‘Heather’ (Vivian, Joyce Mary)

About the author

‘Heather’ was another very young author, who wrote Riding with Reka at the age of fifteen. Alas, this was her first and only book, and she died before the book was published.

According to the jacket of the book: ‘Unfortunately, before the book was ready for Press, the young rider met with a fatal accident. Her parents agreed to go on with the publication in the hope that other children might derive from the story some of the pleasure its author found in writing it. The royalties go to the Dalesman’s Fund (Horse and Hound) for saving worn-out horses from distress.’

The foreword says:

Joyce Mary Vivian (Heather) at the age of eighteen has passed to the Great Beyond, yet surely taking with her the treasures of mind and soul gained on earth.

Many riding friends and others have written how Joyce was loved for her ready sympathy and freedom from conceit. From an early age she was passionately and single-mindedly absorbed in horses. Her sweet nature and quiet manner resulted in quick confidence between rider and horse, and riding became her greatest joy.

Inspired by her love for horses Joyce, when fifteen years old began to write a book as a relief while working for the Matriculation, and every evening would retire into an imaginary world with her beloved horses – in this way Riding with Reka evolved.

Without consulting anyone she sent the manuscript last summer to Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode who decided to publish, not knowing of the accident which happened so soon after.

There are some rather strange, and very sad, publications, from 1943–1949, in the British Library attributed to Heather. Apparently these were dictated by her through mediums and written down by her mother. There is also a book called Wrecked Early in Life written by Heather in 1873, of which there is apparently a copy in the British Library. How this book, if it exists, fits into the story I do not know. I can only assume the publication date is incorrect.

Riding with Reka is, as so many of these stories written by young girls are, the story of a pony. It’s a good example of the genre though: although Reka does do the usual progression down the equine ladder, in the main he is treated with intelligence by good riders, and only once slips right down.

It’s refreshing to read a story where humanity is basically well disposed, and also one where a pony is a persistent rearer. This is not a usual vice in pony books: Clown, in Diana Pullein-Thompson’s A Pony to School has the vice, but is cured. Reka isn’t so much cured, as dealt with as he is. He’s recognised as being unsafe for the riding school he is used in, but that doesn’t mean he’s never ridden. The book’s premise is that the rearing is an issue, but not one that necessarily means the pony is doomed.

Finding the book
Reka has become more expensive over the years, but is not impossible to find, by any means.

Dustjacket and foreword of Riding with Reka
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau for the information



Eyre & Spotiswoode 1937, illus by Lionel Edwards 

Dandy Girl has a black foal, called Smut. He has an idyllic foalhood, and when his master dies, he is sent away to be broken.  However, he has always had a tendency to rear, and bad treatment by the breaker’s hired man confirms him in it.  After an unsuccessful stint in a riding school, Smut is bought by Jack Deane.

He’s renamed Reka (Greek for “I’ve found it) and gets on well with Jack and his cousin Pat. Then Jack has to leave England suddenly when he gets a job and Reka is sold on, not happily.  He is then bought by Mr Dixon, who, it turns out, is helped by Pat.  Pat buys him, and together they have some success at gymkhanas and shows.

This book has a cover by Lionel Edwards. For copyright reasons, I don’t include his covers on this site