Stanford, Don

About the author

Don Stanford, like William Corbin, was a prolific author who wrote very few pony books. His Horsemasters, though, has remained popular for 50 years, and is much sought after. Aimed at older readers, it is the story of two girls who are taking their British Horse Society Horsemasters certificate. The BHS does not still do this examination; it was the equivalent of today’s BHSAI, and was still available up until 1986, though possibly in an altered form from what Don Stanford describes.

Porlock Vale Riding School used to teach the Horsemasters’ course, and the book is dedicated to the Horsemasters of Porlock Vale. Having come across the Porlock Vale site before I started researching this author, I thought “Goodness, that sounds like The Horsemasters!” and now I know why. Porlock Vale alas has fallen victim to the increasing costs besetting riding schools.

The Horsemasters is a riveting read, with interesting character development, and well-drawn horse characters too. I particularly like Dinah’s cob, Cornish Pastie, who turns into another horse entirely once he is out hunting, making her revise her previously rather negative opinion about him. Opinions are changed on human characters too; the head girl, Mercy, is not quite what she seems.

There was a Disney film based on the book. Released in 1961, and starring Annette Funnicello as Dinah, it seems to have songs (The Strummin’ Song is one) which suggests it perhaps doesn’t follow the book that closely.

Finding the books
No edition of The Horsemasters is cheap, but both American and English first editions are very expensive. Must be Good Riders can be expensive as a very good first edition, but ex library copies can be had reasonably (at least, at the time of writing!)

Links and sources
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau for the picture of the US edition.

Bibliography (horse books only)

The Horsemasters

Funk & Wagnalls Co, New York, 1957,
Cover C H Schule, internal illus David Rook
Harrap & Co, London, 1958, illus Michael Lyne
Brockhampton Press, Super Hampton Library, Leicester, 1967, cover Laszlo Acs, 184 pp.
White Lion, London, 1973
Scholastic, New York, pb
Puffin, London, pb, 1976
Unknown USA edition, bottom right, possibly early Scholastic pb.

Kirkus review

Character list

American Dinah Wilcox come to England to join the Horsemasters’ course. Not only are her fellow course members a varied lot, the horses are too. Opinions change on quite a lot of things, with even the merciless head girl Mercy proving there is rather more to her than they all think.

Must be Good Riders: Orphans Preferred

Funk & Wagnalls Co, New York, 1962, illus Stan Campbell

A story about the Pony Express. David hears about the Pony Express from the station agent Doherty, and wants to be one of
their riders.