I wonder if every young girl goes through a horsey phase. So many of my students (all girls) are horse crazy so it’s possibly not a generational thing. My horsey phase was around the age of 11 and involved every horsey book I could get my hands on.
One I managed to get my hands on (although I’m not sure where from) was A Stable For Jill by Ruby Ferguson. I read it over and over (and over) again. It’s the story of a simple British girl growing up in the 1950’s whose life is centred around horses and the horsey world. Her mother is a children’s book writer and travels often so Jill tends to have a lot of freedom. As I was only 10, I didn’t really wonder where her parental supervision might be. In A Stable for Jill, Jill’s mother goes on a book tour of the United States and Jill is forced to spend the summer with her aunt and cousin, who are as far from horsey people as it’s possible to get. Jill resigns herself to a miserable summer without her pony, Black Boy, yet it only takes her a few days to make friends with the local vicarage children who are decidedly horsey people and the summer starts to look up.
What I love about Jill is that she’s full of ideas, hard-working and down to earth. The vicarage children are about to lose their horse, Ballerina, so Jill helps them start a riding stable so Ballerina can earn her own keep. As a ten year old I found Jill inspiring. Forty years later I still find her inspiring.
I loved reading about competitions and hunting, about grooming horses and pony treks. I was desperate for more Jill. I wanted to know how she had found Black Boy. The library had three of the other books in the series. Strangely enough they were books 4, 7 and 9. The internet didn’t exist and I had to guess at events in the other books. Until Santa bought me the complete set one wonderful Christmas. I think Santa has connections in England.
I’ve been having fun doing a bit of research about the treasured books from my childhood; and find it interesting how some of them have been “updated”. Jill’s pony, Black Boy was renamed Danny Boy in later editions, and of course all references to cigarette smoking had to be removed. I’m not a fan of changes to original fiction, as I think a book should be experienced as an author originally intended. Books are a snapshot of their times just as painting music, yet there seems to be this constant worry of offending; but I digress. Definitely a post for anther day.
I immersed myself in all things horses from the ages of 11 to 13. I took lessons, went to summer camp and of course read everything I could get my hands. If only The Pony Book Encyclopedia had been around at the time. I probably would have worked my way through it from top to bottom.
So, am I crazy, or is there generally a horsey phase somewhere in every girl’s childhood.