Heroines on Horseback: what’s in it?

CHAPTER 1: ‘I Remember the Day I was Born’

How it all began: what was the earliest pony book written? And who was responsible for moving the genre away from trotting obediently in the footsteps of Black Beauty, with pony biography after pony biography? This chapter looks at authors like Eleanor Helme, Marjorie Mary Oliver, Golden Gorse, Moyra Charlton, Enid Bagnold and Joanna Cannan.

CHAPTER 2: The Fantastic Riding School

Primrose Cumming was responsible, in the 1930s, for one of the best loved pony books of all time: Silver Snaffles. This chapter looks at Primrose Cumming’s work, with an in-depth look at Silver Snaffles itself.

CHAPTER 3: The Battery Thunders On

Wartime (unless you were Enid Blyton) had a dramatic effect on the publication of children’s books. Pony books were still published, and the best of them, like Mary Treadgold’s We Couldn’t Leave Dinah, refused to hide behind the pony but faced war head on.

CHAPTER 4: Skill, Courage and Determination

The Pullein-Thompson sisters between them were responsible for well over 100 pony books, including classics like I Wanted a Pony, and the Noel and Henry series. The Pullein-Thompsons were fascinating in their own right, starting their own riding school in wartime, and there’s information on how their upbringing influenced their works, as well as plenty of detail on the books themselves.

CHAPTER 5: ‘I Don’t Want to Grow up a Long-faced Horsy Woman’

Monica Edwards might well have written the quotation that heads this chapter about herself, but it’s her character Tamzin who actually says these words. The Punchbowl Farm and Romney Marsh series are some of the most enduringly popular children’s books.

CHAPTER 6: The Beautiful Golden Dream

 Jill Crewe will probably never be equalled in pony fiction. Independent, funny and utterly devoted to her ponies, Jill was the creation of a woman who had no equine experience. Besides looking at the elusive Ruby Ferguson herself, you will find answers to some of the eternal Jill questions: was Black Boy piebald? Who was Danny Boy? And why did Ruby send Jill tamely off to secretarial college at the end of the series?

CHAPTER 7: Galloping On and On

If you want series fiction, the pony book can give it to you. Mary Gervaise and her G for Georgia series, Pat Smythe and the Three Jays, and Judith M Berrisford and the Jackie series are all covered here.

CHAPTER 8: Rather than Fame, Give me Horses

Combining a famous figure and a good story is nothing new: Dorian Williams, Marion Mould, Glenda Spooner and Pamela MacGregor Morris all wrote pony fiction.

CHAPTER 9: ‘Boot, Saddle, to Horse and Away!’

The 1950s were a golden era for the publication of pony books, at least in the sheer volume produced. Many authors still popular today were given their first outing in this decade, including Gillian Baxter, Catherine Harris, Kathleen Mackenzie, Sheila Chapman, Veronica Westlake and Patience McElwee.

CHAPTER TEN: An Unexpected Pleasure

Just because something is genre fiction, it doesn’t have to be bad. Authors like Vian Smith, and K M Peyton, probably the best exponent of the genre, showed that. Books like Fly-by-Night described what it was like to be obsessed with ponies when you did not have a field of your own at the end of the garden.

CHAPTER 11: ‘And a Fast Horse Gave you Wings’

Two of the best exponents of the pony book, Patricia Leitch and Monica Dickens, were most active in the 1970s and 80s. Their characters, like Jinny and the inhabitants of Follyfoot, weren’t at all conventional, but found expression through horses.

CHAPTER 12: And Feet that Iron Never Shod

Wild horses  have always been a popular subject in pony books, even though British authors produced relatively few. (Hazel M Peel and Helen Griffiths being honourable exceptions). Many wild horse books were keenly devoured in Britain, which is why they’re covered here. This chapter looks briefly at Elyne Mitchell, Mary Elwyn Patchett and Marguerite Henry.  

CHAPTER 13: A Short Horse is Soon Curried  

Pony Magazine Annual and the Pony Club Annual were immensely popular and sold out most years they were published. They always contained short stories, many by authors like Caroline Akrill and the Pullein-Thompsons.

CHAPTER 14: Gilding the Lily

The pony book was very blessed with its illustrators, who included Lionel Edwards, Anne Bullen, Michael Lyne, Cecil Aldin, Geoffrey Whittam, Sheila Rose and Charlotte Hough. I also take a look at what happens when it all goes wrong …

CHAPTER 15: What Happened Next

The 1980s and onwards – what has happened to the pony book since its glory days?


The bibliographies have been much expanded from the print version, and now include all the authors’ pony fiction.

Index of Authors

Buy the book here.


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