There have been several publishers who have created a series of pony fiction by different
authors. One of the earliest of these was the Crown Pony Series, which featured
titles published by the Lutterworth Press. Lutterworth published titles in various
libraries (the Dominion Library was another) and it isn’t particularly easy to work
out in what edition a title first appeared, or if it was in the Crown Pony Library
when it did. It’s also quite difficult to work out exactly how many titles were
published in the Pony Library: they appeared both in hardback and paperback. As
far as I can see, most titles were published between the mid 1960s and 1970s. The
numbering doesn’t seem particularly consistent; Pony Girl being listed both as Number
4 and Number 21!
The Lutterworth titles were mainly by authors who were mainly in the second rank.
The titles are generally good solid reads, but Monica Edwards or Ruby Ferguson they
are not.Click here for a list of titles: and please contact me if you have more
information on the series.
The Collins Pony Library titles were published in the 1970s, and mostly featured
books they had already published, but in a different format. The books were published
as hardbacks with specially commissioned pictorial covers, and no dustjackets. The
books were cheaper than the originals, and the paper quality was not particularly
good: surviving books tend to have browned pages. However, the Pony Library was
an excellent way for the pony mad child to buy a better quality book than the paperbacks.
I had three titles myself as a child, and they had pride of place amongst my library.
If I could have found more (rural Northamptonshire was a bit restricted on what
it allowed the pony book buyer) I would have bought them. When I look back at them
now, they have lost their visual appeal: but I thought them the last word in sophistication
when I was young. Collins had obviously carefully worked out what would appeal to
the pony-mad girl and they gave it to her: bright, sometimes crudely coloured covers
with a slightly other-world quality.
The Collins Pony Library included some titles it published as first editions: Patricia
Leitch’s Rebel Pony and Pony Surprise. Her Afraid to Ride, First Pony, and Jacky
Jumps to the Top were all originally published under the name Jane Eliot in the Collins
Spitfire Series. Stable to Let, by Lilias Edwards is the only other book to be specially
commissioned, as far as I can see. For a full list of the Collins Pony Library
please click here.
As to whether any of the books are abridged, it’s probable, apart from the first
editions of course. The Monica Edwards titles have had some alterations. From John
Allsup’s site on Monica Edwards, I gather that Wish for a Pony has lost its frontispiece,
but is otherwise the same. Cargo of Horses has lost 4 illustrations. No Entry is
abridged, and has only 5 of the original illustrations. Black Hunting Whip is abridged.
The new front cover is by Geoffrey Whittam.
How often, if at all, the Pony Library titles were reprinted is difficult to tell.
The British Library doesn’t list any reprints, but then it doesn’t have all the
titles anyway, so this is not conclusive! At any rate, Collins did not continue
the Pony Library into the 1980s. My enquiries with Collins are, so far, unfruitful,
so I assume sales simply didn’t warrant their re-printing!
J A Allen took up the baton in the late 1980s and 1990s with its Allen Equestrian
Fictionseries. At that time the main flourish of pony
book publishing was over.
What was published was not particularly good, and printed on paper which was going
to struggle to outlast the century. J A Allen’s Chief Executive, Caroline Akrill
(better known for her own excellent children’s books) started a project to produce
pony books that would succeed in their own right, not just as a genre which could
be guaranteed to sell however good or bad it was, simply because it featured a pony.
“Allen had always been about quality and we wanted to elevate the status of the
pony novel, engaging the top writers, the best illustrators and with our usual high
This series was, I think, a brave attempt by Allen to provide
well-written pony stories aimed at the teenage market. I find all the titles interesting:
they are written assuming that the reader does have some intelligence, and generally
with some understanding of the teenage rider: Gillian Baxter’s wonderful Bargain
Horses is particularly good. It’s a pity that lack of sales led to Allen not carrying
on with their experiment. They were not supported by the libraries, who thought
pony books were old hat and elitist, and the higher price of the books (£4.99 - £5.99
compared with £2.99 - £3.99), and J A Allen’s status as a niche publisher, meant
the chains were reluctant to stock them. I wonder if the very different format of
the books had something to do with the lack of sales: being trade paperbacks with
illustrations completely unlike the more normal, for that time, photographic front
cover meant perhaps the pony book buyer simply did not realise what the books were.
However, ignore the covers, and try the books. There’s a list here.
Although J A
Allen’s experiment did not succeed, the process was exhilarating, and has left a
legacy of fine pony books. Caroline Akrill said: We had a lot of fun doing the series,
persuading established writers (like the P-T sisters) to write new books for us and
reading a tremendous amount of unsolicited pony fiction to find new talent. I don’t
regret it in the least and although perhaps the least successful of our projects,
it remains the one we enjoyed the most and are still proud of!”
I have found a later British pony libraries: though only British in the sense that
it was published by Hodder. The Rosettes series of six titles appeared in paperback
in 1994, and featured stories about teenage girls and their horses. All of the stories
had previously been published in America. There was only one printing of the Rosettes
series, and no new titles were ever added. I wonder if it was created as an attempt
to cash in on the success of the American Saddle Club series, then wildly popular.
If it was, it didn’t succeed, possibly because it lacked the essential series element
that hooked girls into the Saddle Club.
Overseas Pony Libraries
It wasn’t only British publishers who published pony libraries: America had its
Famous Horse Series, published by Grossett and Dunlap. Although some early examples
were published as pictorial hardbacks with dustjackets, later editions and titles
were published with pictorial boards: similar to the Collins Pony Library. I have
been able to find 36 titles; making it the largest such venture. Grosset and Dunlap
included series: George Rutherford Montgomery’s Golden Stallion had six of its seven
titles published in this format. The series is a mixture of titles published first
in that format, and first elsewhere. True to the American concept of the horse story,
the Famous Horse Series includes stories from a wide range of genres: the only common
theme was that there had to be a horse in there somewhere. The series was much more
balanced than British libraries, including many stories whose heroes are boys.
There is only one company today that has taken up the Pony Library banner: it is
run by the Stabenfeldt Publishing Company, based in Norway. It runs Pony book clubs,
selling copies of its books via subscription. The titles are mostly originals, with
a few republished. The clubs, even the American version, are fairly and squarely
aimed at girls. Sadly, the American horse book, aimed at either sex, with boys playing
just as much of a role as girls, appears to be fading, now superceded by the ubiquitous
girl and pony theme.
Junior Libraries which included pony titles
Country Life Publications were responsible for probably the earliest uniform edition
which contained a good number of pony titles. During the 1930s and 1940s, Country
Life published a uniform edition of its most popular children’s titles. Although
the Junior Country Life Library contained several titles that were not horse-orientated,
the majority of them were firmly equine based. Many of the titles pre-dated the
dawn of the girl plus pony story, so covered a wide range of types. John Thorburn’s
Hildebrand, a fantasy about a horse who could only eat things which began with an
“h” was the first title in the library, which contained a good sprinkling of traditional
equine biographies and stories aimed at the younger reader.
Collins’ Seagull Library contained cheap editions of some of their most popular titles,
drawn from the whole range of their children’s lists. It included some pony titles;
notable mostly for the poor quality of their cover illustrations. Because of the
poor quality of the papers used, it is rare to find a Seagull Library edition in
pristine condition, but these books, popular as they were as prizes, must have been
the closest many children got to a quality book.
Sources: Caroline Akrill, Catalogue of the British Library