is unlike Ruby Ferguson’s Jill, who meekly agreed to do a secretarial course. Bobby wants to work with horses and goes ahead and does it. There are boys in the Jill books, but as friends only, whereas there are relationships in many of Gillian Baxter’s books: unsurprisingly perhaps, as many of her books are about girls in their late teens and early twenties.

Gillian Baxter did not restrict herself to one particular horsey field: the Bracken Stable series is about show jumping and eventing. The Team from Low Moor centres on the Prince Phillip Cup, and The Stables at Hampton is possibly the first novel exclusively concerned with dressage.

In the 1970s she switched publishers and started writing a series aimed at younger children, the Magic and Moonshine series: Pantomime Ponies, Save the Ponies!, Ponies by the Sea, Ponies in Harness and Ponies to the Rescue.

Bargain Horses is the last of Gillian Baxter’s works under her name; after this date she wrote for D C Thomson. Bargain Horses was part of a series J A Allen published in the 1980s, aimed at the horsey teenager. It is generally a very strong and readable series, but Bargain Horses is my favourite. It’s a very believable story about a teenage girl struggling with a mother addicted to buying bargain horses; hopeless cases most of them. It’s a testament to the strength of Gillian Baxter’s writing that she can create believable teenagers over a 30-year writing career. She is still writing today, with books for adults as well as continuations of her Bracken Stables series.

Links and sources
My interview with Gillian Baxter
There is a Gillian Baxter quiz here.

Finding the books
Easy to find: Bargain Horses: Horses in the Heather, Horses in the Glen, Pantomime Ponies, Ponies by the Sea, Ponies in Harness, Save the Ponies, Special Delivery, The Perfect Horse
Medium: Tan and Tarmac, The Difficult Summer, The Team from Low Moor. Sweet Rock, Sue Elaine Draws a Horse
Difficult: Jump to the Stars, Ribbons and Rings , Stables at Hampton, Ponies to the Rescue (very difficult)

Acknowledgements
Many thanks to Susan, Fiona, Dawn, Sarah, Hannah and Konstanze for all their help with the photos.

Series

Bracken Stables
Jump to the Stars
The Difficult Summer
The Perfect Horse
~
Love and Horses at Bracken
People and Horses at Bracken
Horses and Challenges at Bracken
Ambitions and Horses at Bracken
Winter and Horses at Bracken
Twins and Horses at Bracken

Magic & Moonshine
Pantomime Ponies
Save the Ponies
Ponies by the Sea
Ponies in Harness
Ponies to the Rescue

Posession
With Vacant Possession
Sole Possession
Joint Possession
Shared Possession
Secured Possession


Bibliography


Horses and Heather

Frederick Warne, London, 1956, 179 pp, illus Sheila Rose

This is one of those stories where children take over a stable. Christine and Colin Scott, and their cousin, Alison, are supposed to be staying at Edna’s riding school near the sea, but when they get there, they find she has been taken to hospital, and so they keep the fort going.  

Jump to the Stars

Evans, London, 1957, 192 pp, illus Anne Gordon (reprint, 1961)
Dragon, London, pb, 1967, 157 pp.
Dragon, London, pb, 1978, 158 pp.
Jane Badger Books, 2024 (eBook)

Roberta lives with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Ellen. They go to
Bracken House School, and ride once a week. Roberta soon finds Bracken Stables, disapproved of by her school. Guy, the proprietor, buys a mare Bobby used to ride – Shelta. The Roberta’s horrible aunt, Helen, buys Shelta but treats her terribly, and then sends her to a sale when she is lame. At the last moment, Roberta (Bobby) manages to buy her.

Tan and Tarmac

Evans, London, 1958, illus Anne Gordon, 192 pp.
Dragon, London, 1967, pb,158 pp
Dragon, London, 1980, pb, 158 pp.

Stephanie moves to London, and there will be, she thinks, no horses, but she finds a riding school in Kensington, and rides there (and in Hyde Park).  She also rides a horse in a show for the American film star, Ross Collins.

