A Pony To School is the continuation of the Augusta/Christina series, and is the third. I am not sure what colour Clown (the pony referred to the title), is as in my copy (an 1978 Armada edition) he is clearly pictured and described as being skewbald, but in earlier editions he is a grey. Whether the previous editions are wrong, or Armada (in some fit of insanity) changed the original colour of the pony, I do not know. Having only had this edition in my fair hands, I cannot confirm or deny this. But now, just having seen another edition (published by Severn House), which shows a brown pony on the cover, I strongly suspect that somewhere down the line the colour has been changed.
The blurb reads (taken from the Armada edition on the right):-
As we rode home, I thought of how Clown had cowered in fear when Ted Dunn had finally managed to catch him. I wondered if Christina and I would ever turn him into a well-schooled pony. Then suddenly I was determined to succeed at all costs, not because he was beautiful, but because I never wanted him to look so miserable and frightened again.
Then Augusta and Christina discover that the skewbald pony is a rearer - and if they cant cure him of his dreadful habit he will have to be destroyed...
The original book (illustrated cover) is illustrated by Anne Bullen. However the later edition (the one with the photographic cover) is not illustrated.
Admittedly this book is balanced a bit more in favour towards Augusta than the previous series (and last week's) title Three Ponies and Shannan since this book is told by either Christina or Augusta, every other chapter is by one of the two. Interestingly, this is a similar style that is used in Diana's joint work Fair Girls and Grey Horses, but still, you cant help feeling that the emphasis is put more on Christina.
Christina is a more nicer and rounded character than the spoilt person she was in Three Ponies and Shannan, but this book does have a lot of an element of fantasy about it. With most of Diana's books, you can imagine that the events which do happen in them could have happened in the 40s, 50s etc (or whenever the book was set), but to give 2 young people, an rearer is not at all wise. As the sisters admitted in Fair Girls and Grey Horses, they learnt to automatically reject and definitely steer clear of rearers. Secondly, most rearers cannot be cured, unless you are fortunate enough to have one that was caused by a simple case of a badly fitting saddle (and are wise enough to sort out a proper fitting saddle). I am not talking about horses that have reared once because of genuine fright or ones that have been trained to do so on command. Clown is also a 5 year old, which is even more deadly. Even more, when Ted Duanne (Clown's owner) got them to take on the pony, he "neglected" to mention that he was a rearer.
Still there is a nice reference to a book called Equitation, which presumably is a reference to Henry Wynmalen’s Equitation, a book which heavily influenced all three sisters.
It is a good book, which seems to urging on the moral high ground that if something goes wrong with a young pony, it is best to start reschooling straight away. Which is what they do. The story is basically an account of what happens when they start reschooling, and the incidents which happen when Clown is ridden. However, they do start to discover the cause of Clown's rearing, which again, makes a good moral for this story, that a good rider/owner should always check if there is a cause for a pony's misbehaviour, too many riders say "the pony is a bad one", when a vet/saddler check or a course of lessons could stop it. Thankfully this book has a happy ending, and obviously the pony does not rear. There is a tragedy in the story though.
Incidentally, the subject of dangerous ponies is not a subject not forgotten about - the book Cassidy in Danger/This Pony is Dangerous is about a potentially dangerous pony too. I wonder if in Diana's pony schooling life, she always took on the "dangerous" ones?
I feel that this book is the second best (or even the best) out of the series, as it is a lighter and better tone (not to mention better written) than the others. If you can sit through Three Ponies and Shannan without giving up, then I can guarantee you will enjoy this one more. I also feel that this is one of the better Diana books too. The final one in the series is Only A Pony, which I will be covering next week. I will also be doing an extra review next week too, the book to be decided.