Ponies, ponies, ponies



The Edge of the Cloud
Flambards in Summer
Flambards Divided

Who Sir? Me Sir?
Who Sir? Me Sir?
Downhill All the Way
The Boy Who Wasn’t There

The Swallow (High Horse) Series
The Swallow Summer
Swallow the Star

The Team
Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer
The Beethoven Medal
Prove Yourself a Hero
A Midsummer Night’s Death
The Last Ditch (Free Rein)
Marion’s Angel

Small Gains
Greater Gains

Roman Pony
Minna’s Quest
No Turning Back
Far From Home
Pony books are often dismissed as genre fiction, but K M Peyton is proof that writing within a genre doesn’t stop you from being good.  When I re-read her Fly-by-Night and The Team, I constantly have those magical moments when you read something and think “Yes - that is exactly how  that is.” K M Peyton knew Antonia Forest, and their brilliance with characterisation is in some ways similar.  Her books are consistently good.  When I first read Blind Beauty, the dog went unwalked, and children had to forage for themselves.
She has been writing since she was 9, with her first book, Sabre, the Horse from the Sea, being published when she was 15 under her maiden name, Kathleen Herald.  Kathleen Peyton rode occasionally as a child, and had no pony of her own. What she did have was a vast stable of imaginary horses, carefully listed in notebooks and a capacity to absorb the technical horse books she read and turn them into completely believable literature. Her training though was in painting, at Kingston School of Art and then Manchester Art School, where she met her husband, Mike, an ex prisoner-of-war. They married when she was 21, and as they both loved sailing, that is what her first books as K M Peyton were about. (I, who am anti-boat and dreadfully sea-sick, find them absolutely enthralling.)
She moved from writing about boats to horses, and the resulting Flambards series, set around the First World War, brought her a Carnegie Medal for the second book, The Edge of the Cloud. Flambards became a television series starring Christine McKenna, and is probably
K M Peyton’s best known series.  

When the Peytons acquired their first pony, Cracker, for their daughter Hilary, he was unbroken. The traumas of breaking Cracker in and being a Pony Club parent found their way into Fly-by-Night and many of her subsequent books. The Maybridge series, of which Fly-by-Night is the first, is her longest series, and sees its characters into adulthood. Not all of the titles are pony books (Ruth, by the time she meets Patrick Pennington, the pianist hero of Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer, has put ponies firmly behind her) but Peter and Jonathan continue their equine careers, more or less willingly.
After the success of Flambards, Kathleen acquired an agent, Michael Motley.  “... I didn’t need an agent, but he... asked me out to lunch, not to talk about writing, but about racing.  Of course I fell for this, which resulted in my acquiring both an agent and a race-horse.”  Wise Words, the race-horse, never won, but from her involvement with racing sprang some of her best books.  
She is still writing, and has published a book a year for the last sixty years.

Finding the books
Most of K M Peyton’s books are easy to find, though her books written under her maiden name, Kathleen Herald, are harder, Crab the Roan being very difficult indeed, possibly the hardest. First editions of the Flambards series tend to be pricey (though they have come down in recent years). The Last Ditch (Free Rein) and Marion’s Angels can be tricky, but are not impossible.

Links and sources
K M Peyton has her own website.
Fidra Books:  Fly-by-Night and The Team have an introduction by K M Peyton

Thank you to Dawn Harrison, Sue Howes, Susan Bourgeau, Jacquie Aucott, Catherine Lloydall, Julie Main, Jane and Kate for all their help with photos and bibliographical information. There are no photographs of covers by Lionel Edwards or Victor Ambrusfor copyright reasons.

K M PEYTON (1929 - )

Sabre, the Horse from the Sea (as Kathleen Herald)

Adam & Charles Black, 1948, 145pp, illus Lionel Edwards (left)
USA edition: paperback printing

Acorn books (a division of Macmillan)

1963, cover art by Russell Hoban (thanks to Susan Bourgeau for the info and cover shot)


Liza found the big grey stallion Sabre on the beach, and after she falls for him, lies to the police
when they come to take him back.  She races the horse, but he is recognised by his owner and
taken back.  Liza does still though have the hope of Cinder’s foal, after the mare was put to Sabre.
She dreams of a colt to follow Sabre, but the foal that appears is a filly, Scimitar.




