A few days ago, a book review site called We Sat Down posted a comment on Twitter: ‘A Stallion Called Midnight,’ it said. ‘It’s horsey, but it’s also more than that.’
I took this as the compliment which (I hope!) it was meant to be, but it got me thinking. . .
I’ve never seen Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis described as ideal for osprey-mad children or The White Giraffe by Lauren St John recommended for giraffe-mad children, yet reviews of my books frequently include some sort of reference to pony-mad girls. Of course, I’m always delighted if my books are recommended for anyone, insanely horsey or otherwise, but why is it assumed that stories about horses or ponies can only be appreciated by people who are besotted by them?
A good story can be enjoyed by all sorts of people, whether it features horses, hippos or vampires, so it’s bizarre that horse and pony stories have been pigeon-holed in this way. After all, Black Beauty is an all-time classic and, more recently, The Horse Whisperer and Warhorse have both had worldwide success. However, they are about horses and have strong male characters, so perhaps it’s the mixture of ponies and girls which is the problem.
By tapping into the ‘pink pony’ culture which has developed recently, pony stories have developed a (mostly unfair) reputation of being of little interest to anyone except pony-mad girls. Pony books are now perceived as being too horsey, girlie and exclusive for general consumption, which is a shame because there are lots of really good pony stories that deserve a wider audience.
Of course, it helps if you’re mad about ponies, but it’s not essential!