Smythe, Pat

About the author

Patricia Rosemary Smythe (1928–1996) succeeded in an equestrian world geared to men. Equestrianism is perhaps unique in allowing women to compete on equal terms with men, but it was not always so and Pat Smythe (and Brigitte Schockaert of Belgium) were the first two women to ride in Olympic show jumping events at the 1956 Stockholm Olympics. Pat won a bronze medal, and was one of Britain’s most successful show jumpers in the 1950s and 1960s, with horses like Tosca, Flanagan and Prince Hal.

Writing helped Pat Smythe keep going. Riders then, in order to compete internationally, had to have amateur status, and could not earn their living directly through horses. She was a major equine celebrity, and capitalised on this with her books. Pat Smythe wrote two pony book series: the Three Jays and the Adventure series. The Three Jays series is one of the most visually attractive of pony book series. All the hardbacks have dustjackets by J E McConnell, and it’s these which seem to be remembered more fondly than the stories, despite the inaccuracy of the horses’ portrayal in the early dustjackets. J E McConnell did get better at drawing horses as the series progressed. The trio on Three Jays Against the Clock are dire, with spectacularly awkward heads, but three books later, the cover of Three Jays Over the Border is almost unrecognisable, with a well-drawn horse set against the backgrounds he did so well. J E McConnell was obviously a confident artist: Three Jays Go to Rome has no pony on the front at all – and I can’t, at the moment, think of another pony book where this is the case.

The Three Jays themselves were wildly contrasting characters: the spoilt Jacqueline, and down to earth brother and sister Jane and Jimmy. They are at boarding school, but stay with Pat during the holidays. The Three Jays uses the literary device of having a trio of fictional children in a story told by the author using herself and her own horses and stables as background. (This device was later used by Marion Coakes and Gillian Hirst in Sue-Elaine Draws a Horse). The parts of the books where Pat Smythe is writing about her own horses are the best in what is an uneven series: and she is a better writer than her children’s books would suggest. Her non-fiction books are remembered fondly: she writes vividly about her horses. The Three Jays and Adventure books were not amongst the most popular of pony books. Armada only printed the Three Jays series twice in paperback in the 1960s, but not in the 1970s, a decade which saw many reprints. Presumably once Pat had retired, readers no longer had that magic figure before them whose world they wanted to enter.

Pat Smythe married the Swiss Sam Koechlin and moved to Switzerland, returning to England when he died. She died of heart disease at the age of 67.

Finding the books
All titles are easy to find in hardback or paperback.

Sources and links
Pat Smythe: Leaping Life’s Fences
Susanna Forrest on Pat Smythe
Susanna Forrest’s If Wishes Were Horses has a chapter on Pat Smythe

Many thanks to Dawn Harrison for the postcard and plate of Pat Smythe which illustrate this section, and to Fiona Williams for the Gernat Armadas. Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau, Dawn Harrison, Sue Howes and Fiona Moate for supplying photographs.


Three Jays
Jacqueline Rides for a Fall, 1957
Three Jays Against the Clock, 1958
Three Jays On Holiday, 1958
Three Jays Go to Town, 1959
Three Jays Over the Border, 1960
Three Jays Go to Rome, 1960
Three Jays Lend a Hand, 1961

Adventure series
A Swiss Adventure, 1970
A Spanish Adventure, 1971
A Cotswold Adventure, 1973

Anne Bullen portrait of Pat Smythe on Prince Hal


Jacqueline Rides for a Fall

Cassell, London, 1957, 179 pp, illus J E McConnell
Armada, pb, 1962
Armada, pb, 1968, cover Mary Gernat

Jimmy and Jane are staying with Pat at Miserden, and Jacqueline Field is coming too. When she turns up, she is obviously spoiled, and antagonises Jimmy and Jane immediately. Eventually, she does learn she doesn’t know everything, and the three become friends.

Three Jays Against the Clock

Cassell, London, 1958, 181 pp, illus J E McConnell
A S Barnes, New York, 1958
Armada, pb, 1966, 158 pp
Armada pb, 1967/8?, cover Mary Gernat

It is pouring with rain, and so the Three Jays can’t ride. Having read Tschiffely’s Ride and The Children of the New Forest, they are inspired with an idea: they will do a three day ride to the New Forest. Pat is worried about what they will get up to, particularly as she has entered them for their first show jumping competition the weekend after they get back (not that she has actually told them this….)

