Saturday, January 23, 2010

Zara (1970)

As a possible guilty look over the shoulder regarding my shameless obsession with the glory side of racing in recent weeks, an English book which regards horse racing with a more jaundiced eye.


Joyce Stranger

1970, Harvill Press (UK), The Viking Press (US)

Richard Proud clucked to her as she trotted towards them, and she came to him, treading delicately on deceptively fragile hooves, and dropped her muzzle to his palm, breathing warmly, and huffed to him. He was lost.

The beautiful filly Zara changes hands for the first time for a reason that becomes one of the focal points of the book - the vast costs and fickle sucess of horse racing. New owner Richard Proud brings her home to a farm dominated by unease, where his wife Stella has changed into an angry, dangerously unstable woman. All she seems to care about is a social life Richard can't provide, scorning their teenage daughter Sue as plain and boring. Richard and Sue frequently take refuge in the warm company of their cook and farm manager, leaving the chilly main house to Stella. Also new to the farm is Sam, a poor teenager with a knack for riding, and Chris, a middle-class teen getting over a bout of polio. Zara's beauty and gentleness enthralls them all, but bad luck seems to plague the Proud farm after her purchase, culminating in a terrifying blizzard.

While most of the action comes through the perspectives of Richard Proud, Sam and a few other male characters, the twin centers of action are female: the filly Zara and the woman Stella. Zara is adored for both her beauty and her gentleness. Stella, on the other hand, is described as beautiful but harsh, so vicious and unfeeling toward her family that only the newcomer Sam sees her beauty anymore. When the book reveals Stella's thoughts, she returns again and again to pain, to a pain that drives her in a fury of action and anger, and it's no surprise when we discover her behavior has a physical cause. It does come as a complete surprise to her husband, who's not winning any prizes as most alert husband.

The horsemen in the book are shown to be very caring of their animals, or as caring as they can be while trying to break even or make a profit.

Horses were not fully grown until four, and too many of them, foaling when young, or raced too often when young, ended up ruined for life..

The decision is made to race Zara in a steeplechase, and her race ends on a bittersweet note, as they all realize the toll taken by the race.

The mare that had followed them home lay stretched on the ground. She would never race again.... "Burst her heart, quite literally."

About the Author

Joyce Muriel Wilson died in 2007. Her website was, and can sometimes be viewed via the Internet Archive's waybackmachine.

Books by Author - Joyce Stranger wrote a lot of books, mostly about animals. Other horse book include:

Breed Of Giants (1966)

Khazan: The Horse That Came Out of The Sea (1977)

Paddy Joe And Thompkin's Folly (1979)

The January Queen (1979)

Wild Ponies (1976)

The Stallion (1981)

No More Horses (1982)

Hound Of Darkness (1983)

Stranger Than Fiction (1984)

The Hounds Of Hades (1985)

Midnight Magic (1991)

Georgie's Secret


FantasticFiction, summary with a far more attractive cover

Google shopping, with another cover

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dark Horse (1983)

Dark Horse

Jean Slaughter Doty, il. Dorothy Haskell Chhuy

1983, William Morrow and Company

The show was an absolute zoo. The parking area was jammed with vans and trailers. Little ponies with screaming kids on their backs zipped in and out like mosquitoes. Young horses spun and danced, others whinnied to their stablemates. A gray horse fell backwards out of the trailer next to our van, nearly squashing its frantic owner, who seemed more concerned about the grass stains now on the horse than the cut on its leg.

Abby has always loved horses and hung out doing odd jobs at any barn near the various homes her family has moved to, but now she's working at High Hickory Farms, an elite hunter/jumper barn whose married owners met on the Florida show circuit. To this farm comes, one fine summer day, a neglected brown horse they name Sandpiper.

At first, they try putting the skinny horse out in a remote pasture, to keep clients from seeing him. But Sandy quietly begins jumping out of the pasture. Intrigued, the owners have Abby try him out. And the horse just hops disinterestedly over each jump, showing no promise at all. It's not until an early fox hunt that Sandy proves he is a jumper, soaring over an enormous fence and leaving the huntsman bug-eyed.

So Sandy and Abby begin their show career in the jumpers, and quickly make a name for themselves. Though, as Abby never forgets, Sandpiper calls the shots. She simply rides as best she can and lets him make the decisions. And then one day Sandpiper decides he's done.

A funny sort of book. Doty's trademark sensible heroine who hangs out above her income bracket eating her heart out for a quality show horse, but a reverse here as the equine hero is a horse who doesn't want to show. Despite the show trappings, this is really a tribute to foxhunting.

