Gillian Baxter

Like many pony book authors Gillian started young, writing her first two books while still in her teens.

Best known for two pony book series. Her most popular is the Bobby and Shelta trilogy, but also well-loved is the series for younger readers featuring the miniature ponies Magic and Moonshine. She also wrote a number of less well known pony books. Most of the books with the exception of the Magic and Moonshine series are aimed at older children/young adults and many have a gentle romance as part of the story. The quality of writing in my opinion improves with the later books, some of which contain real psychological depth in their portrayal of character. However almost all of her books are lively and interesting reads.

Also wrote under her married name of Gillian Hirst.

Gillian was also interested in fast cars and acting, both of which appeared in some of her pony books. Additionally she wrote a non-pony book called
The Knightsgate Players.

Bobby and Shelta Series:
Follows the adventures of Bobby whom we first meet as a 16 year old schoolgirl who falls in love with beautiful mare Shelta. The first book in the series is set partly in Bobby's school and thus is partly a school story. The next two in the series concentrate on Bobby's life working in a stables/competitive training yard. Ideal for teenage readers.

1) JUMP TO THE STARS
(EVANS 1957)
ILLUSTRATED BY ANNE GORDON
Reprinted by Dragon paperbacks in the 1960s and 70s
EDITIONS PICTURED:  1st edition, 1960s paperback 1970s paperback.
SUMMARY: Bobby falls in love with chestnut mare Shelta and thinks she can become a brilliant jumper. But Shelta is sold to a poor unsympathetic rider. Will Bobby ever be able to get her back and realise her dreams?
PONYMAD RATING: 5 HORSESHOES

2) THE DIFFICULT SUMMER
(EVANS 1959)
ILLUSTRATED BY ANNE GORDON
Reprinted by Dragon paperbacks in the 1960s and 70s
EDITIONS PICTURED:  1st edition, 1960s paperback 1970s paperback.
SUMMARY: Now left school and working at Guy's stables, Bobby and her friends are devastated when a freak accident causes a terrible fire at the stables. Can they ever get back on their feet again?
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

3) THE PERFECT HORSE
(EVANS 1963)
ILLUSTRATED BY IVAN LAPPER
Reprinted by Dragon paperbacks in the 1960s and 70s
EDITIONS PICTURED:  1st edition, 1960s paperback 1970s paperback.
SUMMARY: Bobby is envious when her spoilt cousin Ellen is bought a perfect horse to enter for Badminton. She doesn't think Ellen deserves such a horse. And can Minos really be as perfect as he seems?
PONYMAD RATING: 4 -5 HORSESHOES

Collectors Info:
Books 2 and 3 in the series are fairly easy to come by in paperback but for some reason the first one is a bit harder to get hold of. First editions are quite rare.

Magic and Moonshine Series:
A well-loved series about Ian and Angela, a pair of orphans who are sent to live with their uncle and are overjoyed to discover he has two miniature ponies. The series is set at a much lower age group than most of the
author's other books, nevertheless it is great reading for all ages,
exploring many important issues of childhood and especially the brother-sister relationship of the two children - so please don't be put off if you think these may be too childish. They are up amongst the best of Ms. Baxter's books and deserve to be read!
Unusually, for pony stories, most of the books are set in London.

1) PANTOMIME PONIES
(METHUEN 1969)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Reprinted in paperback by Dragon, Methuen/Magnet and Mammoth.
EDITIONS PICTURED:  Paperbacks by Dragon, Magnet and Mammoth
SUMMARY: Brother and sister Ian and Angela must go and stay with their Uncle Arthur in London. They are thrilled when they find he owns two miniature ponies called Magic and Moonshine who perform on stage!
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES
Chat forum reading group discussion of the book

2) SAVE THE PONIES
(METHUEN 1971)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Reprinted in paperback by Dragon, Methuen,Magnet and Mammoth.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, paperbacks by Magnet and Mammoth
SUMMARY: Ian and Angela love their new life with their Uncle Arthur and the two ponies Magic and Moonshine. But when Arthur's old landlord dies, his son decides the ponies are lowering the tone of the neighbourhood and its property values: the ponies may have go to go!
PONYMAD RATING: 3-4 HORSESHOES

