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Jane Badger Books

Caroline Akrill: Caroline Canters Home (eBook)

Caroline Akrill: Caroline Canters Home (eBook)

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Showing series 1

“The best way to learn about anything is to get on and do it,” Simon said.

Which is true, but not quite what Caroline expected when she came to visit Simon and her other cousins, who breed show ponies. Not that she’d be part of a world where her cousin Becky rides Benjamin, the most evil show pony on the circuit. Not that she’d ride their hack, Clytie, in the show ring. And certainly not that she’d be aiming for the Hack of the Year at Wembley, the biggest show of the year.

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Becky was hastily saddling Benjamin, who ground his teeth, swished his tail and kicked out at nobody in particular.

‘I must allow plenty of time to settle him in,’ she said. ‘Occasionally he is unmannerly.’

Simon gave a shout of laughter. Over his pink suede trousers he wore a long black hooded cloak.

‘Is this Benjamin?’ Mrs Carter said to Sarah. ‘If it is, I expect we shall see some fireworks.’

Becky gave her a sour look, then mounted. Benjamin flattened his ears. He bucked. Becky used her cane smartly and they bucketed off towards the exercising area.

‘Simon tells me you are here for the season,’ Mrs Carter said. ‘Can you really be planning a career with show ponies?’ She regarded me with sudden anxiety. ‘Do you know what such a life involves? Are you strong enough, mentally and physically to cope with all this?’ She waved an arm around the showground, thronged with exhibitors, spectators, horses and ponies, packed with tents, trade stands and horse-boxes.

‘I haven’t had time to think about it,’ I said with truth. ‘I only arrived yesterday.’

Mrs Carter laid a hand on my arm. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t say it,’ she said. ‘Blood being thicker than water and they are your cousins, after all … but,’ she looked around to ascertain that everyone was occupied with their own affairs, ‘are they the Right People to introduce you to this life? They are well known in showing circles it is true, and successful, no one could deny it … ’ she lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘but they are rather strange people. Little Becky is far too excitable for my peace of mind, and Simon is said to be unbalanced … well, look at the clothes he wears, he looks like Dracula in that cloak! Sarah is outwardly sensible, but their mother, your aunt, is … odd, to say the very least!’

Simon came to my rescue. ‘Caroline likes us,’ he said firmly. ‘She had never met us before. She didn’t know us. But she likes us. How can she fail? We are such nice people.’ He grinned, but the statement appeared to be sincere.

Mrs Carter gave me a knowing look and her eyes said, See what I mean?

Sarah rode up to us. ‘Benjamin’s coming,’ she said. Becky was red-faced and panting. Benjamin was as dry as a bone. He sidled towards Mrs Carter who moved away hastily.

‘Now I have mastered him,’ Becky said confidently, sliding off. ‘I must get changed.’ She ran into the horse-box, leaving Simon to polish Benjamin with a rubber. Sarah led out a small bay pony and mounted. I sat on the ramp and watched all the coming and going. Mrs Carter, who appeared to have nothing else to do, sat beside me.
‘Have you met your aunt?’ she said curiously.

‘Has anyone seen the numbers?’ Becky called from inside the box.

‘Yes, of course,’ I said. ‘She seems to be a very good-natured person, and one has to admit she breeds the most beautiful ponies.’ Aunt Sybil also wore plus fours and smoked cigars. She was always surrounded by snapping terriers and slept under a pile of striped horse blankets, having once been roused by the dogs in the nick of time to throw off a smouldering candlewick bedspread. She still smoked in bed, with a fire extinguisher behind the headboard.

The public address system crackled and exploded into life. ‘This is a five minute call for Class One, Children’s Riding Ponies not exceeding twelve-two hands high,’ roared the commentator, adding in a loud whisper, ‘It’s too loud, turn that red knob.’

‘Which red knob is he talking about?’ Mrs Carter said, looking about her as if she expected to find it in the grass.

Becky jumped out of the side door and cried, ‘Where on earth has Sarah put the numbers?’ The transformation was stunning. She wore a blue hat and a jacket with a velvet collar, lemon never-a-wrinkle jodhpurs, gleaming boots, and her long neat plaits were tied with blue velvet ribbons.

‘Amazing, isn’t it?’ Mrs Carter said. ‘They have the best riding clothes that money can buy. Their ponies are worth thousands, yet to look at them, you would think they were part of a circus.’

I hid a smile. There was truth in what she said. ‘Who’s part of a circus?’ Simon said. He thumped Benjamin who had nipped his elbow. He looked at his watch. He said, ‘If we want to watch this class, we must go down to the collecting ring at once.’

‘You won’t be watching me!’ Becky screamed. ‘I can’t go into the ring without my number. I shall be disqualified!’
‘Don’t shout, dear,’ said Mrs Carter. ‘There’s a good girl.’
‘Look out,’ Simon said in a voice of foreboding. ‘Here comes Mr Duffy with Starlight.’

‘One thing about showing,’ Mrs Carter sniffed. ‘It’s a classless society. You meet all sorts—and here comes one of the worst.’

‘Nobody will help me!’ yelled Becky in a fury. ‘Nobody cares!’

‘I am looking for a rider for this good pony,’ said Mr Duffy, who was small and untidy and wore a bowler hat. ‘My girl has not turned up.’

‘It’s hardly surprising,’ Mrs Carter said in a low voice. Starlight was a dingy grey pony with a thin neck, sparse tail and a general air of depression.

‘Nice, isn’t he?’ Mr Duffy said, spotting us on the ramp. ‘And who knows, I may sell.’

‘This is a final call for Class One,’ the commentator said. ‘Are there any more twelve-two ponies?’ Becky grabbed at Benjamin’s reins.

‘Don’t grab things,’ Simon said in reproof.

‘It looks as if I’ve missed the boat,’ said Mr Duffy sadly. ‘It’s a real shame that is. Old Starlight looks a treat.’

Mrs Carter got up off the ramp. She had been sitting on the numbers. She handed them calmly to Becky and ignored the look of absolute fury she got in return. Simon tied the number round Becky’s waist and legged her up on to Benjamin, who bounded away before she had a chance to pick up the reins. We all hurried after them.
Mr Duffy followed, dragging Starlight. Junior show-jumping was going on in the nearest ring. Mrs Carter pointed out her son Adrian, waiting his turn to jump. ‘He’ll be ages yet,’ she said. ‘He is a long way down the list.’ We skirted the ringside where the spectators were four deep at the rails, and reached the pony judging ring where the twelve-two ponies were already walking round their judges, watched by only a handful of enthusiasts.

Mr Duffy dug Mrs Carter in the ribs. ‘Who’s she?’ he said loudly, pointing at me. ‘Never seen her before.’

‘Kindly don’t do that,’ Mrs Carter said, rubbing her side. ‘Look, isn’t this Becky coming along the rails?’

‘Caroline is spending a season with us to gain experience,’ Simon said. ‘She is helping with the ponies and may show our Clytie in the small hacks.’

Inside the ropes, Becky rode past and gave us a bright false smile. Benjamin had his ears back and was swishing his tail threateningly.

‘No one mentioned it to me,’ I said. ‘No one said anything about showing a hack.’

‘You sound surprised,’ Mrs Carter said. ‘I did warn you.’


Page length: 136

Original publication date: 1977

Who's in the book?

Humans: Caroline, Simon, Sarah, Becky, Aunt Sybil, Mr Duffy, Mrs Carter, Adrian
Equines: Clytie, Benjamin, Matilda, Starlight, Kipps

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