Jill has recently witnessed her mother being killed in a riding accident, and her father has gone abroad. She is sent to live with her aunt and cousins, and finds herself in a family that revolves around ponies, riding, and winning rosettes at gymkhanas. Jill is too frightened to learn to ride, and spends much of the time on her own. After many months she gradually decides to try to conquer her fears, and is encouraged by her cousins.
The book opens with Caroline and Mick returning to their Channel Island home for the holidays. The threat of German invasion is imminent, and, when it comes to escape, Caroline and Mick are separated from their father and are left behind on the island when the Germans arrive.
‘To win a pony in a competition and to have it for one’s very own is often the dream of the young pony enthusiast and many would be more than satisfied with such happiness. But for Wendy winning Smiley was just the beginning of her real ambitions and of all her efforts at making a success of her job, to enjoy and profit by her spare-time riding and, above all, to train and school her pony well.’