Self, Margaret Cabell

About the author

Margaret Cabell Self (1902–96) was a prolific author. Most of her books were non fiction, and fictionalisation of true stories. It may well be I haven’t included some horse titles which should be in here; please let me know if I’ve missed something.

Margaret Cabell Self wrote around 40 books on training and showing horses, and on teaching young people how to ride. Some of her works were fictionalised true stories, and her first long fiction title, Sky Rocket, was based on the New Canaan Mounted Troop, of which she was commandant. The original Sky Rocket was a horse she rescued from ill treatment, and rehabilitated.

She was brought up in Virginia, and could ride before she could walk. She was educated at the Women’s School of Applied Design and the Parson School of Design in New York, where she met her husband, Sydney Baldwin Self. They moved to Connecticut, where Margaret picked up riding again. The Great Depression hit, and the Selfs thought they might have to sell their horses. Margaret Cabell Self started to teach riding and to write to increase the family income. Her The Horseman’s Encyclopaedia was particularly successful.

In 1939, Self started the New Canaan Mounted Troop: “a non-profit, tax-exempt organization devoted to building leadership, responsibility, and confidence through sound horsemanship.” The New Canaan Mounted Troop is still going strong. It aims to teach leadership and responsibility, with the older children helping the younger.
Margaret Cabell Self was a dynamo. As well as writing and running the NCMT, she had four children, played the violin and viola and salt water fished. She retired in 1962, and died in 1996.

Finding the books
Ponies on Parade and Sky Rocket are reasonably easy to find. The Happy Year, Shaggy Little Burro and Susan and Jane are easy to find. The two Treasuries of Horse Stories are generally easy to find; the UK versions slightly less so because of the Michael Lyne connection.

Links and sources
The dustjacket of Sky Rocket
Terri A. Wear: Horse Stories, an Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press, 1987
Biographical information on Margaret Cabell Self from the Albert and Shirley Small special papers collection
The New Canaan Mounted Troop
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau and Lisa Catz for all their help with this section.

Bibliography (horse books only)

Ponies on Parade

Dutton 1945, illus the author

Based on her own ponies, this is the story of Shoebutton, a stallion who is a mischief maker, and bosses the other ponies in the group. Gooch, a lonely and unpopular old pony, finds a friend; Dandy tells his story, as does T’aint So, who was so small when born that he could be carried round like
a dog.  

The Happy Year

Channel Press, New York, 1963, 111 pp, photos Dennis Stock

Jennifer and her horse Mr Buttercup join a Mounted Troop of the Junior Cavalry of America.

Shaggy Little Burro of San Miguel

Duell, 1965, illus Betty Fraser

People laugh at the little burro Peludo because of his long shaggy coat, and he doesn’t like it. He decides to stay in his field, and he asks his mother to tell him about all the other burros she sees when she leaves the field to go to work.

Susan and Jane Learn to Ride

Macrae Smith, 1965, illus Robert L Jefferson

The story of two girls who learn to ride. Susan and Jane have lessons from Marcia.

Sky Rocket: The Story of a Little Bay Horse

Dodd, Mead, 1970, illus Sam Savitt

A skinny, terrified horse is temporarily left by his dealer owner at the riding stables of a Junior Cavalry Unit. The commandant of the riding unit is impressed by the spirit of the horse, and turns him over to his son, 15-year-old Tom. Pamela, who is nervous and uncertain, helps. They discover that at some point in his live, Sky Rocket has been very well schooled.  

And also

A Treasury of Horse Stories

[ed Margaret Cabell Self]

A S Barnes & Co, New York, 1945

Hutchinson, London, 1953

A Second Treasury of Horse Stories

[ed Margaret Cabell Self]

Hutchinson, London, 1954

Fun on Horseback

A S Barnes, New York, 1964

Wilshire Book Company, 1979