Three Jays on Holiday

Cassell, London, 1958, 182 pp, illus J E McConnell
Armada, pb, 1963, 158 pp
Armada, pb, 1968? Cover Mary Gernat

The Three Jays are going to the South of France for a holiday. They are supposed to meet Jacky’s father there, who has offered to take them for a cruise on his yacht. They don’t have any money to get there, so have persuaded Jacky’s cousin, D’Arcy, to take them in his Bentley. Pat has arranged to meet them in the Camargue, and they are allowed to take part in a round up. When they reach the rendezvous with Jacky’s father, however, he is not there.

Three Jays go go Town

Cassell, London, 1959, 181 pp, illus J E McConnell
Armada, pb, 1966 and 1968

The Three Jays have won their Zone Final for the Prince Philip Cup, and are going to compete at the Horse of the Year Show at Harringay. Their schools, however, aren’t that keen on them taking time off to practise, but they all manage to get to London. All
looks good, until Jacky’s cousin D’Arcy takes Jimmy with him to test a new plane.

Three Jays over the Border

Cassell, London, 1960, 180 pp, illus J E McConnell
Armada, pb, 1966 & 1968

The Three Jays are in Ireland, with Penny, who helped them with the Prince Philip Cup. Ballymulligan, where they are staying, is very close to the border between Northern Ireland and Eire, and this causes them many problems. Then it seems as if Penny’s problems will be solved when she falls for a horse, Lostboy, but alas they are anything but.

Three Jays Go to Rome

Cassell, London, 1960, 160 pp, illus J E McConnell
Armada, pb, 1968

The Three Jays shock their schools by showing a sudden fascination with Rome. This, of course has nothing to do with the fact that the Rome Olympics are soon to take place. Pat and D’Arcy arrange for the three Jays to travel down through France to Rome.They eventually make it, but then there are the Olympics to contend with.

Three Jays Lend a Hand

Cassell, London, 1961, illus Keith Money
Armada, pb, 1967, 128 pp

Jacky’s cousin D’Arcy has always hated horses, but to inherit from his uncle’s will, he has to learn to ride, and get a horse up to Grade B standard within a year. Nobody thinks it can be done, particularly as the horse he chooses, Rocket, lives up to his name. It looks, however, as if D’Arcy will win through, until he loses his nerve.

A Swiss Adventure

Cassell, London, 143 pp, 1970
Dragon, pb, 1972

Peter and Carol Garrett have arrived in Switzerland for a holiday with Pat. They ride their ponies on a long trek across Switzerland, and as they journey through the mountains, happen across a gang of drug smugglers.

A spanish adventure

Cassell, London, 1971
Children’s Book Club, 1972
Dragon, pb, 1973

Peter and Carol Garrett have been invited to spend their Easter holidays in Spain. They take part in Spanish life, and then Carol is
signed up to play the lead part in a film. It looks as if the film will be wrecked when a gang steal their cash, but Peter has a plan.

A Cotswold Adventure

Cassell, London, 151 pp, 1973
Dragon, pb, 1976

After Spain, the idea of a holiday at home seems rather dull, but then Carol and Peter are invited to stay with Pat in the Cotswolds. A conceited German, Hans, is also staying there. A famous archaeologist takes them on a dig with him, and they discover an ancient sword, but soon find they are not the only ones excited by its discovery.

Non fiction

Jump for Joy
Cassell, 1954

Pat Smythe’s Book of Horses
Cassell, 1955

One Jump Ahead
Cassell, 1956

Tosca and Lucia
Cassell, 1958

Horses and Places
Cassell, 1959

Florian’s Farmyard
Cassell, 1962

Jumping Round the World
Cassell, 1962

Flanagan My Friend
Cassell, 1963

Bred To Jump
Cassell, 1965

Show Jumping
Cassell, 1967

A Pony For Pleasure
Cassell 1969, illus Fiona Hughes

Pony Problems
Cassell 1971, illus Fiona Hughes

Leaping Life’s Fences
Sportsman’s Press, 1992