There was a funny hush. And then a sudden rush of sound, like caroling. Sandy flung his head in the air with his ears strained forward and Shamrock gave a small jump of excitement. The air rang with music and I saw hounds running, spilling from the edge of the woods, pouring over the wall and out across the open field to our left. There was the call of the hunting horn mixed with the glorious sound hounds were making as the huntsman came crashing out of the woods on his huge bay horse, holding his short copper horn to his lips. The horn called in short, glad notes as he sent his horse into a rolling gallop after the flying hounds.

And part of the dedication reads:

and to the good field hunters, for their love of the sport, who are not the glory horses.

Well-written, very convincingly horsey and realistic.

Other editions

It was also released as a Scholastic paperback.

Other books by Author

Summer Pony

Winter Pony
Can I Get There By Candlelight?

The Crumb

Yesterday's Horses

If Wishes Were Horses

Valley Of The Ponies

The Monday Horses

Gabriel (dog)

Horsemanship For Beginners (nonfiction)

Pony Care (nonfiction)


Dorothy Haskell Chhuy also illustrated Doty's The Summer Ponies.


Sandpiper aka Sandy - tall brown gelding with narrow blaze

Shamrock - grey Connemara gelding

Azalea - grey Thoroughbred mare


Autumn Crocus - foxhunter mare

Frosty Pumpkin - chestnut gelding

Sea Glass - grey horse

Forever - white stable cat

Monday, January 18, 2010

And it's Rachel by 31 votes

Rachel Alexandra wins the Horse of the Year. Zenyatta coasts, no surprise, to win Champion Older Female.

On Saturday, Zenyatta's connections announced she's not retiring, conjuring images of a meeting between the two stars in 2010. Possibly at the Breeder's Cup, due to be run at Churchill Downs this year.

ESPN article
The Bloodhorse article on Zenyatta's win
UPI piece on Zenyatta's de-retirement

Friday, January 15, 2010

Horse Of The Year 2010

I am aware that this is supposed to be a blog about fictional horses and their exploits, not so much about reality. But when reality begins to rival a Dorothy Lyons story, how can I resist?

Gallant Fox, Horse Of The Year in 1930. This beautiful photo is from the 1964 book The Thoroughbred by Bert Clark Thayer.

In the 123 years of the American Thoroughbred racing world naming one racehorse as the best of the year, regardless of age or gender, only 10 fillies have won the honor. This year, the only horses nominated are fillies. The California 5-year-old Zenyatta and the 3-year-old sensation Rachel Alexandra have this field all to themselves.

The winner of the Horse Of The Year award will be announced on Monday, January 18, 2010. As an Easterner, I have a sentimental favorite in Rachel and an even more sentimental ax to grind with California. But Zenyatta's Breeder's Cup was something else again, and was voted the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Moment Of The Year.

But, then again, Rachel's Haskell...

What a choice. And what a year for the other sex of Thoroughbred racing.

There is a book from Eclipse Press about the first ten female winners, Women Of The Year: Ten Fillies Who Achieved Horse Racing's Highest Honor, which looks very interesting. The winners were: Busher (1945), Twilight Tear (1944), Regret (1915), Miss Woodford, Imp (1899), Beldame (1904), Moccasin (1965, shared with Roman Brother), All Along (1983), Lady's Secret (1986), and Azeri (2002).

Only Two Horse Of The Year Finalists - ESPN

TV coverage of the awards show on Monday, January 18

A Look At 2010 - ESPN
Tongue-in-cheek predictions commenting on, among other things, the California fans of Zenyatta, her rather unusual retirement training, Rachel Alexandra's owner's dislike of artificial tracks, and Philly Park's current role as the wackiest track in America. See below.

Jockeys Battle - Literally - At Philadelphia Park - Philadelphia Daily News
Account of a fist fight that broke out during a race between rival jockeys. I only wish I rode well enough to conduct a brawl while galloping. Or cantering. Or trotting. Or, hell, at a standstill.

My March 2009 blog post for the Jessie Haas book Working Trot has been updated (finally) with a cover photo.

Pamela And The Blue Mare (1952)

Pamela And The Blue Mare

Alice C. O'Connell, il. Paul Brown

1952, Little, Brown and Company

The horse behind her, the one with the sleek legs and gentle face, was standing up on his hind legs, his front feet waving over her head.