The Mandrake, A Pony (as Kathleen Herald)

Adam & Charles Black, 1949, 120pp, illus Lionel Edwards


Lesley has bought The Mandrake.  He is a beautiful pony:  bay with a clever head and wide aristocratic
nostrils.  Lesley thinks he will be the most wonderful pony in the South, but she was wrong.  Mr Congress
said “The Mandrake’s got a brain like a bird.  He’s mad.”    Lesley though says The Mandrake was born
to be clever, and in the end, she’s proved right, and Lesley learns it doesn’t matter what other people
think about your pony, and that success is not the most important thing.

Crab the Roan (as Kathleen Herald)

Adam & Charles Black, 1953, 158pp, illus Peter Biegel

Thanks to Amanda Dolby for the picture


Anna lives on “The Duke’s” estate with her father, the estate manager.  China is the Duke’s driving pony, and
Anna loves him and is devastated when he is sold, to be replaced by the ugly roan, Crab.  Crab, however,
turns out to be a horse in a million.


Oxford University Press, 1967, 193pp, illus Victor Ambrus
Puffin pb, 1976, 1978, 1995
Oxford University Press, 1981, 1987, 2004, 2007

Bottom left:
US printing (not first edn, which has
Ambrus cover art) Philomel, 1982, cover Derek James


The 12 year old Christina, an orphan, is sent off to Flambards.
There live her uncle, and her two cousins, Mark and Will.  Mark is
deeply unsympathetic, but Christina does make friends with Will, and also discovers a
passion for horses.  Then Christina is stunned by Mark’s proposal, but her feelings
for Will win out, despite a dramatic last minute chase by Mark on his grey Woodpigeon.


The Edge of the Cloud

Oxford University Press, 1969, 165 pp, illus Victor Ambrus
Puffin pb, 1977, 1978, far right

OUP, 1987, 1998


Christina knows that Will loves her, but that he has a passion for flying and aeroplanes.
In the end, they marry, but the First World War is just about to start.



Oxford University Press, 1968, 151 pp, illus by the author (right)

OUP, 1971,

OUP, pb, 1979

Sparrow, pb, 1981 (middle right)

In Thrre in one Pony stories, 1999, Red Fox
Fidra Books, pb, 2007 (far right)

USA: World Publishing 1969 (middle).



Ruth is desperate to have a pony.  She manages to buy the unbroken New Forest, Fly-by-Night, but has a huge struggle to keep him on her
very limited income, and if possible even more of a struggle to learn to ride him.



Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer

Oxford University Press, 1970, 188 pp, illus by the author  
OUP 1973, New Oxford Library, 1979

Magnet, pb, 1982

Scholastic, pb, 1994
US:  Pennington’s Last Term

Patrick Pennington is one of the bad boys at school, though he is redeemed by his extraordinary ability at the piano.
He is entered in a local music competition, but the chances of him competing in it are slim, after his brushes with the
police, local vandals and the staff who war with him at school.

The Beethoven Medal

Oxford University Press, 1971, 152pp, illus the author

OUP, 1974, 1979

Magnet pb, 1982
US:  If Ever I Marry

Ruth, heroine of Fly, is besotted by the baker’s boy - Patrick Pennington, working during the holidays from his music
course.  Her mother violently disapproves, but Ruth carries on seeing Patrick.  He has yet more brushes with the police,
and after he hits a policeman, it is certain that he will go to prison, ruining his chances to play with a major orchestra.

A Pattern of Roses

Oxford University Press, 1972, 123pp

OUP, 1975

Sparrow pb, 1982

Oxford, 1984, OUP, 2000

Pb Scholastic USA:  as So Once Was I

Translated into Welsh (Patrwm Rhosod): right




A very atmospheric story with minimal pony content.  Tim has moved to the country with his parents, but is ill and unhappy.  Then a workman finds a tin containing drawings in Tim’s room, and Tim and the vicar’s daughter, Rebecca, set out to find out why the artist who did the drawings, and who has the same initials as Tim, died so young decades ago.


Flambards in Summer

Oxford University Press, 1969, 188pp, illus Victor Ambrus

Puffin pb, 1977, 1978,

Heinemann, New Windmill,1982 (left)

OUP 1985, 1999




Christina, now a widow, returns to Flambards, and sets about
trying to restore the battered estate and make it pay as a farm.

