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Jane Badger Books

Diana Pullein-Thompson: I Wanted a Pony (eBook)

Diana Pullein-Thompson: I Wanted a Pony (eBook)

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The classic 1940s story of a girl who wants a pony.

Augusta goes to stay with her three superior cousins. Jill, Barbara and Stephen don't think much of Augusta, and they let her know it. They think she's peculiar. And not only that, she is a terrible rider. The cousins have three ponies, but Augusta is never allowed to ride them. Augusta, it is fair to say, dislikes her cousins just as much as they dislike her. Odd she may be, but Augusta is brave and resourceful and that means that one day she is standing at a local horse sale, ready to bid for a pony of her own.

First published in 1946, I Wanted a Pony was Diana Pullein-Thompson's first solo novel.

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I can remember very well the first few weeks of my long stay at Tree Tops. For me they were rather dull, although not uneventful, weeks. My cousins, who each have a pony of their own, went out riding every day except Sundays and I, who couldn’t ride well enough to manage their ponies, stayed behind, which was dull because, except for reading, there was nothing nice to do.

In those days I disliked my cousins more than I do now because they seemed to despise me; they were very scornful about anything they did not agree with and they often told me that honestly I was odd. They were amazed and slightly contemptuous, too, when they found that I did not know what horsey phrases like “behind the bit” and “herring gutted” meant. Actually, I believe that they often brought them into their conversation, so as to impress people. Jill used to swank a lot; during the first week I was at Tree Tops she frequently talked about the prizes she and her show pony, Sunshine, had won and the compliments they had been paid by the leading judges. I was even more idiotic then than I am now and because I had never won anything, those stories used to make me feel very small and stupid.

I had only ridden a little on a fat, piebald, half Shetland pony called Dominoe. He belonged to Penny Davis, a girl of eight, who lived in a house quite near the cottage in which Mummy and I lived. Dominoe spent most of the spring and autumn in our orchard and Penny and I often rode him bareback before breakfast. We also practised what we called circus tricks—we taught him to shake hands and stand on a tub, and ourselves to canter facing the tail. Of course we were always falling off and sometimes Dominoe got sick of us—then he used to kick.

One day, several weeks before my parents went abroad and I went to live at Tree Tops, I rode Dominoe in a little Pony Club Gymkhana, which, by a cruel stroke of fate, my cousins were watching. I competed in the best rider class and the bending race under fourteen years. In the riding class Dominoe bucked; I fell off and was the first person to be called in to start a back line, which was made out of the worst riders in the class. In the bending race Dominoe took charge and calmly and firmly carried me out of the ring, much to the amusement of the spectators. I don’t think I am frightfully self-conscious, but I must say I felt awful about being taken out of the ring; I knew that I had been terribly feeble and I expect you can imagine my horror when I found that my cousins had seen everything. Of course, they were very scornful.
Barbara, who is the eldest and fourteen, said, “Oh! really, Augusta, you did look funny.” Stephen said that even the soppiest chap at his school could have stuck on Dominoe in the riding class, and that I wasn’t holding my reins properly. Jill said that Dominoe was an awful pony and much too fat, and that I should have used a “diagonal aid” when he started to “play up.”

I was furious. I felt my face getting red and a knot in my throat and for an awful moment I thought I was going to cry, but I didn’t; I swallowed hard and then, in almost my usual voice, I said that Dominoe was not awful, but very intelligent, and that I should like to see one of them controlling him. This was a very silly remark, and I instantly regretted making it, because I knew that it was my bad riding which had made Dominoe “play up,” as Jill put it, and anyway, my cousins knew much more about ponies and were far better riders than me.

Jill stared at me in amazement, and then she said,
“Gosh! You are conceited.”

Stephen said, “How much do you bet I can’t control him?”
I said that I must ask Penny whether he could ride Dominoe, and I was just setting off in search of her, when she appeared a
nd asked what we were saying about her.
Stephen said, “Can I ride Dominoe?”

Penny didn’t notice the face I made, which meant say no, and, being not at all a selfish person, she said, “Yes, certainly, if you’re not too heavy.”

“Of course he’s not,” said Jill. “A Shetland pony is a miniature carthorse and, like a carthorse, is not suitable for riding, but very strong.”

I remember noticing that she spoke as though she knew the sentence off by heart.

Stephen mounted without saying thank you, and made Dominoe canter in a sort of circle; then he rode round outside the ring and, as I expect you have guessed, he managed to control him easily. When he dismounted, he said, “My, he’s nappy.”

“He must be awful to ride,” said Jill. “He’s so terribly broad, and he’s got no front at all.”

“Yes, he’s certainly jolly rough and this blinking little saddle keeps on slipping forward—he ought to have a crupper,” said Stephen, looking scornfully at Penny’s third-hand saddle.

“He’s not awful,” I said. “And, if he is like a carthorse or all wrong in shape, that’s not his fault. You aren’t so very good-looking yourselves.”

“Talk away, baby,” said Stephen.

“She thinks she knows so much that she doesn’t need to learn anything from more experienced riders,” said Barbara in a calm and despising voice.

“I certainly don’t want to learn anything from you. I don’t like your riding, and I hate you,” I said furiously.

At that moment the Collecting Ring Steward announced the first entry in the children’s jumping, and Jill said, “Come on, let’s leave the conceited little baby.” They went away and I set off in search of Penny, who had miraculously disappeared, and Mummy. I found them and Mummy would go and talk to my cousins, because she hadn’t seen them for a long time, and I had great difficulty in avoiding them. I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking of all the dignified and cutting retorts I might have made to their contemptuous remarks.

After the gymkhana Penny, who, by the way, didn’t enter because her parents decided that she was too young, and I made a determined effort to improve our riding. We gave up the circus tricks and we rode with pennies under our knees to make us keep them close to the saddle, and mostly in a saddle and bridle. I think we had improved quite a lot when I went to Tree Tops; anyway, we could keep our toes up and hold the reins properly.

I remember that, during the first two days I was at Tree Tops, I thought my cousins would never forget the gymkhana; they were exasperating. When I remarked to Stephen that his pony, Sandy, had a nice intelligent head, he hooted with laughter and said, sarcastically, that he was sure that he couldn’t be nearly so intelligent as Dominoe, because he hadn’t learned how to avoid bending races yet. When I asked if I might have a tiny ride on Barbara’s pony, Sweep, she told me that he had been carefully schooled by an expert and that she didn’t want me to spoil him and teach him to take charge of people. When I asked any of them questions about schooling ponies, they said that they thought I hated them and didn’t want to learn from them. Luckily it soon wore off, although they never offered me a ride on their ponies.


Page length: 126

Original publication date: 1946

Who's in the book?

Humans: Augusta Thornedyke, Aunt Margaret, Stephen, Barbara, Jill, Betty, Mr Crisp
Equines: Dominoe, Daybreak, High Jinks, Sandy, Sweep, Sunshine

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