Pamela is 9 years old and recovering from a bout of scarlet fever. Sent to her father's parents' farm, Paget Hill, for a rest, she has one problem; Grandfather Paget raises and sells horses, and ever since having a horse rear up in fright near her at a horse show, Pam's been afraid of horses. When Gran learns of this, his eyebrows wriggle, something Pam will soon discover means he's up to something. But in this case, fate lends a hand.

"It's a new colt, Pammy. She was born in the night, and her mother's too sick to look after her. We're trying to get her to take some milk."

The old baby bottle works its magic, and Pam bonds with the little blue roan filly she dubs Frosty Morning. Frosty is soon returned to her dam, while Pam swallows the bad news that a) she can't ride Frosty for years, and b) she has to learn to ride on one of those scary big horses.

And before Pam knew what was happening, she was sitting on Charm's back and her legs were hanging down, reaching for stirrups that were much too long. Collier remedied that quickly, and when her feet were comfortably settled James appeared and took hold of Charm's bridle. Collier stayed on one side and Gran on the other. Gran showed her how to hold the reins and James started walking, and so did everyone else. Pam forgot the reins and grabbed at the saddle and held on for dear life.

This was, for me, the best part of the book. Pam's riding education is very slow at the start, and the early emphasis on gradual, positive work for both horses and riders was lovely.

"But Gran, Brendan didn't look as though he liked jumping for Bill. He went so fast and then he got all sort of scared and wild-looking, and when he did try to jump the wall and fell Bill started hitting him. I didn't like it."

"There's my girl." Gran put down his paper and took off his glasses and looked at Pam for the first time that morning. "You're learning something about horses, Pam, when you don't like a performance like that one. And what's more, you know why you don't like it. Now tell me what kind of performance you would like."

"We-e-ll, I don't think a horse should feel as though he had to hurry, he should..." Pam stopped to think.... "He should look as though jumping were easy, no as if it were something to be afraid of."

Pam learns how to stand up for her horse, refusing to let Bill induce her to ride Charm too roughly, and learns how to continue challenging herself by switching horses to the younger and, after Charm, slightly intimidating Murphy for jumping lessons.

After this first vacation at the farm, Pam returns home and time necessarily speeds up so we can get Frosty old enough to start serious schooling on what she needs to become a saddle horse. The blue mare is 4 before Pam rides her for the first time; in the interim, Pam has been increasing her riding education and taking part in her first foxhunt.

For the next few minutes Pam felt nothing but a sensation of speed with the wind whistling through her ears, and the quick lift and drop of panels as Murphy sailed over them, and the consciousness of Gran's back just in front of her. Then things began to come back into focus; she was able to see the pack streaming across a field ahead, looking as though a blanket might have covered them, and to hear the high-pitched voices as they came back to her on the wind.

The action continues steadily from here: Pam schools the blue mare, rides her in hunts, begins the very start of a romance with Bill, who's learned better ways from Gran, and ends up riding in the big class at a big horse show.

This is the first book in a somewhat rare series. It is one of those books which some remember with great fondness, so I don't want to criticize it too severely, but I was disappointed. The writing is adequate but never more, and the characters are flat and predictable. The plot is promising but slow-paced and meandering. And even by conservative, old-fashioned standards, the harping on how Pam's father and grandfather are always right is overwhelming. In this book, all the men in Pam's family are guiding father figures overseeing their girls and women, who are reassured and gently bullied into acting against their instincts and judgement and always learn - surprise - that Daddy was right all along. Not that Pam should have run off and gotten a motorcycle, but couldn't the men in her family ever be wrong? A saving grace is that this perfection is not extended to the boys. Bill repeatedly does the wrong thing and has to learn - partly from Pam but mostly from Gran - the right way. This is a big step, considering how many older children's books feature a twerpy boy acting the little prince with his female playmate.

The grand finale class at the end of the book is a Corinthian class. I'd vaguely heard of this before, but wanted to clarify it for myself before this review, so went looking for a definition. This and the Appointments class are apparently largely exhibition classes which have gone out of style today, but were very popular back when more horse shows had the big outside courses. All competitors had to be members of a recognized hunt and wore hunt livery; they were judged on genuine adherence to both the practical and traditional demands of foxhunting, and on sheer style. A very interesting choice of contests. The Super Important Competition is a classic ending for horse stories - the big race, the big jumping class, etc. Having the big class be about perfection of style in a competition which by its very nature goes no further - ie, no Olympic trials, no national championship, just the very finite goal of being the best foxhunter at this show - meshes perfectly with the insular, country gentleman tone of the book. Pamela wins glory for her way of life and her background, not particularly for herself.

