8. You are allowed to give your heroine other interests so that they have a fully rounded character. A fondness for poetry has always worked well in the past.
9. Mothers should be on the scatty side, to say the least. Ideally, shunt the parents off somewhere else entirely: a long holiday or an archaeological dig, say.
10. If you can contrive for your heroine and her friends to have sole charge of a riding stable or yard this is excellent.
11. The heroine and her family will be poor but noble.
12. If any of your characters are rich, they should either be villains, or in need of that moral improvement only your heroine and her pony can provide. They should certainly not be able to ride well.
13. The illustrator should be able to draw either ponies or people, but not both.
14. You should have an end-of-book gymkhana: nowadays, perhaps even a dressage test or long distance ride: at any event, something competitive. Should your heroine win? Don’t forget the uplifting moral effect on her character of losing or coming some way down the placings. She can always improve in your next book. However, in team events, this does not apply. For a team event, it must be a first, and your team must defeat another, far nastier, team.
And finally..... always remember the morally uplifting effect of a pony: someone in your book should be improved by contact with that noble creature, The Horse.
A previous version of this article originally appeared in Folly Magazine, Summer 2004. And yes, I know my illustrations don’t really prove point 13....