Dick, once a groom at Flambards, returns, and that is nearly enough to make Christina happy again.


Picture not shown because of copyright restrictions

Picture not shown because of copyright restrictions

Pennington’s Heir
Oxford University Press, 1973, 185 pp, illus the author

OUP, 1975, pb


Patrick comes out of prison, and has a reunion with Ruth, but Ruth gets pregnant.  Patrick leaves his
teacher, and he and Ruth try and survive on their own, battling with their hand to mouth existence, and
the machinations of Clarissa, Patrick’s former girlfriend.

The Team

Oxford University Press, 1975, 177pp, illus the author

Sparrow pb, 1982

Red Fox, pb, 1990

Fidra Books, pb, 2008

US: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976

Ruth has outgrown Fly, and at a local auction she buys Peter’s outgrown and utterly beloved Toad.
Peter wants him back, but Ruth decides to keep him and a wedge is driven between them.  Ruth has
a huge struggle to learn to ride Toad, and then finds Fly, whom she sold, is not being kept well.



The Right-Hand Man

Oxford University Press, 1977, illus Victor Ambrus

Magnet pb, 1983


Ned Rowlands is the fastest stagecoach driver on the Harwich Road. Lord Ironminster is determined to win a
wager aginst his cousins, and recruits Ned to help.  Lord Ironminster is a sick man, and has to marry and
produce an heir to avoid his estate passing to his cousins.  Ned finds defeating the cousins in their desire
to get the estate is even more of a struggle than driving the four-in-hand.

A Midsummer Night’s Death

Oxford University Press, 1978, 120 pp.

Puffin pb, 1981

OUP, 1983, 1999


Jonathan doesn’t like the English master at his school, but he can’t believe that
Robin drowned himself.  Soon Jonathan begins to have suspicions that Robin did
not kill himself, and that someone for whom he has huge respect was responsible.

Marion’s Angels

Oxford University Press, 1979, illus Robert Mickelwright

Methuen as Falling Angels, 1983



The church Marion loves is famous, and decorated with six pairs of beautifully carved angels.  The church is
threatened with demolition, but this threat brings to the village two visitors who understand her feelings for the

Flambards Divided

Oxford University Press, 1981, right
Puffin pb, 1982, middle
OUP pb, 1999, far right


Last in the Flambards series, this was written specially for a film.  Christina finds herself
divided between two men:  Dick, whom she has married, but whom the village disapproves
of, and Mark, badly injured in the war, and furiously resentful of Dick.

Dear Fred

Bodley Head, 1981

Pavanne, 1982


This is based on the tragic true story of the famous jockey, Fred Archer and is overlain with the
story of Laura, who idolises Fred, and has a complete crush on him, to the embarrassment of
her parents.  The only people who seem to understand Laura’s feelings are her Uncle Harry, and
his protege Tiger, a boy with a fiery nature who kisses Laura in secret behind the stable door.


Prove Yourself a Hero

Oxford University Press, 1977, illus the author

Penguin, pb, 1979, 1982 (1979: middle and far right)

OUP, 1999


Jonathan Meredith is kidnapped, and really it’s very difficult to give a summary of this
book without revealing the whole plot, but it’s an excellent look at how a devastating
event affects families, and in particular how it affects the victim.



Who, Sir? Me, Sir ?

Oxford University Press, 1983

Puffin pb, 1985

OUP, 1985, 2000 (retold by Diane Mowat)


Sam Sylvester has entered his class in a competition against the posh Greycoats School.  He and his team have
to take part in a tetrathlon, and learn to ride, swim and run cross country.


The Last Ditch
Oxford University Press, 1984, 170 pp.
(Far right - USA: Free Rein)


Jonathan is on holiday in Greece with Iris, who seduces him.  The consequences of this are
catastrophic, and Jonathan runs away, joining up with Peter who wants to train one of his brother’s
horses for the National.  They take the horse and squat in a large house, existing on Jonathan’s income
from tutoring.  Jonathan falls for a girl who helps them, and the horse does run in the National.

The Sound of Distant Cheering

Bodley Head, London, 1986


Chivers Large Print, 1987


RosyWeeks works at Brood House. She loves her boss, Jeremy Cutbush, and the horse she looks after, Roly Fox.
When the stallion Peppermill arrives at the stables, he is going to be cut. Rosy decides to mate him, secretly, to a
mare at the stables.