A thread on the discussion forum for the redoubtable American horse sports (particularly foxhunting) magazine, The Chronicle Of The Horse, on the Appointments and Corinthian classes.



Frosty Morning - 16h blue roan mare

June Dawn - bay mare

Charm - bay gelding

Brendan - chestnut gelding ruined by Bill's family


Gallant Patrick


Toby - Sealyham Terrier

About the author

Alice Louise O'Connell was born in Minneapolis and spent most of her life in Minnesota. In 1948, she obtained a Masters in education from her undergrad alma mater, the University of Minnesota, then worked as the Head of Aquatics and Instructor of Physical Education at Winthrop College in South Carolina. She also bred, showed and judged AKC Norwegian Elkhounds.

All the above was gleaned from the dust jacket of The Blue Mare In The Olympic Trials. O'Connell is extremely elusive online. The search is more distracting because of an actress and (apparently) an Australian author of the same name. This O'Connell seems to exist only as the author of the two blue mare books.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Romance Novel Covers II: Return Of The Cowboy

For the second time in four days, a massive snowstorm has hit the center of the East Coast, shutting down the capitol, burying the Mid-Atlantic and depressing everyone who just dug out their motor vehicle. I give it one more day no school, no work, and no transportation before we all begin killing each other over who ate the last Pop-Tart.

Now completely exasperated by the snow, I turn to the mean-spirited joys of poking fun at equine-themed book covers. Wait! I hear snow plows!!!! About time, it's been snowing for roughly 10 hours. Way to get ahead of the storm, snow plow guys.

I'm distracted by the white shirt, frankly. And how he appears to be wearing a sword on his belt.


I can't quite see how he's staying aboard. And what is it with these men riding shirtless?

Still not seeing it. And the reins all on one side?

Again with the white shirt, but the pose looks possible.

And now for some scary-looking horses. Observe the horse behind our heroine.

What breed is that? Maybe it's just the color, but the head proportions look bloated.

I realize this is not a romance novel, but how could I pass up this twin to the above romance cover?

The Aardvark strikes again.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Black Stallion (1941)

One of the most exciting days of my childhood was finding the entire Black Stallion series at a thrift shop. They were the 1977 trade paperbacks, which had beautiful covers (I'd love to know who the illustrator was), and I must have read each one dozens of times. When I dug them out of my parents' attic a few years ago, they'd been read to pieces. The covers were delicately attached to their bindings, the spines were cracked, the pages honorably battle-worn. No matter. I lovingly transported them and their layers of dust home, and they now live in a safe bookshelf alongside some boxes of my childhood Breyers, and amidst my other great second-hand Black Stallion find, a collection of first editions I stumbled over in a church rummage sale years later.

So it's safe to say I'm a little biased in favor of the Farley books. Just a warning.

The tribe of the horse-crazy has its own version of what constitutes a classic book. Those who dream of riding in the Maclay Finals cherish The Monday Horses. Wannabe cowgirls love Glen Rounds and Will James. Social climbers love the gracious plenty of C.W. Anderson, whose little characters never just had a horse, they had Man O'War's more promising grandson. The depraved have a lingering kitchsy fondness for the sort of horsey series where girls named Stevie can't decide what's more important, prepping Algonquin Star Of Wonder for the big show, helping their BFF adjust to her diabetes or winning back their boyfriend from the mean girl with the super-expensive horse.

And the non-horse-obsessed world has its own version of classic books with horse themes. The Red Pony is the most obvious case of disconnect - a book about a horse that's actually as much about the horse as it is about the 2004 presidential race, and whose ending has caused serious cases of nausea in generations of innocent children. Other classics - Smoky, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty- are Classics, capital C. But they're not particularly amenable to younger readers because of the sophistication and density of the writing, as well as the relentless realism built into the stories. They may be marketed as children's books, but they were not written for children and it shows.

One place where both worlds come together is in the 1941 book The Black Stallion. I've never heard of a horse nut who dismissed this book's position as a classic even if it wasn't in their personal top 10, and its success as a 69-year-old book that's still in print (and the connection with a critically acclaimed film) seems to have given it respectability in the wider world.

