I had developed a passion for ponies at a young age, but hadn't realised there were books that were pony, pony, pony all the way. My early reading efforts were centred on Enid Blyton's Famous Five, Secret Seven and Adventure of.... series, and on Hugh Lofting's Dr Dolittle books. As I read my way obsessively through these, I somehow managed to miss the fact that pony books existed, until I found Riding with the Lyntons lurking, all alone amid the Famous Fives, in our local toy shop. My pocket money stretched to this (the equivalent of 12 1/2 p today) and I took it straight home and read it right the way through.
And I was set off on a new path of enchantment: I did start riding lessons but never had a pony of my own, but I longed - how I longed, and the children in the pony books I now knew existed achieved my dreams for me. In my dreams I was Lesley, bravely holding up despite ostracism; Augusta in I Wanted a Pony stubbornly defying her arrogant cousins; and Christina in Three Ponies and Shannan, creating havoc despite her best intentions.
Diana, like her sisters Josephine and Christine, let me into a new world where I could live my dreams, and for that I will always be grateful.
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* The Times gives the date as 22 October; The Daily Telegraph 21 October.