Plain Jack

Hamilton, London, 1988, 29pp.

Scholastic, pb, 1997


Aimed at young readers.


Doubleday, London, 1989, 224 pp.

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, New York, 1990 (middle)

Corgi, London, pb, 1991

Random House, London, pb, 2013 (identical to Corgi)

Jenny lives in poverty and chaos, but then she and her grandfather buy a racehorse, and
keep him on the slimmest of shoestrings.  Their wealthy neighbours, the Strawsons,
become involved, but this doesn’t make Jenny’s life any easier.

No Roses Round The Door

Methuen, London,1990, 208 pp.

Ulverscroft Large Print, 2004


Three people face profound choices. Tom and Jo have everything, but Tom wants children, and Jo doesn’t. Tom is drawn
to Camilla, who does want children. Briefly, Tom manages to juggle these conflicting desires, until tragedy occurs.


Poor Badger

Doubleday, London, 1990, 80pp

Corgi Yearling, London, 1991, pb


Ros longs for a pony, and then comes across the black pony Badger.  At first his owners neglect him,
but unfortunately there is worse to come, and Ros decides she absolutely has to rescue Badger.


Late to Smile
Methuen, London, 1992, 232pp

Ulverscroft Large Print, 1994


A story for adults, this is about Miranda, dominated by her mother and her husband.  Unlike the rest of
her family, she has no desire to ride. When her husband dies, her life is thrown into turmoil, but she does,
in the end, work out what she wants from life.



Picture not shown because of copyright restrictions


The Wild Boy and Queen Moon

Doubleday, London, 1993, 222pp, left

Corgi, pb, 1995, right


Sandy works at her family’s livery yard, but she sees a beautiful grey horse galloping through
the night, with a boy riding it bareback.  Sandy gets to know the mare’s rider, Jonas, but then
when burglaries start to happen, she starts to suspect he might be involved.  


The Swallow Tale

Doubleday, London, 1995, 189 pp, jacket illustration Margaret Barrett.

Corgi, pb, 1996


Rowan is convinced that Swallow, who nearly causes an accident with her father’s car as he runs
about half wild, is meant to be her pony.  However, he is bought by a local riding school.  Meanwhile,
Rowan’s riding is improved by the Hawes family, and in the end they manage to buy Swallow.

The Pony That Went to Sea

Heinemann, 1997, 40pp, illus Anna C Leplar


Tom and Emily, who live on a houseboat, adopt the old, forgotten pony Paddy.  One night there is a storm,

and they take Paddy on board the boat, but then the boat breaks free in the storm...


Swallow Summer

Doubleday, London, 1996, 191pp

Corgi, 1997, pb


As Swallow becomes fitter, it becomes clear that Rowan is still having terrible trouble managing him.  The High Hawes
stables are also still on a shaky footing, and may have to sell all the ponies, including Swallow.


The Scruffy Pony

Young Corgi, 1999, 95pp


When Carrie’s father loses his money and they have to sell her pony Red Robin, Carrie is heartbroken and
convinced no other pony could ever be as good.  At first, when her parents do manage to get her a new pony,
Carrie refuses to have anything to do with him:  he is scruffy and neglected, but he needs Carrie and in the
end she realises this.

The Paradise Pony

Young Corgi, 1999, 93 pp, illus Robin Lawrie



Lauren and Tashy love their ponies, even though they aren’t particularly good at anything.  However, when
the ghostly Cobweb appears from Paradise and goes on a ride with the girls, their ponies are able to jump


Swallow the Star

Corgi, pb, 1998, 221pp


A film company is making a film about the jockey Fred Archer, and they chose Hugh Hawes to play the young
Fred. Hugh wants to ride Swallow in the film, as he’s always wanted to see what the pony could do with a better
rider.  Swallow’s owner, Rowan still doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to manage Swallow, and she has other
worries too:  will the High Hawes equestrian centre survive, and will her mother be able to afford to keep Swallow?



Pony In The Dark

Young Corgi, 2001, 107 pp



Tom’s favourite Shetland pony, the black Storm is sold to work in the mines, and Tom is devastated.  Tom
knows just how hard and bleak life in the mine will be for the pony, and when there is a terrible accident
at the mine, Tom wonders if he will ever see Storm again.