The series as a whole is an intense fantasy, far more wild than any other horse book. Alec Ramsay is shipwrecked on a desert island with a magnificent killer stallion who he tames, takes back to Queens, and rides in a match race with the world's best racers. Later, he founds a Thoroughbred breeding and training farm, wins the Kentucky Derby with the stallion's first filly, the Triple Crown with his first colt, the Hambletonian with his trotting colt, becomes lost and amnesiac in the American West, encounters an evil magician in the Florida Everglades, travels to the Middle East and becomes enmeshed in various Arabic feuds, etc. This is go-for-broke horse book plotting at its most fearless. Nothing in the Black Stallion series is remotely believable. But the books work. They've endured for over fifty years because they're beautifully written for children. Clear, simple writing, solid characters and a fantasy which is completely grounded in realistic details forces belief. Wonderful, and classic by any definition

The Black Stallion

Walter Farley

1941, Random House

Alec heard a whistle - shrill, loud, clear, unlike anything he'd ever heard before. He saw a mighty black horse rear on its hind legs, its forelegs striking out into the air. A white scarf was tied across its eyes. The crowd broke and ran.

Alexander 'Alec' Ramsay, Jr. watches in disbelief as a huge black stallion is, with a great deal of trouble, loaded onto the tramp steamer taking him home from a summer in India. The boy has learned to ride while visiting his Uncle Ralph in Bombay, and has fallen in love with horses, but knows his chances to ride back home in New York City will be few. As the Drake steams on toward England, Alec cautiously befriends the furious horse, whose constant assault on the walls of his makeshift stall ring through the ship. And then a storm sinks the boat, and horse and boy are stranded on an island together.

When rescue arrives, Alec and the Black are bonded, but the horse is still savage and wild with others. Alec's parents look askance at this scary horse, but let him keep him down at a neighbor's rickety barn, along with a huckster's tired grey gelding, Napoleon. The neighbor is Henry Dailey, a former racehorse jockey and trainer.

There they stopped and waited for Henry. Finally he showed up - a short, chunky man with large shoulders. He came toward them walking in jerky, bowlegged strides. His white shirt tails flapped in the night wind. He wiped a large hand across his mouth. "Right with you," he yelled.

The Black promptly jumps out of his pasture and goes running off into the dawn streets of Flushing with Henry and Alec in pursuit. Despite the race which follows at the end of the book, this has always seemed the most exciting chapter. The idea of this huge wild horse roaming city streets, certain to get into trouble if he meets anyone but Alec, is haunting. As are Alec's midnight rides at Belmont Park.

Suddenly the Black bolted. His action shifted marvelously as his powerful legs swept over the ground. Fleet hoofbeats made a clattering roar in Alec's ears. The stallion's speed became greater and greater. Alec's body grew numb, the terrific speed made it hard for him to breathe. Once again the track became a blur, and he was conscious only of the endless white fence slipping by.

But, of course, they do make it to Chicago for the great race between California wonder-horse Sun Raider and Kentucky champion Cyclone. The gray Sun Raider is nearly as large and savage as the Black, and the two horses start a fight at the start that leaves the Black bleeding. And then the starter, not noticing Alec start to climb down to check on his horse's leg, sends them off.

This single book sparked 17 sequels, a film, a TV series, four Breyer models and a stuffed animal, a dinner theater attraction in Orlando, and has recently given rise to a literacy project aimed at encouraging first graders to read.


Random House

The Black Stallion website

Arabian Nights

The Black Stallion Literacy Project


TV series (aka The Adventures Of The Black Stallion)

Breyer model #401 (1981-1988)

Breyer model #3030 (1983-1993) The Black Stallion Returns set

Breyer model #3000 (1982-1985) The Black Stallion and Alec

Breyer - model #1153 (Model and Book Set)

Breyer - plush toy

An example of a tramp steamer

The Kissena Corridor Park in Flushing - the area where the Black ended up on his runaway

Postcard of Arlington Race Track, likely site of the match race


1941 Random House (hardcover) with Keith Ward illustrations (above)

1941 Random House (paperback)

1977 Random House (trade paperback)

1979 Scholastic Books (paperback) movie tie-in with photo cover

1991 Random House (hardcover) anniversary edition with Domenick D'Andrea illustrations

1991 (trade paperback)

Other Versions

Picture Books

Big Black Horse (1953) adaptation illustrated by James Schucker

The Black Stallion (1986) Beginner Books (hardcover) with Sandy Rabinowitz illustrations

UK edition

1992 Hodder Children's Books - Knight

Movie Photo Book

1979 Random House oversized


Blog commenting on the series

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Horses, books and films - news, not-so-news, and just plain stretching

Steven Spielberg acquires the rights to Michael Morpurgo's 1982 YA novel War Horse. It has already seen dramatic life as a stage play.