The Difficult Summer

Evans, London, 1959, 192 pp, illus Anne Gordon
Dragon, London, pb, 1967, 156 pp.
Dragon, London, pb, 1978, 157 pp.
Jane Badger Books, 2024 (eBook)

Bobby is now working with Guy, but a plane crashes on the stables, Guy is injured and Bobby and Heath have to run the stables. Bobby is still wrestling with the problems Shelta was left with after her stint with Aunt Helen, and also have to deal with hostility from Bracken House School, whose pupils’ riding lessons they badly need.

Ribbons and Rings

Evans, London, 1960, 188 pp, illus Anne Gordon
Dragon, London, pb, 1967, 156 pp.

Shaun O’Rorke has come back to England with his brown Spanish stallion, Toreador, after several accidents racing cars. He runs the Lang Stables, with the help of 16-year-old Pauline, and Leslie Marsh, who is supposed to be groomed for a sophisticated social life. What Leslie wants is horses, and that in the end is what she gets, after an exciting show for them all at Harringay.

The Stables at Hampton

Evans, London, 1961, 191 pp, illus Anne Gordon
Jane Badger Books, 2024 (eBook)

Ginny rides at a sordid inner city riding school, but after its owner is put in prison, she meets Tamara, who offers her a job at her dressage stable. Tamara is a difficult character, and Ginny’s time at the stables is not an unmixed joy. Ginny learns dressage, and after a series of nasty events, Tamara’s true, and actually quite noble character emerges.

Horses in the Glen

Evans, London, 1962, 192 pp, illus Elizabeth Grant
Children’s Book Club, London, 1962.
Dragon, London, pb, 1967, 156 pp.

Lindy finds the beautiful Cobweb loose on the moor, and decides that it’s finders, keepers. Once the filly’s real owner turns up, she decides to teach Lindy. Lindy gradually learns that beautiful though the filly is, there are other qualities that are worthwhile, especially those in the Highland pony she rides, Robbie.

The Perfect Horse

Evans, London, 1963, 192 pp, illus Ivan Lapper
Dragon, London, pb 1967, 157 pp.
Dragon, London, pb, 1978
Jane Badger Books, 2024 (eBook)

Bobby and Guy are now together, and she and Shelta are now famous. Bobby’s cousin Ellen becomes a pupil, with Minos, a horse who never puts a foot wrong, and is entered at Badminton. Ellen is too scared to ride, so Bobby does, and it is then that perfect Minos, for whom everything always goes right, cannot cope.

The Knightsgate Players

Evans, London, 1964, illus Mary Tattersfield

A vague pony connection as the group take themselves and their props off in a horse-drawn caravan! This is about a group at a co-ed school who write and produce a successful play. As the stage equipment is so good in their school, one of the masters challenges them to do without it all, and take the play on tour playing in all sorts of different setups.  

Special Delivery

Methuen, London, 1967, 127 pp, illus Elisabeth Grant
Dragon, London, pb, 1970, 1976
Methuen pb, 1977, 128 pp.

Sarah, Simon and Margaret spend their spare time helping a young man who runs a delivery round. When he is ill, they carry on, helped by a donkey called Josephine.

The Team from Low Moor

Evans, London, 1965, 160 pp, illus Marcia Lane Foster

The Low Moor Pony Club is the poor relation of a wealthier branch. Its ponies are an odd assortment, but its children are keen. When a member, Charity Whitford, meets the former show jumper Laurence Croft, blinded in an accident, he is intrigued by the Club, and starts to instruct them. Eventually they improve so much they are in with a chance to compete at the Prince Philip Cup at the Horse of the Year Show. Besides the ponies, there is a frisson of romance too.

Sweet Rock

E J Arnold & Son Ltd, London, 1966, 142 pp. Cover uncredited

Sweet Rock is a pony, owned by the spoilt boy Chris Bowman, and he treats her very badly. Despite this unpromising beginning, Sharon King, who can’t afford a pony of her own, or even riding lessons, sees something worthwhile in Chris, and tries to reform him.

