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Ruby Ferguson: Jill’s Gymkhana

“This is a wonderful, nostalgic book.”

Jill Crewe has just moved to Chatton. School hasn’t yet started and she has nothing to do, so she makes friends with a pony down the road. When the farmer offers to let Jill buy the pony, she is distraught. She knows she and her mother can’t afford it. But then her mother sells the serial rights to one of her books, and Black Boy becomes Jill’s. There’s just one problem: Jill doesn’t know how to ride, can’t afford lessons, and she doesn’t know how to look after Black Boy either. How she learns to do both make this one of the most successful and well-loved pony books of all time. Jill is instantly recognisable. She gets things wrong, she’s by no means perfect, but she’s funny, sparky and we all feel we could be Jill.

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… whether you are new to these tales or revisiting old favourites – you can’t go wrong with Jill! (Nicky, Amazon review)

I loved this book. I normally hate reading. (Ms LB, Amazon review)

This is a wonderful, nostalgic book. Although written a while ago, in a different age and tradition of horse care, there is still so much that remains relevant to every pony-mad child today. The feelings of wanting a pony so badly and Jill’s struggles to save money for riding lessons are well portrayed. The emotions of caring for, and loving, ponies described in a non-sentimental and often amusing manner with Jill as the narrator, leap off the page and the story is still fresh today. (Louise, Amazon review)


Jill’s Gymkhana is the first of the Jill books. Published in 1949, it was illustrated by Caney and published by Hodder and Stoughton. Jill Crewe is eleven, and she and her mother have just moved to Pool Cottage, Chatton. Jill’s father has died, and her mother supports them by writing whimsical children’s books (The Little House of Smiles is the first to be mentioned). It is the summer holidays, and having just moved, Jill doesn’t have a great deal to do, so makes friends with a pony down the road. This is Black Boy, and after Mrs Crewe sells the serial rights of The Little House of SmilesJill buys him.

At first Jill is completely clueless, unlike the initial hero figure of the book, Susan Pyke, but she meets Martin Lowe at a local show, and he sorts her out. Jill learns to groom, and to tack up Black Boy without mangling both the bridle and her pony. At school, Jill meets Ann Derry and at last finds a horsey friend. Susan Pyke rapidly falls off her pedestal, as she is bought vastly expensive ponies with which she cannot cope. Jill stays with the Lowe family, who petrify her (though it later turns out she has them equally scared), goes on a riding weekend, and finishes up by taking three firsts, three seconds and a third at Chatton Show, and dropping the ebony base of the Challenge Cup at the steward’s feet.

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The Jill series
Jill’s Gymkhana, 1949
A Stable for Jill, 1951
Jill Has Two Ponies, 1952
Jill Enjoys Her Ponies, 1954 (later republished as Jill and The Runaway)
Jill’s Riding Club, 1956
Rosettes for Jill, 1957
Jill and the Perfect Pony, 1959
Pony Jobs for Jill, 1960 (later republished as Challenges for Jill)
Jill’s Pony Trek, 1962

Printing history of Jill’s Gymkhana
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1949, illus Caney
as A Horse of Her Own, Dodd Mead, New York, 1950, illus Caney
Hampton Library, illus Caney
Armada, 1963, illus Caney
Knight, 1968, illus Bonar Dunlop
Knight, 1974, cover W D Underwood, internal illustrations Bonar Dunlop
Knight, 1983, illus Bonar Dunlop
Knight, 1990s
Compilation: Jill’s Gymkhana and A Stable for Jill, Hodder & Stoughton, 1991
Hodder, 1993, not illustrated
Compilation: Jill’s Gymkhana and A Stable for Jill, Hodder & Stoughton, 1994
Hodder, 1996, cover Adrian Lascom
Fidra Books, Edinburgh, 2009, illus Caney




Author: Ruby Ferguson

Year published

London, 1949




Ferguson, Ruby


Hodder & Stoughton