About the author
Glenda Spooner was born in Poona, India, in the middle of a riot, on August 5th, 1897. Her family moved to Scotland while she was still a child, and she started to ride and drive anything she could find, from a police horse to a pony out of a greengrocer’s cart. She met her husband, Captain Hugh ‘Tony’ Spooner at an International Air Race in Egypt, and after their marriage they spent time in Cairo where Glenda rode Arab racing ponies.
After her husband was killed in an air crash after only 10 months of marriage, she moved back to England and settled in Sussex, where she started a dealing business specialising in children’s ponies. Before settling to horses, she had a very varied career, including going on stage with the Graham Moffat Company after the First World War, working as an advertising representative to the Great Eight and as advertising manager and director of Popular Flying. During the war she moved to the New Forest, where she taught riding and ran a farm. By the time the war ended, she had built up the dealing business again, and had become a recognised authority on ponies. She was also successful on the racecourse, winning several races. Glenda Spooner started Ponies Of Britain in 1953 with Miss Gladys Yule (from which show she once banned Caroline Akrill), and was involved with the International League for the Protection of Horses and the Brooke Hospital for Animals in Cairo. She said, rather firmly I feel, that she had a ‘great interest in animal welfare, but is not a crank.’
As far as her writing goes, she is best known for her showing books, which are very easy to find, unlike her fiction, which is generally very difficult indeed. The Silk Purse is available as a short story in Purnell’s Horse Lover’s Leisure Book, which is where I first came across it. I was utterly delighted when I realised there was a whole book. I love its depiction of showing (for which of course Glenda Spooner had all the material she could have asked for), particularly its depiction of the desperate showing mother and the reluctant daughter. The book does a rather surprising whoop off into fantasy land halfway through, but it’s none the worse for that. The Earth Sings features Arabians; The Perfect Pest is the aptly titled story of a child who, if she was mine, would have driven me to drink. Fortunately the Pest’s parents treat her with much more equanimity than I would have managed.
Finding the books
The non-fiction titles are very easy to find. Of her fiction, Royal Crusader appears fairly often, but isn’t that cheap. The other titles rarely appear, and can therefore be very expensive.
Dustjacket of Silk Purse
Pony Magazine Annual, Equestrian Who’s Who,1962-1972
Latimer House, 1948, illus Michael Lyne
Royal Crusader is an equine autobiography. Crusader does the usual equine autobiography voyage of travelling from good to bad owners before a happy ending. He starts life loved and well treated, but then after the person he is loaned to during the war dies, he is sold, as no one knows the horse is loaned not owned. He goes through several owners; mostly ignorant rather than vicious, but the end result is the same as if they were. Eventually he is re-united with his first owner.
The Earth Sings
Latimer House, 1950
Another I should have made notes on before I sold it. From what I can remember, it is about an Arab.
The Perfect Pest
Jonathan Cape, 1951, illus Charlotte Hough
The Perfect Pest is, from what I remember (I should have made notes when I read it and before I sold it) the youngest child of a horsy family, who goes her own way with a vengeance, including venturing into buying a pony at a local sale.
Many thanks to Cherie Goninon for the picture.
Tinks Martin returned from the war to find two claims on his affections: Dinah (a girl) anda horse, Minority’s Colt. His rival in both cases is John Rutherford, owner of the racing stables where Minority’s Colt is trained.
Many thanks to Amanda Dolby for the picture.
Victoria Glencairn (A Novel)
This, I think, is an adult novel
The Silk Purse
Cassell 1953, illus Anne Bullen
As a short story (The Sow’s Ear) in Ponies of Britain Magazine
As an extract in The Horse Lover’s Leisure Book, Purnell, 1968
Poor Gillian. She loves her unlovely pony Tommy, but Gillian’s mama has Ambitions in the Show Ring, and so Gillian must give him up and have a show pony so she can beat her rival, Phoebe Cheetham. The sow’s ear that is Tommy does eventually turn into a silk purse once Gillian’s mama realises that the show ring is not everything.
The Sow’s Ear
Ponies of Britian Magazine, vol 3, Autumn 1960
Our Trekking Holiday
Pony Club Annual 1965, illus Sally Webb
Riding, Jan-Mar 1946, Riding, May-Jun 1947