And oh it’s ace. Jill’s Riding Club. Written in a time when all you needed was a pony (or two) and a will to ride because It Was The Best Thing In The History Of Ever and Horses Are Creatures Of Intense Nobility.
Jill’s a splendid creation. She’s sort of spiffing, and sensible, and splendid and SHE HAS TWO PONIES *cue instant childhood jealousy and loathing glares at my little ponies*
I went through the horsey phase like practically every other girl I knew. Horses were brilliant. Horses were my crush. I wrote down the names of the ones that we passed on the school bus. I noted who was out in the field one day, and who was out the next. I had a cottage on the way to Scarborough that I had marked out as the one where Jill lived and Black Boy and Rapide would graze in the orchard behind it. I had an imaginary cadre of animals who came on car trips on me – White Horse, White Rabbit (and, I’ll be dead impressed if you can spot the theme here), White Dog. I used to hold my breath and imagine myself leaping over the white lines, my faithful steed turning to the lightest touch of my reins.
In a way, horse novels were my romance novels. I never did Mills and Boon or even really the feverish “Pssst, look at page thirty three of Jilly Cooper’s latest” thing. But what I did do was weep when Baringa met Dawn, when Toadhill Flax was rescued by Ruth, when Misty had Storm. Horse novels are a way for the young reader to experience their first loves. The highs and the god-awful lows. The moment when death, so inevitable, so bitterly unlooked for, comes. It breaks your heart. But then it rebuilds it. Because through loving another – be that boy, girl, horse, dog, cat, it teaches you the value of it and the act of love is often so wonderful that you can hold onto that for ever.
I’m being pulled back to reading these books; being pulled back by a well-oiled leading rein and I don’t want to let go. I want the Silver Brumby. I want more Jill and Jackie and Jinny (in the interests of equality, there are other protagonists who don’t start with J). I want the Pat Smythe books and I want them now.