Saturday, 5 December 2009

Review: CHRISTINE - Riding

Riding is a rather strange book. Not only because it is not very well known: but it is one of two books that Christine wrote under the pseudonym of Christine Keir. There seems to be no logical reason for that (unlike The Impossible Horse). It is part of the Granada Guides series, which according to the blurb "...are an invaluable series of compact reference books, perfect for the bookshelf or pocket. Each handy volume contains the latest expert information on its subject, together with explanatory diagrams, brilliant colour illustrations, and a comprehensive index."

This book was first published in 1983. However, what I don't get is that if (according to Granada Publishing) it contains "the latest expert information" is why they didn't credit Christine under her proper name. After all, if you got this in the 1980s, you would be wondering who the hell Christine Keir was. Christine wrote 4 books on Riding under her proper name, so it is not like she had not got any experience on the subject (this is, of course, excluding any non fictional information in her anthologies or any others published prior to this one).

Anyway, I will leave that for now and concentrate on the actual book.This book is perhaps better suited to someone who wants an light read or is somewhat of a novice. A lot of novice books are aimed at children which makes them in turn somewhat babyish. This one is not, which does make it accessible to both adults, and fairly older children (8+).

Still it manages to pack a few things in it.

The first chapter (though they aren't clearly named as chapter) details Riding Through the Ages (an mini historical guide), Knights In Shining Armour, The Great Riding Schools (mainly about the Spanish Riding School of Vienna), Horses In War and Peace (mainly about army horses) and finally Horses In The Modern World (basically about what horses are used for today).

The second chapter details Learning To Ride (basically what to wear, how to make friends with a pony and making sure that you learn to ride at a riding school), Mounting and Dismounting (obvious!), The Seat and The Hands (basically how to sit correctly and how the reins correctly), The Aids (how they are used and what they are), The Paces (how the horse moves, and what they are called), Controlling a Difficult Horses (basically what to do, and what is considered difficult).

The third, albeit short, is called Showjumping. Basically it details what is showjumping (competitive wise), Some Common Faults (refusing, and what causes it) and finally Courses and Fences (what they are, and different types).

The fourth is details Hacking Out (hand signals etc), Care Of The Countryside (things like opening and shutting gates, don't ride on farmer's crops) and finally Trekking (group trekking, specifically at a trekking centre).

The fifth details Riding and Pony Clubs (basically a overview of them).

The sixth details Competitions and Sport. Specific sections cover details of what are Dressage, Show Jumping, Cross Country, Showing, Gymkhanas, Long Distance and Trail Riding, Polo, Hunting and finally Racing.

The seventh (and final chapter) is a short one on Famous Horses and Riders.

The book isn't too bad: like I previously said it's basic (only 64 pages in total) so there is not a great deal of detail but covers quite a lot of ground. Although published over 20 years ago, most of the information is still pretty accurate. The (now what are considered to be) inaccuracies are that it states that an elastic under the chin strap will keep an riding helmet in place (all modern ones and even ones bought brand new in the 1990s have a fixed 3 point headpiece which is definitely more secure than an elastic strap). Also I suspect that the number of branches and members of the Pony Club has changed since the quotes that are given in this book.
Also, on a sports kind of view, the hunting is definitely out of date (since the ban a couple of years ago in the UK, it has radically changed) and in eventing, the road and tracks section is no longer performed to the same extent (if at all, most major events have now abandoned this).

The pictures are a bit old fashioned, basically they still convey the point they are illustrating, but with some dodgy clothing, and in the case of the ridden shots, the hat either have no chinstrap or just an elastic one. But if you can ignore this, it still remains a perfectly sound, worthwhile book. Unlike most books of the time, the Famous Riders sections is about great ones like Napoleon, and not "current" riders (for the time) who these days would be totally lost on a modern pony audience.

A book which basically mainly still does what it says on the tin.

Dear Spammer

and anyone else who is interested in posting silly comments.

This blog comments are moderated! No amount of advertising for medication for problems with the "downstairs department", cheap boots (which are probably bootleg), cheap dvds (again bootleg), comments in a foreign language will ever be posted. And no, posting 3 times (or more) will not make me change my mind! So scoot, & find some easier target!

Apologies, for my genuine readers, but the amount of "spam" comments has been getting a little out of hand lately. I welcome genuine comments, even if a) your English is not brilliant and b) it is only short.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Review: CHRISTINE - Pony Parade

Pony Parade is another one that strictly does not fit the blog: it is an anthology. It contains a combination of non fiction and fiction stories/extracts. However, as it is one of the few anthologies I do have, I will include it.

One of these extracts is from their mother's book: A Pony For Jean. Considered by many to be one that defined the pony book genre, it is the archetypical pony story.

The second is an extract (and slightly humorous) about a show ring. Personally I found it ok, but if you aren't interested in that it can be boring.

The third is an short piece about choosing a (pony) name.

The fourth is about caring for a pony - not very interesting if you don't want a pony. Generally not out of date except for the odd mention of ton (as in weight) which most people use kilos these days and oats (which are seldom used these days).

The fifth and best part of this is a short Pony Patrol story. Because of this it has a Pony Patrol tag. That is, provided you like the Pony Patrol series. It is entitled Pony Patrol Ends A Racket.

