Patricia Leitch (1933-2015) had a varied career, working as a teacher, librarian, riding instructor and maid before she settled down to writing. She is, thanks to her Jinny series a must-read author if you want to do a serious study of how the pony book genre developed. Before she wrote about Jinny, Patricia Leitch had produced a solid range of good pony stories. Patricia didn’t feel she had to follow pony book conventions: Riding Course Summer has the heroine starting off without a pony, but still without one at the end. Dream of Fair Horses doesn’t see the show pony Perdita ending up with the rider who loves her, by some neat plot trick. Its heroine, Gill Caridia, is moving away from the seemingly idyllic country life by the end of the book.
Jinny, the heroine of the twelve book long series, is in many ways not a conventional pony book heroine. Jill Crewe, heroine of Ruby Ferguson’s Jill series, and an equally popular figure in pony fiction, is remarkably free of teenage sturm und drang, but Jinny has all those insecurities and temperamental fits in spades. Jinny and her Arab mare, Shantih are well matched. They are both temperamental: neither of them like listening to anyone other than themselves. Jinny’s early history with Shantih is one of hopeless longing. She longs to be able to ride the mare, but cannot. To make her hopelessness as a rider even more obvious, Ken, who lives with them, can handle Shantih effortlessly.
The series succeeds because Jinny is a very recognisable teenager, and her longings and desires are ones most pony mad children will have had. Jinny succeeds in combining wish fulfilment (her Arab mare) with being a completely identifiable figure, often making mistakes, and sometimes blundering through life until she is confronted with her prejudices.
The Kestrels series, for younger readers were Patricia’s last books, and a much tamer affair than the Jinnies.
Acknowledgments: thank you to Hannah, Claire, Susan, Fiona and Cheryl for all their help with the pictures, and to Helen McKinnon for the information about the German translations.
Finding the books:Rosette for Royal, the Collins Pony Library Jacky Jumps to the Top, and Janet Young Rider are the hardest books to find. None of them are impossible, but they can be expensive. The other Collins Pony Library titles: Rebel Pony, First Pony, Pony Surprise and Afraid to Ride are all becoming more scarce now, and becoming more expensive. The Jane Eliot titles can be expensive. The other non-series titles are all reasonably easy to find and not generally expensive. Titles published in paperback are plentiful and cheap.
The Jinny series: all usually widely available, though the hardback editions are very scarce and now getting pricey. Some are currently in print through Catnip Publishers. The Kestrels series: all usually widely available, and reasonably priced.
Scholastic, New York, 1977 Reprints: 1983, 1984, 1992 Severn House, 1980, hardback Compilation: (with For Love of a Horse & Summer Riders) Armada, 1992
Catnip, London, 2010, 208 pp.
Jinny is looking forward to a wonderful summer on Shantih, but then finds out the Thorpe children are coming. Marlene, who is ten, wants to ride Shantih, but Jinny is vehemently against that. Jinny does at last realise that there is more to Marlene than she thought.
For Love of a Horse Armada Original, 1976, 125 pp. Reprints: 1984, 1992, 1993 Severn House, 1979, hardback with dustjacket Compilation: (with For Love of a Horse & Summer Riders) Armada, 1992
Catnip, London, 2010, 210 pp.
Jinny’s family are moving to Finmory in Scotland, away from urban Stopton. Jinny sees an Arab mare being terribly mistreated in a circus. The horse escapes onto the moors, and Jinny tries, and tries to catch her. At last, in a bitter winter which has nearly killed the horse, she succeeds.
A Devil to Ride Armada Original, 1976, 127 pp. Reprints: 1984, 1992, 1993
Severn House, 1980, hardback
Compilation: (with For Love of a Horse & Summer Riders) Armada, 1992
Catnip, London, 2010, 176 pp.
Jinny now has Shantih, but riding Shantih is a nightmare, not a dream. Whatever Jinny tries, it
does not work. Almost worse is the fact that Ken can ride her.
Night of the Red Horse Armada Original, 1978, 127 pp. Reprints: 1983,1988, 1993 Compilation: (with Summer Riders) Lion, 1994
Catnip, London, 2011, 208 pp.
Two archaeologists come to see the mural of a red horse in Jinny’s room. They are hoping it’s ancient, but it’s Victorian. Whatever they think, Jinny soon finds that the red horse has a strange power, as
does the statue of Epona they see in a local museum. It all melds together into an experience that, for Jinny, is absolutely terrifying.
Gallop to the Hills Armada Original, 1979 Reprints: 1985, 1988, 1992 Compilation (with Red Horse, Horse in a Million) Lions, 1993 Compilation: (with Horse in a Million) Lions, 1994
Catnip, London, 2011, 208 pp.
The Manders’ dog, Kelly, has been branded a sheep killer, and is being hunted down by local farmers who want to shoot him. Then Jinny gets a dream commission painting six horses for Lady Gilbert, but she is sure she has seen wolves on their estate, and she begins to work out just who the sheep killers are.
Horse in a Million Armada Original, 1980, 126 pp. Reprints: 1983,1988, 1992 Severn House, 1983, hardback Compilation (with Red Horse, Gallop) Lions, 1993 Compilation: (with Gallop to the Hills) Lions, 1994, Catnip, London, 2011, 192 pp.
Jinny and Sue are organising the Finmory Gymkhana, but Clare Burnley,pot hunter supreme, decides to compete. After that, two of Miss Tuke’s ponies disappear, and then Shantih disappears. ..
The Magic Pony Armada, 1982 Reprints: 1985, 1992
Severn House, 1986, hardback Compilation: Three Great Jinny Stories (with
Horse in a Million & Ride Like the Wind) Armada, 1989 Compilation: (with Ride Like the
Wind) Lions, 1995
Catnip, 2012, 208 pp.
Shantih is lame, and Jinny hopes that Brenda
from the riding school will help. But Brenda does not love her ponies, one of whom is Easter, a ghost like, skeletal grey mare.
Ride Like the Wind Armada Original, 1983, 156 pp.
Reprints: 1988, 1990
Severn House, 1986, hardback
Compilation: Three Great Jinny Stories (Horse in a Million/ Magic Pony) Armada, 1989
Compilation (with Magic Pony), Lions, 1995
Catnip, 2013, 200 pp.
Mr Mander’s second book has been rejected, Nell’s shop, where they sell pots and pictures, is closing down, and so it looks as if the Manders will have to sell Finmory.
Chestnut Gold Armada, 1984 Reprints: 1992
Severn House, 1987, hardback Compilation (with Jump for the Moon) Lions, 1995
Jinny and Shantih are taking part in the filming of a TV programme, and then a strange man dressed in black appears. Jinny ends up trying to capture the dance of the golden horses in a mural.
Jump for the Moon Armada Original, 1985 Reprints: 1992 Compilation (with Chestnut Gold) Lions, 1995
Jinny thought she had bought Shantih from Mr Mackenzie fair and square, but now the ringmaster of the Circus Shantih came from is saying he is coming back to reclaim his horse. Then another possible owner appears, and it looks as if Jinny’s last glorious ride on Shantih will be at the Adair Show.
Horse of Fire Armada Original, 1986 Reprints: 1991, 1992 Compilation (with Running Wild) Lions, 1995
The new minister at the local church has a plan: he wants to stage a nativity with the three kings riding in on horses, and he asks Jinny and Shantih to take part. While they are working at this, deer poachers strike on the moors.
Running Wild Armada Original, 1988 Reprints: 1990, 1993 Compilation (with Horse of Fire) Lions, 1995
The Wilton museum is going to be demolished, but the Walker has a task for Jinny and Shantih: to save the mural of the dancing horses.