I began to think of writing a story about a girl and an Exmoor pony in 1995, when one of our Exmoor pony mares had her foal on a bleak April Fool’s Day on Ilkerton Ridge – an area of moorland common above our farm. I saw the foal (we called him Nipper) soon after he was born and, to my surprise, he came to say hello to me, despite his mother’s obvious disapproval! From then on he was incredibly friendly towards humans, and he used to come galloping up for a cuddle when he saw us, not realising he was supposed to be wild. This picture is of our daughter, Sarah (then aged five) cuddling Nipper on the moor. She’s with her friend Claire Smyth.
A few years later, when Sarah was eight, we bought an Exmoor pony called Tinkerbell for her to ride. Tinks and Sarah got on really well and had lots of fun, although to begin with Tinks was rather more spirited than we’d bargained for! Together they provided a great deal of inspiration for the Katy stories. This is a photo of Sarah and Tinks at Blackmoor Gate Show.
Tinks had done a lot of showing with her previous owners, and was obviously incredibly bored by it. Her idea of fun was galloping over Exmoor. Luckily that was Sarah’s idea of fun too!
Many other people and ponies I’ve met throughout my life gave me ideas for the books. Of the ponies, my first pony Jacko was especially important. He was a liver-chestnut Welsh cob, and he was every bit as wonderful as the Jacko in my Katy stories. My herd of wild Exmoor ponies have also been a source of inspiration, especially the youngsters I’ve handled over the years. There’s something magical about being the first person to touch a wild animal, and it’s also a huge responsibility to get that initial handling right. In 2011 I named our only Exmoor colt foal Orion because I was so thrilled that Orion Children’s books were going to publish my stories. You can read about his progress in my blogs.
I’m now writing two more stories about Katy and her ponies: Katy’s Pony Challenge will be published in August 2015, and Katy’s Pony Summerwill be published in May 2016. These are both brand new books, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed returning to Katy’s world while writing them.
Lots of people have given me ideas for my stories throughout my life and have helped me at every stage with my writing. Chris, my husband, deserves a special mention because he’s been a huge support to me and has provided fantastic illustrations for the books.