Book name: Pony Patrol
Author: Christine Pullein-Thompson
Publisher: Dragon Books
Genre: pony stories, vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1977
Star Rating: 4/5
The three Pullein-Thompson sisters were pretty much the backbone of children’s pony book writing from just after World War Two up until the end of the century. Christine Pullein-Thompson’s last book was published in 1999, her first in 1948.
Christine Pullein-Thompson was a prolific writer, penning some sixty books about ponies plus another forty on top about other subjects for good measure.
Pony Patrol is one of her later books. Courtesy of a focus on farming, and specifically the dangers of fire in a stable and barn environment, the book enjoys a timeless feel not always typical of the pony-book genre.
William’s father is a farmer and the fifteen year old is keen to follow in his footsteps when he leaves school. He loves riding and is devoted to Boxer, who taught him to ride and is a horse any lad would be lucky to own.
A spate of arson attacks aimed at farms in the area comes right home to William when the family’s barn burns down one night. His father is devastated, but William is plucky and determined enough to respond actively to the threat.
Along with his buddy Amanda, who is no stranger to adversity because her own horse has recently been stolen, William forms the pony patrol. He co-opts various willing and unwilling children in the local area who own or have access to ponies to join up.
The aim of the pony patrol is to ride the fields and streets at night, watching for the return of the arsonists and to capture them if possible. This isn’t entirely welcome as far as the parents go, so much of their activity begins by being surreptitious.
The pony patrol will, of course, fulfil their commission by the end of the book. However, the identity of the arsonist is both a surprise and yet utterly believable. The book ends with great twist that it takes an incredibly experienced author like Christine Pullein-Thompson to pull off convincingly.
Pony Patrol is full of action even by the standards of a genre that is notable for seldom keeping its young protagonists out of harm’s way.
Remember Jacqueline in Jacqueline Rides for a Fall by Pat Smythe jumping over the edge of a quarry and getting stuck with her pony halfway down on a ledge? Exactly.
I found the fact that Leon, whose family are aristocratic, carried a gun when he was only supposed to be sixteen a bit strong. When he pointed the weapon at William during a dispute, I was really concerned.
By the time Leon’s sister Natasha had whipped William’s horse Boxer with real cruelty, I hated Leon and his family in a way I can’t really remember feeling about characters in other pony books.
Pony Patrol didn’t pull any punches about what entitlement and arrogance can do to children when their behaviour is encouraged by their parents rather than checked.
The true focus of the story lay in the stupidity and danger of setting fires in the countryside. Anyone who lives in a rural area knows what this can mean.
This came home to me seventeen years ago when a local barn very close to where I live burned down, killing two teenage boys inside. It’s impossible to describe how devastating that was for our community.
Pony Patrol is a somewhat bleaker narrative than most pony books, but I like that about the story. Farming is tough and William’s resilience is very typical of growing up on a farm.
He’s worried about being in charge but is brave enough to step up when physical danger threatens. You can’t ask for more than that in a leader, as the others come to realise.
The ending of Pony Patrol is positive and convincing. And the pony patrol already has a second call out to rush off to deal with!
I hope you've enjoyed my review of Pony Patrol by Christine Pullein-Thompson.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested reading in my review of Pony Jobs for Jill by Ruby Ferguson.
Or you might like to take a look at my article about the life of showjumper and writer Pat Smythe.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.