3) PONIES BY THE SEA
(METHUEN 1974)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Reprinted in paperback by Dragon, Methuen/Magnet and Mammoth.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, paperbacks by Magnet and Mammoth
SUMMARY: The children are delighted when Uncle Arthur tells them they are all off for a holiday by the sea for the summer. Even the ponies are
included as they are to be starring in a Summer show. But things don't go well for Angela when Ian makes friends with a gang of children from the theatre and she is left out.
PONYMAD VIEW: This is slower in pace than the other stories in the s
eries and probably the least horsy. It concentrates more on the difficult situation of outside friendships intruding upon the brother-sister
relationship, as Angela learns to accept that Ian must have independence from her. A very thoughtful insightful read.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

4) PONIES IN HARNESS
(METHUEN 1977)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Reprinted in paperback by Dragon, Methuen/Magnet and Mammoth.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Mammoth paperback
SUMMARY: Magic and Moonshine are to take part in a driving
competition at The Horse of the Year Show. But then Uncle Arthur breaks his wrist. Who will drive the ponies now?
PONYMAD VIEW: This instalment focuses more on Ian than do the other books so is ideal for young male pony lovers. It is one of the best stories in the series too, and the most faced paced and exciting.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

5) PONIES TO THE RESCUE
(METHUEN 1983)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
No paperback edition?
SUMMARY: When Ian and Angela take Magic and Moonshine to a local hospital to cheer up the sick children there, they become involved in a scheme for helping disabled children to ride. Wheel-chair bound Gina falls in love with the ponies but her over-protective mother won't allow her to see them, thinking that ponies are dangerous. Ian and Angela want to help Gina, but their efforts only seem to cause more trouble. Will Gina ever be allowed to be with the ponies she loves?
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

Other editions:

MY BOOK OF PONY STORIES
(DEAN 1991)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Hardback omnibus edition with pictorial boards containing 3 of the series: Pantomime Ponies, Save the Ponies and Ponies in Harness. With the original illustrations.

Collectors Info:
First editions/hardbacks are fairly rare. The paperbacks and the hardback omnibus edition are however very easily found in the UK, fairly easily in the USA, and are low priced. The last book in the series, Ponies to the
Rescue
, is the rarest, although it goes through phases where it is fairly easy to find!

Other Horse & Pony Books:

HORSES AND HEATHER
(WARNE & CO 1956)
ILLUSTRATED BY SHEILA ROSE
As far as I know not reprinted.
SUMMARY: A group of children arrive at a riding school for a holiday to find the owner has been taken ill - can they manage to run the place themselves?
PONYMAD RATING: 2-3 HORSESHOES

TAN AND TARMAC
(EVANS 1958)
Reprinted by Dragon paperbacks in the 1960s and 70s
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, 1960s paperback, 1970s paperback.
SUMMARY: When Steve moves from the country to London it seems the end of a life with horses but then she discovers a stables right in the heart of Kensington! And things get even more exciting when she gets involved with an American rodeo star and his horse!
PONYMAD RATING: The only one of the author's books I have never been able to finish, despite many attempts. Others share my view that this is not her best book!
PONYMAD RATING: 2 HORSESHOES

RIBBONS AND RINGS
(EVANS 1960)
Reprinted by Dragon paperbacks in the 1960s
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Dragon paperback
SUMMARY: Showjumping and fast cars collide in this lively story about an Irish showjumper and two very different girls.
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

THE STABLES AT HAMPTON
(EVANS 1961)
ILLUSTRATED BY ANNE GORDON
As far as I am aware was not reprinted at all.
SUMMARY: One of the few pony books set in the world of dressage. 16 year old Jinny works in the dilapidated stables of shady Vic Tyler and longs to get a more respectable job. It seems like her dreams have come true when Vic disappears and she is asked by superb dressage rider Tamara to work for her instead. Taking with her Flash, the old ex-racehorse she loves, she embarks upon her new life. But although a brilliant rider, Tamara is a difficult and unfriendly person, and when she takes on a new riding instructor, Ginny feels her loyalties being stretched between the two people she admires most.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

HORSES IN THE GLEN
(EVANS 1962)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Reprinted by The Children's Book Club with a rather unfortunate dust jacket and also by Dragon paperback in the 1960s.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Book Club edition, Dragon paperback.
SUMMARY: Fran decides to leave London and return to her Scottish homeland to start a trekking centre with boyfriend Stephen. When her beautiful filly Witchcraft goes missing she makes the acquaintance of gipsy girl Lindy who has fallen in love with the mare. Lindy subsequently spends all her spare time at the stables, much to the disappointment of her old friend Duncan, whose sturdy Highland pony Lindy used to ride. At the same time, Fran is neglecting Stephen and the trekking centre for the excitement of showing Witchcraft. However throughout the course of the book both Fran and Lindy come to learn what is really important in life.
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

