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American Horse Books Home

Don Stanford

Bibliography - horse stories only

The Horsemasters
Funk & Wagnalls Co, New York, 1957 (left),
Cover C H Schule, internal illus David Rook

Harrap & Co, London, 1958, illus Michael Lyne (middle)

Brockhampton Press, Super Hampton Library, Leicester, 1967,
cover Laszlo Acs, 184 pp. (top right)

White Lion, London, 1973 (centre left)

Scholastic, New York, pb (centre middle)

Puffin, London, pb, 1976 (bottom right)

Unknown USA edition, bottom left, possibly early Scholastic pb.

Kirkus review

Character list

American Dinah Wilcox come to England to join the
Horsemasters’ course. Not only are her fellow course
members a varied lot, the horses are too. Opinions change
on quite a lot of things, with even the merciless Head Girl
Mercy proving there is rather more to her than they all think.

Must be Good Riders: Orphans Preferred
Funk & Wagnalls Co, New York, 1962, illus Stan Campbell

A story about the Pony Express

David hears about the Pony Express from the station agent Doherty, and wants to be one of
their riders.

Don Stanford, like William Corbin, was a prolific author who wrote very few pony books. His Horsemasters, though, has remained popular for 50 years, and is much sought after. Aimed at older readers, it is the story of two girls who are taking their British Horse Society Horsemasters certificate. The BHS does not still do this examination; it was the equivalent of today’s BHSAI, and was still available up until 1986, though possibly in an altered form from what Don Stanford describes. Porlock Vale Riding School used to teach the Horsemasters’ course, and the book is dedicated to the Horsemasters of Porlock Vale. Having come across a Porlock Vale site (now taken down)  before I started researching this author, I thought “Goodness, that sounds like The Horsemasters!” and now I know why. Porlock Vale alas has fallen victim to the increasing costs besetting riding schools, and it closed in 2007.

The Horsemasters is a riveting read, with interesting character development, and well-drawn horse characters too. I particularly like Dinah’s cob, Cornish Pastie, who turns into another horse entirely once he is out hunting, making her revise her previously rather negative opinion about him. Opinions are changed on human characters too; the Head Girl, Mercy, is not quite what she seems.

There was a Disney film based on the book. Released in 1961, and starring Annette Funnicello as Dinah, it seems to have songs (The Strummin’ Song is one) which suggests it perhaps doesn’t follow the book that closely.

Finding the books: no edition of The Horsemasters is cheap, but both American and English first editions are very expensive. Must be Good Riders can be expensive as a very good first edition, but ex library copies can be had reasonably (at least, at the time of writing!)

Links and sources

Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau and Sue Hale for their help with the for the pictures.

A full character list of The Horsemasters

The Horsemasters movie on IMDB, accessed 26th February 2014

The Porlock Vale Riding School, history. I’ve removed this link as my system flagged it as malicious.

A good blog on The Horsemasters, accessed 26th February 2014