Book name: A Stable for Jill
Author: Ruby Ferguson
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Print, ebook
Genre: Pony books, vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1951
Star Rating: 5/5
Between 1949 and 1962, Ruby Ferguson wrote nine Jill pony books.
The Jill books were immensely popular, with Jill’s modest background and general good sense around horses earning her a place in readers’ hearts.
A Stable for Jill is the second book in the series. When it begins, Jill is looking forward to a summer with Black Boy, her pony, and her best friend Ann Derry.
However, Jill’s mother is offered an all-expenses-paid book tour of the US and Jill feels she must agree, even though this means she will have to stay with her aunt and uncle.
Like many heroines of pony books Jill has a kind uncle and aunt who don’t really understand horses and a cousin with whom she has nothing in common.
Jill’s decency in supporting her mother’s career is endearing, and Mrs Crewe reciprocates by giving Jill some money to buy a new pony if she finds one while she’s away.
After all the economies of the first book in the series, it’s lovely to see Mrs Crewe and Jill on a more even footing financially.
Jill makes the best of being at her aunt and uncle’s house, and she tries surprisingly hard with Cecilia, her cousin.
Cecilia is the kind of school swot often poked fun at in pony books, with crushes on mistresses and an endless fascination with reading, lessons and dancing.
Without a pony to ride, Jill heads off for a walk on her first day and meets the local vicar’s children: Bar, Pat and Mike Walters. They are bemoaning having to give up their pony Ballerina because they can’t afford to keep her.
The portrait of the Walters family is particularly fascinating, given that Ruby Ferguson’s father was a vicar.
Jill takes a look at the vicarage stables and suggests that they make the money to keep Ballerina by running a riding stable during their summer holidays.
Three mounts come from the Walters’ uncle, who’s a local vet. A Shetland, a cob and an elderly but sensible hack.
The stable of Walters and Crewe is in business!
Everyone pools their savings to buy feed and straw and to clean up the stables. They also have to have the ponies shod and clipped, but after an enormous amount of hard work they are ready to take bookings.
Naturally, their first customer is a con artist who runs off without paying. After that, it goes more smoothly.
The stable grows after Jill uses her forty pounds to buy a lady’s ride whose owner has died. She is confident and capable at the auction, and Begorra is a great find.
On the way home, Jill and Bar run into a pony pulling a timber cart who is being ill-treated. Naturally, they rise to the occasion and use the rest of Jill’s money to rescue him.
The pony, who they name Pedro, has potential and responds well to their kindness. After a decent wash and feed he looks miles better.
Jill and the Walters train all the ponies well, but Pedro makes particular strides.
I enjoyed A Stable for Jill so much. Jill was a confident rider who helped the Walters to improve their riding skills by empowering them rather than by being critical.
She was also a natural at running the stable and earns enough profit by the end to have the sixty pounds she needs to buy her second pony…though how she buys Rapide is a different story.
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