The rest of the extracts are:- an poem about a rocking horse; about horse colours; strange pony actions; about horses in the First World War (by Diana, taken from Black Princess); about how a team trained for the Prince Phillip Cup; how to sit properly (by Josephine); pair driving; a poem about a pretend horse; about possibly curing rearers; a horse themed dictionary/definition; British ponies; how to draw horses; an article which features exploits of a sister trying to care for her sister's ponies - in letter form (by Christine); two poems about olden days horses; an article about a Przewalskii horse working down a coal mine; making a dressage arena (by Josephine); an "Did You Know" article; an article about horse doping in the show ring and finally an poem about an abandoned stable.

As far as anthologies go it isn't a bad one. The star turn is the brand new Pony Patrol story. However as far as anthologies go, they generally have a shortcoming: they never have the full story. As for this one, generally the only bit that lets it down is the bits about schooling/pony care, the pony mining article (there are no coal mines these days that use ponies) and the doping article. Mainly because security is so tight than compared to 1978 (which this was first published) and people today don't know who Harvey Smith is.

Still, it's not an expensive buy, and worth getting for the Pony Patrol story alone.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Review: CHRISTINE - Follyfoot Pony Quiz Book

I am going to break with tradition there: my blog is mainly for reviewing (and providing further information) about the P-T's (pony) fictional works.

However as I love Follyfoot, I bought this. I agonised over where or not to put this in the Christine section on the bookshelf or the Follyfoot section. I eventually decided on the Christine section and here's why :-

Firstly, and this is the main reason: there is very little Follyfoot in it. Granted Christine may not have had the time or the inclination to watch Follyfoot, but at least a brief outline of the main characters should have been sent to her. The only bits which are Follyfoot is the title, and the two pictures of Dora (the main character in the series) on the cover.

Granted, there are a couple of exceptions to that though. They are:-

Page 50. In each sentence there is an odd one out.

  • Number one is this: Monica Dickens, Mary O'Hara, Enid Bagnold, Esther Rantzen (Esther Rantzen is the odd one out btw, because the rest are pony authors).
  • Number 3 is this: Wish for A Pony, Alice In Wonderland, Follyfoot, I Wanted A Pony (Alice in Wonderland is the odd one out: the rest are pony books)
  • Number 12: Dora, Paul, Callie, Christine (Christine is technically the odd one out - but only just. Paul is a character mentioned in Cobbler's Dream and the first edition of Follyfoot, but the character is named Steve in the TV series. Both Dora and Callie are characters in the books and TV series)
Page 51. This is a true or false game; and the sole mention is number 5.

  • Monica Edwards wrote Follyfoot (False: it was Monica Dickens)

Page 52. Match up the name so "famous" people. One answer is Monica Dickens.

That is about it out of 81 puzzle and 5 crosswords. I feel much more could have been done to incorporate Follyfoot, for example there are tales of things going wrong, and the quiz part is to say what went wrong. I feel that in those situations it would have been best to incorporate the main Follyfoot characters. Also, the "true or false" quiz, it would have been nice to make it solely Follyfoot only.

However, when in 1974 (when this was first published) this was quite a decent book, if you forget the lack of Follyfoot element.

These days it is not. In some ways it is dated, because these days people who dont know who Pat Smythe, Marion Mould etc are. There are a lot of Follyfoot fans on the internet, and those who aren't interested in horse/pony care are liable to be bored.

So, if you are an Follyfoot fan, don't feel guilty about leaving this off your shelf. It's best (either from a P-T or a Follyfoot of view) as an set completer.

This also rather interestingly contains drawings by her daughter (Charlotte Popescu).

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Review: CHRISTINE - Little Black Pony

Little Black Pony is a book meant for younger readers, the same age group as the Sophy series. It is illustrated: by an Lynette Hemmant.

It is also hard to find, as is The Lost Cow (a non pony work) which has a similar cover and is in the same series & has the same publisher. However, I suspect this is due to the fact that it was purely meant for children's primary schools (as opposed to being available in all good book shops) because all copies that turn up are either ex-school or ex-library. The one pictured came from a school. I also remember at primary school reading a Hamish Hamilton Gazelle book (but not this one).

Because of the fact it is meant for younger children (Hamish Hamilton, the publishers say on the back it is a "complete story for the very young". It also does not contain a blurb, however, I have written one of my own.

It is a story about a family of 3 children. They hear a noise in the garden, which turns out to be a pony. They want to keep him, but what happens when they find the real owner?

It is an odd one to place. This book was originally published in 1967, and these says the formal tone and language used sounds rather stuffy and old fashioned. Consequently, because of it's short nature and it's hard to find availability, it is not popular with collectors. This makes it not very valuable, if you can get hold of it.

If you can get past the formal/stuffy nature of the book, it is not a bad short story. It still retains the quality of her other books, however it is a lot better in nature than the Sophy books (and far more realistic). The children and the pony are believable, though the ending is not, and it is nice to see a kind owner of an "lost" horse rather than a cruel one, which happens in some of Christine's later stories (A Pony In Distress for example.).

Spoiler: complete story.

The children are playing in the nursery when they hear a noise. They wonder what it is and look out: it is a pony. They rush down and tell their mother. She and their father get hold of the pony, and put it in the stable, which they conveniently have. The children want to keep it because they have no pets, and they always wanted one. The parents are not too sure: they buy some hay and straw, and call out the vet because it is sick. Fortunately it is not too sick. The next day, they trace the owner, who explains that it keeps on coming there because she used to live there. She says that they can keep it, because she has outgrown the pony. She has a new one and nobody rides it any more. She refuses the money the children's parents offer her.

It's an easy short story, that is perhaps not a delight, but a good read. It's just a shame that it is hard to place. It's hard to give a complete review, without giving away the full story, but I have included a short synopsis for those who want to know what it is about (highlight white space).