The Coen brothers are remaking the 1969 John Wayne cowboy film True Grit, based on the novel by Charles Portis, and looking to cast an unknown cowgirl in the lead.

The casting directors are looking for real (scrubbed down, no make-up), "gritty" girls. Preferably the kind that ride horses, get dirty & speak their mind," the casting notes said. "They are not looking for theatrical "model" types. Rodeo girls (who ride & rope) are a plus. Not looking for pageant queens."
Tulsa Today

Can't "gritty" girls ever ride horses, get dirty and maintain a dignified reserve? Do they always have to be plain-talkin' too?

A clip from the original film:

and an irresistibly funny preview of same:

The Penny Chenery biopic Secreteriat is now due out in October. Here's a clip of the equine star and his trainer (also seen is RJ, the star of Hidalgo)

Scary-loud producer Jerry Bruckheimer and just-plain-scary studio Disney bought the rights to Doug Stanton's nonfiction book Horse Soldiers. The account of the Special Forces soldiers who briefly returned the world's most powerful military force to the days of the cavalry while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan got great reviews. The film version lingers in development limbo.

Stanton discussing his book:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dream Pony For Robin

Dream Pony For Robin

Suzanne Wilding, il. Sam Savitt

1962, St. Martin's Press, Inc.

Robin clambered onto the pony's rather muddy back, her right hand grasping a good big chunk of black mane. He was bigger and wider than Magelda, but just as steady. She felt very happy. "Look, Ma, how do you like him?"

Robin Fleming is eight years old and the loving but impatient owner of an elderly donkey named Magelda. What Robin really wants is a pony, so she can learn to ride and jump like older sister Wendy, and go to Pony Club meetings. When she sees a sale ad in the Chronicle for a black show pony, she falls in love. But Stove Polish is too big and advanced for the young beginner, and Robin's parents buy her the small, young pony who will be dubbed Snooks.

Back at the Flemings's Applebee Farm, Robin has her work cut out for her - she not only had to learn to ride (from her older sister, poor kid), she has to train her young, green pony as well. Their early attempts at cantering are rough -

She began to lose her balance and lean forward. Snooks went faster. She grabbed his mane and hung on. Snooks tore around the field... She held her breath, pushed her heels down hard, and Snooks started to slow up. Robin could feel her knees shaking.

- and humiliations at their first Pony Club meeting send Robin into a funk. But all comes right in the end, as hard work and persevevearance take the pair all the way to the Devon Horse Show, and a tryout for a Pony Team to represent the U.S. in an international competition.

A very simply written book, which makes it less interesting for an adult reader. Robin is convincingly childish, which is refreshing after all the books whose wee heroines have perfect self-control and mature introspection. She goes from exuberant to shy in an instant, sulks for weeks when she's disappointed, holds grudges against her pets, and in many other ways acts like an actual 8-year-old. Which makes it all the more impressive that she grows up a bit and by the halfway point, has the ability to focus on a difficult goal.

The strongest writing focuses on Robin's feelings for her family and her animals;

She sat down and fondled Snooks's head and neck. "I called you a mean pony," she whispered in his ear. "I hated you, 'cause you scared me so, but I'm the mean one, not you. You never hurt me half as much as I hurt you."

The weakest point of the book is the flatness. There is no richness to the description, no strong sense of place, no real eloquence. There are some evocative lines, as when we meet Robin's father for the first time;

His old straw hat was tilted against the sun and his favorite Saturday morning slacks looked warm and comfortable.

But the more conscious attempts to provide a visual are strained.

The pony was as black as stove polish with only one white sock and a little white mark in the shape of a diamond in the center of his forehead. Mrs. Fleming walked around and admired him from all angles. She could see he was a real show pony.

The action moves nicely, and the plot (while typically over-the-top) is reasonable in horse-book terms. Overall a pleasant if very slightly dated book for younger readers.


Magelda - grey Sicialian donkey

Mister Darling - brown pony gelding

Stove Polish - black pony gelding

Snooks - small grey pony with black mane

Other Books by Wilding


Big Jump For Robin

Harlequin Horse

No Love For Schnitzel


The Triple Crown Winners: The Story Of America's Nine Superstar Racehorses

Ups And Downs: A First Guide To Writing And Horse Care (il. Savitt)

The Book Of Ponies

Short Story Collections

Horse Tales (il. Savitt)

Horses, Horses, Horses

Horses In Action


Click here for a photo of the actual cover, as shown on Amazon.