Pantomime Ponies

Methuen, London, 1969, illus Elisabeth Grant, 141 pp.
Dragon, London, 1970, pb
Dragon, London, 1976, pb
Methuen pb 1977, 141 pp.
Magnet pb 1982

Angela and Ian come to stay with their uncle, who has two pantomime ponies: Magic and Moonshine. Then
There is an accident with Magic, and the two aren’t sure if they’ll be allowed to stay.

Save the Ponies

Methuen, London, 1971, illus Elisabeth Grant
Methuen, London, pb, 1976
Methuen, London, pb, 1982

Uncle Arthur has to find new homes for Magic and Moonshine. They go to live at the Brewery after meeting the Shire horses at the Horseman’s Sunday service/parade.

Sue-Elaine Draws a Horse

Marion Coakes and Gillian Hirst
Pelham, London, 1970

Written by Gillian under her married name. Set against the background of Marion Coakes and her horses, this is the story of Sue-Elaine, and the difficult palomino, Sea-Blond. Sue-Elaine is an art student, and when she first claps eyes on Sea-Blond, she wants to draw him. The horse comes to Marion’s stables for a short stay. Mark helps Elaine find the horse again, and he’s helped out of his depression by the pair.

Ponies by the Sea

Methuen, London, 1974, illus Elisabeth Grant
Methuen, London, pb, 1976
Magnet, London, pb, 1982
Mammoth, London, pb, 1994

Angela and Ian have taken Magic and Moonshine to the seaside to star in a summer show.

Ponies in Harness

Methuen, London, 1977, illus Elisabeth Grant
Reprinted in pb by Methuen 1977, 127 pp,
Methuen, London, pb, 1982
Mammoth, pb, 1994

Magic and Moonshine are entered for a driving competition. When Uncle Arthur breaks his wrist, Ian and Angela drive the ponies and their cart in the Horse of the Year show.

Ponies to the Rescue

Methuen, London, 1983, laminated boards, 109 pp

Uncle Arthur and Angela take Magic and Moonshine to the local children’s hospital, where they are a huge hit.  As there is no money to organise riding lessons for the children, they fundraise to fund the lessons. Gina, the greengrocer’s daughter, is in a wheelchair and longs to ride the ponies, but her mother won’t let her as she thinks she will be hurt. Gina, however, is a very determined girl.

My Book of Pony Stories

Dean, London, 1991, illus Elisabeth Grant
Reprinted 1992

Contains: Pantomime Ponies, Save the Ponies & Ponies in Harness

Bargain Horses

J A Allen, London, pb, 1992, 138 pp.

Mary Conway has dreamed of buying a bargain horse which will prove to everyone just how good a trainer she is. Her daughter, Gemma, is the one who has to ride the procession of difficult and dangerous horses Mary finds, until the terrifying Weston appears.

recent books

With Vacant Possession?
Gillian Baxter, 2018
Kindle eBook/paperback

Love and Horses at Bracken
Gillian Baxter, 2019
Kindle eBook/paperback

Horses and Challenges at Bracken
Gillian Baxter, 2019
Kindle eBook/paperback

People and Horses at Bracken
Gillian Baxter, 2019
Kindle eBook/paperback

Ambitions and Horses at Bracken
Gillian Baxter, 2020
Kindle eBook/paperback

Sole Possession
Gillian Baxter, 2020
Kindle eBook/paperback

Winter and Horses at Bracken
Gillian Baxter, 2021
Kindle eBook/paperback

Joint Possession
Gillian Baxter, 2021
Kindle eBook/paperback

Twins and Horses at Bracken
Gillian Baxter, 2022
Kindle eBook/paperback

Shared Possession
Gillian Baxter, 2022
Kindle eBook/paperback

Secured Possession
Gillian Baxter, 2023
Kindle eBook/paperback