THE TEAM FROM LOW MOOR
(EVANS 1965)
Not reprinted as far as I know.
SUMMARY: The local pony club team is a 'poor relation' of the wealthier branch on the other side of the valley. The riders are a mixed bag with an odd assortment of mounts and despite their keenness it doesn't look like they will excel. But then they meet Laurence, a famous show jumper who has had to retire through injury. He takes on the task of instructing the motley crew and they slowly begin to improve, even deciding to put together a team to take part in the Prince Philip Cup (the gymkhana games championship) at the Horse of the Year Show. But as the children improve, jealousy and ambition threaten all the they have achieved.
PONYMAD VIEW: Brilliant story with real depth of character.
PONYMAD RATING: 5 HORSESHOES

SWEET ROCK
(E J ARNOLD & SON 1966)
Rare.
SUMMARY: Sharon can't afford a pony and only has a donkey to ride. Then she meets Chris and his pony Sweet Rock. Although Chris is a tearaway and his bad riding has turned Rock into an almost uncontrollable mount, Sharon can't help but like him. Then Chris has to go away for a while and leaves Sweet Rock in Sharon's charge. Can she school the flighty mare, and what will happen when Chris returns?
PONYMAD VIEW:  Not a comfort blanket read, yet one of the author's most accomplished stories with some excellent well-rounded characters. See link below for more about the story.
PONYMAD RATING: 5 HORSESHOES
Chat forum reading group discussion of the book

SPECIAL DELIVERY
(METHUEN 1967)
ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT
Reprinted by Methuen in hardback and by Methuen & Dragon in paperback.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Methuen and Dragon paperbacks.
SUMMARY: Donkey story aimed at slightly younger readers. Sarah, Simon and Margaret have to cope with an obstreperous donkey when its owner has an accident.
PONYMAD VIEW: One of the best donkey stories you will read. Great characters, especially that of the donkey Josephine.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

BARGAIN HORSES
(J A ALLEN PB 1992)
Paperback original.
Part of the J A Allen Equestrian Library series. Not reprinted.
SUMMARY: Young adult horse story. All her life Mary Conway has dreamed of buying a real bargain, a horse that would win eventing fame and prove her skills as a trainer. But her daughter Gemma is tired of these bargains which turn out to be anything but. When the latest one proves a terrifying ride, Gemma knows she must do something to escape her mother's obsession.
PONYMAD BOOKLOVERS RATING: 4 HORSESHOES
Read Review

Collectors Info:
Rarity varies a lot with these books. Some can be found in paperback (Special Delivery, Ribbons and Rings, Tan and Tarmac, Bargain Horses) and these are in general the easiest ones to find.  The hardest to get hold of are Sweet Rock and also The Team From Low Moor.

As Gillian Hirst:

SUE-ELAINE DRAWS A HORSE
(PELHAM 1970)
Written with Marion Coakes.
SUMMARY: Similar to the Three Jays series in that Marion Mould (nee Coakes) the famous show jumper is a main character in a fictional story, along with her real horses and some other fictional characters.
Marion's young friend Sue-Elaine loves horses and, as a talented artist, also loves to draw them. Accompanying Marion to Hickstead, she draws some of the horses there, including a beautiful but excitable palomino called Sea-Blond, with whom she immediately falls in love. When Sea-Blond is injured his owner allows Sue-Elaine to have the horse on loan until he is healed and re-schooled. A close bond form between the pair and with Marion's help, the palomino's nervousness begins to be cured and he is jumping small fences again. But his competitive owner is impatient for the horse to get back into the ring. Will her desire to have him competing again at all costs spell disaster for the horse and how will Sue-Elaine cope without him?
PONYMAD VIEW: Although the premise of the book is similar to that of Pat Smythe's stories with a real-life show jumper as one of the main characters, this is a somewhat better written. Perhaps the experience of Ms. Baxter contributed a lot to this, but the story and characters (especially the equine ones) are more realistic and there is a much closer bond between the characters and their horses than in Ms. Smythe's books. I particularly like the little moments between Marion Mould and her famous horse Stroller whom she seemed to love deeply.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

Collectors Info:
Not reprinted. Although not a common book it can usually be picked up without too much trouble for a low cost. A bit harder to get hold of outside the UK however