Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill

Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think that when you were a pony girl, there will always be a little part of you that will remain a pony girl. She’ll make herself known in strange, subtle ways throughout the rest of your life. Like when you see a picture of horse and rider and hear the long forgotten voice of your instructor mutter “reins like washing lines” inside your head. Or when you still know how to measure the right length of your stirrups despite not having touched a stirrup for a long while. Little things. Tiny, fragments of memory. Still inside of you, and forever will be.

This book is one of my fragments. It’s a trilogy (comprising ofEventer’s Dream, A Hoof in the Door and Ticket to Ride) but save yourself and hunt out this collected edition because a) you’ll want to read it all at once because b) it’s better that way. There’s something so delicious about every inch of Caroline Akrill’s lived, eccentric, vivid world that you want more of it and more of it and denying yourself that would be daft, so don’t.

Now that I’ve said that, it’s time to tell you a bit about what actually is going on. Very generally (very), pony stories of this particular era have two kind of key plots: 1. girl gets horse or 2. girl loses horse. Sometimes they’ll flip that by throwing different genders or ages into the mix or throwing in some kind of External Driving Circumstance but at the heart, it’s pretty much the same. Somebody wants / keeps a horse and the world is conspiring against them to make that Not Happen. (And this isn’t a criticism by the way: I am so fond of these books and I love them entirely because they work. They are primal and pure and rich forms of storytelling that very often centre the voices of young women and do so with all honesty and joy).

This trilogy focuses on the experience of Elaine. She is a girl with a dream: she is going to become an eventer and make it on her own. For Elaine, this is a financial necessity but also, as the books slowly reveal, something of a personal cause. She needs to make it work for her because there is no other option. And she will not take the easy path to do so.

The path that she takes leads her to the impoverished and deeply eccentric Fane family. Henrietta and Nigella run a livery stable which is full of all of the horses that everybody else passed on or didn’t want anything to do with. There is the mare-who-slips-a-stifle, the bad-tempered chestnut, and the noble yet rather pro-bolting The Comet. Henrietta and Nigella have made things work with their stable of misfits by selling off their belongings and bits of their ancestral home and kind of just a little bit avoiding paying the bills.

Eventing, however, is expensive and so they and Elaine are forced to find more funds. The overall effect is rather if Tom Sharpe met Christine Pullein Thompson (and indeed the rest of her remarkable family). It’s eccentric, wildly over the top, full of hunting and galloping madly over hedges, bolting horses, ridiculous episodes, heavily dated references, madly moving moments that suddenly knock you sideways, a strange and deliciously peculiar pony story that doesn’t do ANYTHING you expect of it, and it’s all deeply, utterly wonderful.

I first read this a hundred years ago, and I loved it then. And now? I love it all over again.

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