About the author
Cecilia Knowles wrote several children’s books on animals (Kelpie – A Scottish Sheepdog and Torry the Roe Deer being two non pony titles). Her pony titles are written from her own experience, and are both based on ponies she knew. The dedication in Hippo reads: ‘This book, about a real pony, is dedicated to my son, daughter, and son-in-law. To Basil who loved and rode him, to Barbara who drove him and eventually got him back into the family, and to her husband David, who, christening him “The Immortal” has kept him in happiness for many years.’
Both titles are well above the usual history-of-a-pony genre. Cecilia Knowles has the knack of observing ponies and writing about them as they actually are, without anthropomorphising them. Her strong affection for her animal heroes shines through, and her human characters are entirely believable. I particularly like the merry Daphne, Hippo’s first owner after his breeders.
Both her pony books are beautifully observed, and should be more popular than they are.
Finding the books
Both her pony titles are easy to find, and reasonably priced.
Hua Ma the Flower Pony
Falcon Press, London, 1947, 178 pp, illus Leslie Atkinson
Hua Ma is spotted Chinese pony. Spotted animals are always known as flowered in China, hence his name: Hua Ma means Flower Pony. Hua Ma is bought by an American and shipped to California for Derek his son. There, Hua Ma is stolen by a circus owner, becomes a circus pony and is then bought by a British circus owner. This is disastrous (Hua Ma hates whips) and he is sold as a child’s pony to Francis and Felicity where he is loved and appreciated, but sold after being outgrown. After a stressful spell as a beach pony, Felicity finds him again, and Artful (as they have christened him) comes back to them. Derek visits Felicity and Francis, and finds that Artful is his old pony Hua Ma.
Hippo, a Welsh Cob
Evans, London, 1960, 189 pp, illus Juliette Palmer
Hippo is a black (mostly) Welsh cob, bred by the Rivers family. They break Hippo in, but the children grow too tall for him, so Hippo is sold to Lord Elsted and his daughter Daphne. Daphne too loves him and rides him with the vim that Hippo deserves. Alas she too grows too tall for him, so on he goes to Francis and Felicity, where he is taught to be a driving pony. Once again outgrown, Hippo goes to Leila. Initially all goes well, but then her father inherits estates in Scotland and Hippo is sent North, despite Leila having promised if she ever wants to part with Hippo she will sell him back to Francis and Felicity. Hippo humiliates Leila’s father by bolting with the lunches when he is acting as a shooting pony, and he is given to a local farmer and neglected. Francis and Felicity manage to find him again, and buy him in exchange for a crate of whiskey. Hippo is by then elderly and frail, but is nursed back to health.