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Jane Badger Books

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Pony Club Team (eBook)

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Pony Club Team (eBook)

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Major Holbrooke's friends challenge him to prove that the West Barsetshire Pony Club can improve. The only way of making sure that they do is by taking them back to basics and running a course for them: it's dressage all the way. Nothing runs smoothly, of course, and when the Major's nephew, Henry, arrives, sparks fly. Henry has good points, but he certainly keeps them well hidden.

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The rally was over. The Pony Club members rode down the two long gravelled drives away from Folly Court. The five red-headed Radcliffes, the three Minton boys — two on ponies and one riding a bicycle — and June Cresswell, were the only members to take the drive which led to the Hogshill road. The Radcliffes, all talking at the tops of their voices, were in front.

“I thought it was a jolly good rally,” said James, the youngest Radcliffe present.

“Well, you haven’t been to as many as we have,” said Evelyn, one of the fourteen year old twins. “When you have you won’t be so keen on them; all this schooling gets jolly boring, I can tell you.”

“I hate it,” said Margaret, “and so does Pixie. I do think Major Holbrooke might let us have some races for a change.”

“Oh, you’re never satisfied,” said Hilary, the other twin. “Surely we did enough jumping to please you today?”

“It wasn’t bad,” answered Margaret. “But he never lets us have a jumping competition; you just go on and on going over the same potty little jumps.”

“If you jumped them decently he might let you try something higher,” Roger, the eldest of the Radcliffes, told her.

“Well, at least I don’t fall off all the time like the Mintons,” answered Margaret.

“Ssh,” said James, for the Mintons were close behind.

“You would if you had to ride Fireworks or Mousie,” said Hilary.

“And it’s better to fall off than to look like a windmill,” added Roger.

“All the same I agree with Marga,” said Evelyn. “It’s time Georgie Holbrooke thought of something besides this eternal schooling — it’s all right for the little ones, but the rest of us know the whole business by heart.”

“I disgraced myself today,” said Christopher Minton to his two brothers, David and Martin. “Three times is a record for one rally, I should think. You are an old devil,” he added, patting Fireworks, a black gelding of about fourteen hands.

“Mousie was pretty good for her,” said David, “and Major Holbrooke said that her backing had improved.”

“She jumped well too,” said Martin.

“A lot of people fell off, didn’t they?” said Christopher. “Noel Kettering and Pat French and me and Simon and that new girl on the big brown horse.”

“And Virginia Freeman,” said David.

“Do get that bicycle out of the way,” interrupted a peevish voice from behind them. “I know Golden Glory’s going to tread on it if you keep twisting about in front of her and I don’t want her blemished.”

“Look out David; you’d better let June come past,” said Christopher to his younger brother.

“Your horse walks too fast for us,” he said politely to June.

“Of course she does,” answered June. “Any decent horse can walk faster than a pony and one of the judges at the Barsetshire Agricultural Show said that Glory had an exceptionally long stride, even for a thoroughbred.”

“That girl gets me down,” remarked Christopher when June was out of hearing.

Four of the pupils from the Basset Riding School led the way down the drive to the Brampton-Lower Basset road. They were clattering along at a fast trot, which would have horrified Mrs. Maxton — the owner of the school — had she seen them, and which shocked Noel Kettering, John Manners and Susan Barington-Brown, who followed some distance behind.

“Gosh, what a pace!” said John. “Are they trying to catch a train?”

“Poor ponies,” said Susan. “What can their legs be like?”

“The Frenches have no imagination,” said Noel. “They think ponies are soulless objects like bicycles, and Virginia and Jean copy them like sheep.”

“Well, no one with any sense rides a bicycle full speed over sharp stones,” said John.

“The Major wasn’t in a very good temper today, was he?” said Susan.

“No, filthy,” agreed John. “Everyone was being ticked off right and left.”

“I’m not surprised considering the crowd we had today,” said Noel. “There were more than twenty people and it must be awfully difficult when they range from Martin Minton and James Radcliffe to Anthony Rate and that new girl, who are practically grown up. It’s not like it was last summer when none of us knew anything, now we’re all at different stages.”

“It’s quite true,” said John, “and it would be much more fun without all these little ones; like it was in the days of the horse-breakers.” Noel thought of the summer holidays the year before when she and John and Susan had been breaking in three of Major Holbrooke’s cousin’s New Forest ponies. She patted her grey pony Sonnet, which had been her prize as the best horse-breaker. “That was fun,” she said, “but of course there were only six of us.”

“I wish we could do something like that again,” said John.

“I wish we could have a Pony Club camp,” said Susan, “other branches do.”

“The Radcliffes asked the Major,” said John, pulling up Dick Turpin, his roan cob, for now they had reached the road, “and he said that they could have as many camps as they liked if they found someone to organise them, but that he wasn’t qualified to see that we cleaned our teeth and changed our wet socks and that when he put up tents they always fell down.”

“He is a defeatist,” said Noel.

“I do wish there was someone nice who would run a camp,” said Susan. “I should love to sleep out and I’m never allowed to at home.”

“Why on earth not?” asked John.

“Oh, Mummy’s fussy,” answered Susan.

“Well, good-bye,” said John. “See you at this test day business on Tuesday. I’m sure I shan’t pass ‘B’ but my Father’s promised me ten shillings if I do, so I’m going to make superhuman efforts.”

“Of course you’ll pass,” said Susan, and Noel asked, “Why did you have to remind me? Now I’ve got the needle.”

“Oh, Noel, you can’t have,” said Susan as they turned towards Brampton.

“You always say that,” said Noel, “but I have got it, honestly. Beauty jumped jolly well today,” she went on, looking at Susan’s brown pony. “I wish that Sonnet was better, but I do think she’s improving. It takes such ages to school a horse.” She sighed, “I don’t think she’ll be ready for the gymkhana,” she said.

“That’s ages away,” said Susan, “surely she’ll be good enough by then.”

“But I’ve got to go away on this beastly expedition of Daddy’s,” said Noel. “Waste a whole fortnight while he lectures on Egyptian relics or something. I’m fed up, I can tell you.”

“Oh dear,” said Susan, “and Daddy says I’m too big for Beauty. It’s really Mummy’s fault; she’s getting a bit horsy at last and she keeps telling Daddy that I look a sight on Beauty. But I’m not going to sell her, I’ve made that quite clear, I’m going to go on riding her a bit and lend her to friends occasionally and next year I might breed from her.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Noel.

“Are you coming over to school to-morrow?” asked Susan, when she reached the gate of her house — Basset Towers.

“No, I don’t think so,” answered Noel. “Sonnet had better have a rest. She’s had a fairly strenuous time today and she’s only a five-year-old and not at all fit.”

“Well, I’ll come over to Russet Cottage then,” said Susan. “I want you to ask me some questions; I’m sure I don’t know enough stable management for ‘B’ test.”

“O.K.” said Noel.

Page length: 234

Original publication date: 1950

Who's in the book?

Human: Noel Kettering, Major and Mrs Holbrooke, Christopher, David and Martin Minton, the Radcliffes (Hilary, Roger, Evelyen, James, Margaret), Dick Hayward, June Cresswell, John Manners, Susan Barrington-Brown, Colonel Shellbourne
Equines: Black Magic, Sonnet, Fireworks, Mousie, Golden Wonder, Gay Crusader, The Merry Widow, Black Magic, Northwind, Sky Pilot, Pixie, Darkie, Turpin, Crispin, Glory, Beauty

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