Blind Beauty

Scholastic, 1999, 360pp, Cover illustration the author

Scholastic, pb 1999 (far right)

US: Dutton Children’s Books 1999, photo Pete Kelley (right)

Scholastic, pb, 2008


Tessa loathes her bullying stepfather Maurice, and hates seeing her mother dominated by him.
When Tessa’s behaviour gets even worse, Maurice packs her off to work at a local racing stable.
At first Tessa hates it, but in the end the horses and people get to her, and she forms a special
relationship with the horse Buffoon.


Macmillan Children’s Books, London, 85 pp, 2001

Macmillan Children’s Books, London, pb, 2002



Nicky and her mother live in Bloodybow Castle.  Bloodybow is  haunted by a terrible past: hundreds of years ago
a feud was started when border raiders stole a stallion.  The feud led to the death of a young boy, and now Nicky
has to try and lay the past to rest.

Minna’s Quest

Usborne, London, 2007, 185 pp.


Read my review


Minna lives at the Roman fort of Othona on the Essex coast.  She saves a foal the soldiery cast out, convinced
it won’t survive, and that foal plays a pivotal part in saving the fort when pirates threaten.


Greater Gains

David Fickling Books, Oxford, 2005, 325 pp.

Definitions, 2006, pb.

Read my review

Clara is recently widowed, but is pregnant with her first child at the age of fifteen.  The Garland family’s life is no
easier: in fact the activities of one member of it make life considerably worse, and Clara is faced with some bitter


No Turning Back
Usborne, London, 2008, 197pp


Read my review


Still in love with the Roman commander Theo, Minna has run away to be near him.  She complicates matters
further when she tries to steal back a horse stolen by a band of thieves.

Far From Home
Usborne, London, 2009, 183pp.


This is the third part of Minna’s story.  Theo and Minna’s brother have set off to the North to fight, and Minna joins
the baggage train. She becomes a Roman spy, but then her horse Silva is stolen, and Minna sets off on a mission
to save him.



Pennington, a Trilogy

(Pennington's Seventeenth Summer, The Beethoven Medal, Pennington's Heir)

Oxford University Press, 1985,

cover illustration by Andrew Aloof

Thank you to Susan Bourgeau for the photo.



Penguin, 1980

photo cover art from the mini series

Thank you to Susan Bourgeau for the photo.



Compilations & Collections


Paradise House

Scholastic, London, 2011, 200 pp.

Read my review


Alice has a bleak life with her father and servants, none of whom seem to like her particularly.  One day Alice goes
to a local race meeting, riding her father’s carriage horse.  The horse bolts, and as a result Alice meets a family with
whom it turns out she has a lot more in common than just horses.  Alice lives with the family; finds a brother, father
and mother, and also the horse Snatchcorn, whom she can manage but very few others can.




As Kathleen Herald

Red Rosette

Pony Magazine, October 1953, illus Harold Beards



The Puffin Book of Horse & Pony Stories
Puffin, 1993, 186 pp.


Oxford University Press, 2000, illus Michael Langham Rowe


Non Fiction

When the Sirens Sounded

Facts, Figures and Fun, 2012, 128 pp.


A (mostly non fiction) account of K M Peyton’s wartime childhood, growing up in Surbiton as bombs fell, and
the school population rose and fell as girls came and went from London with the fluctuations of war. In it, K M Peyton
takes on life with the same passion she was to show in her books.

Apple Won’t Jump

Hamish Hamilton, London, 1992, 32 pp, illus the author?


A young reader, in which a pony refuses to jump until she has a decent reason to!



Windy Webley
Corgin Children’s Books, 1997, illus Nick Price


A pony story for younger children.  Webley is a black army horse, and he is ridden by Fred.  Unfortunately, Webley
is called Windy for a reason, and that’s not the only problem he has:  he is prone to getting bored, and when he’s
bored he makes faces and worse.


Small Gains

David Fickling Books, Oxford, 2003

Definitions, 2004, pb

Read my review

The Garland family have struggled to survive since the death of their mother, particularly with the glowering
and oppressive presence of the rich Grover family to contend with.  Clara, however, has an eye for a horse,
and an ability to train a trotter, and she hopes this will provide the family with a way through.