Book Review: Showtym Adventures: Dandy, the Mountain Pony, by Kelly Wilson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dandy_the_mountain_ponyThe Wilson Sisters, Vicki, Kelly and Amanda are well known in equestrian circles having also appeared on a television programme about capturing and training the wild Kaimanawas horses.

Dandy, The Mountain Pony is Vicki Wilson’s story. Vicki was nine years old when the owner of her lease pony Cardiff, decided to sell him. She was broken hearted but was realistic that her parents didn’t have the money to buy him.

A month after Cardiff had been sold Vicki was still without a pony. All the pony’s advertised for sale were far too expensive – her parents had managed to scrape together a couple of hundred dollars which was just not enough. Her parents surprised her one day with a visit to some wild ponies. There had been an advertisement in the local paper for a herd that runs wild on a mountain just fifteen minutes from where the Wilsons live. Vicki had always dreamed of taming wild horses. It appeared that perhaps her dream was about to come true.

The Welsh ponies had been bred on the mountain for generations but of recent years the lady and her family had been unable to keep up with training them so the herd was running wild with some of them never having been touched.

The Wilsons ended up buying three of the ponies. They had budgeted for $200 so at $50 each they could afford to buy all three, but with proviso that one be trained and then sold to offset the costs of feed and training.

Vicki starts training her pony Dandy. Gaining Dandy’s trust is the first hurdle she has to overcome. This proved to be a difficult and challenging project. After many months she is able to enter into competitions with him but not without a lot of challenges along the way.

I came to the conclusion after reading this book aloud to 6-year-old Abby that you don’t necessarily have to be a horsy person to enjoy it. Abby loved it asking lots of questions as I read it to her. There are lots of training tips at the back of this book for the serious owner.

The Wilson sisters also run Showtym Camps for young riders, which is hugely popular, helping them get the most from their ponies while having a lot of fun and adventures along the way.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Showtym Adventures: Dandy, the Mountain Pony
by Kelly Wilson
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771494

Book Review: Patch and Ruby, by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_patch_and-rubyA pony, a flock of gossipy chickens, a mouse couple with their children and a gardening ladybug and her family live happily together on a farm, along with Patch’s special girl, Sam. However, as the only pony amidst the groups of animal friends, Patch sometimes feels lonely. The first page says it all: “It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends. He did. But sometimes he felt like he didn’t quite fit in.” The illustration on this page rather cleverly enhances this feeling by showing only Patch’s leg – the other characters are there but poor Patch really doesn’t fit in the page.

Despite enjoying spending time with his friends, Patch feels something is missing. It is Sam who hits on an idea to help him… and along comes Ruby. After an initial stand-off, the two ponies become friends and “now life is different.” The daily routine remains the same, but is all the more enjoyable now that it can be shared by someone special.

The text is written to suit very young readers and its sentences, though simple, convey an important idea of friendship and belonging. There is also a gentle example of being a kind and thoughtful friend by watching out for and caring for others – Sam notices Patch is unhappy and thinks of a way to help him.

Gwynneth Jones’ illustrations work brilliantly together with the text. The characters are soft and friendly, and there are wonderful funny moments to look out for in the scenes (chooks with curlers and mice drinking tea – love it!).

Young readers will be drawn to the cute pony on the cover (as was I), and the story will appeal to those who love animals. Parents may find Patch and Ruby helpful for little ones who are still in the process of finding their special friends.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Patch and Ruby
by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
EK Books
ISBN 9781925335224

Book Review: Horses Who Heal, by Sue Spence

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_horses_who_healI looked forward to reading this book as I’m a believer in the premise that animals and humans are able to bond in a way that enriches the lives of both. Horses, being prey animals that rely on an innate ability to read the emotions of other creatures, are especially sensitive to such cues and many caring people have built strong friendships with them. Sue Spence mentions some of these in this book and she can be counted among their number.

As a child, Sue found that her interaction with horses could settle her into a calm state that banished upsets and problems temporarily. Her sensitivity enabled her to read the horse’s state of mind and to engage with the animal in a way which, over time, developed into a deep and mutual friendship. This aspect of her personality countered the energy she brought to other activities as she grew into adulthood, an energy that was so frenetic it brought her, several times, to the brink of disaster. With greater knowledge and understanding of herself, Sue was able to use her remarkable talent to engage on a very deep level with both animals and humans to create an enterprise which teaches disadvantaged youth, among others, how to engage and grow and communicate.

This is more than a narrative of a life with its ups and downs. It is an inspiring account of a person discovering herself, her strengths and weaknesses, and using these discoveries to live a life of compassion and empathy. It is a book that should be on the top of the list of intended reads for those who love horses as well as those who would like to know how to live their lives more fully.

Sue has written an account of her life to date which captures her personality so well I felt that I had been in a conversation with her rather than reading her words on a page. I enjoyed it immensely, so much so that I wish I could get to know Sue better. She is the kind of person who makes a good friend, both of humans and of animals. And she has the skills to show us how to be a friend in return.

Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra

Horses Who Heal
by Sue Spence
Published by Macmillan
ISBN 9781743535028

Book Review: Horse with Hat, by Marty Smith. Collages by Brendan O’Brien

This is a simply beautiful book.cv_horse_with_hat

Marty Smith’s poems are by turns quirky, sad, punchy, amusing, thought-provoking, and above all they provide a sense of time and place and family in  a way that just makes you want to read all the way through.

Which I did.

And then of course I had to go back, because I went a bit fast and missed some things! I felt quite a connection to the people represented in the poems. A large and complex family, with huge horses, farming in tough country – nothing like my own background in the slightest; so I think Marty Smith has created magic in enabling the reader to make that connection to her family. I’d love to know what other people have found on reading this book.

I found the short untitled poems – often about the war – remarkably powerful. In fact the evocation of the after-effects of war on New Zealand families is a strong vein through the entire work.

Brendan O’Brien’s collages brilliantly support the poetry in the book – being poetic in their own right. They made me stop and think, trying to work out which parts of which poems are represented – but that’s a puzzle to which there may be no correct answer, and maybe it doesn’t matter, because they enhance the book in such a delightful way.

Since I am a  reader who does not usually rush to the latest poetry on offer, I find that this book has made me want to explore further – and in particular I look forward to finding what else Marty has written (though this is her first collection), and as well I am going to find everything illustrated by Brendan O’Brien.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Horse with Hat
by Marty Smith, Collages by Brendan O’Brien
Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739278