Ponies, ponies, ponies


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Jo Furminger

Many thanks to Hannah Fleetwood, who wrote this section.

A not so well known pony book author, Jo Furminger has 8 pony books to her credit, forming the popular, but often scarce, Blackbirds series.

Jo Furminger was born in Coventry in 1932. She began riding at the quite mature age of 12, when she had A Pony For Jean by Joanna Cannan for a birthday present and read it 9 times! She regularly cycled 16 miles one day a week to ride her favourite pony but never owned her own.

She wrote her first full length pony story at 14, which was kindly criticised by a sympathetic publisher and she had to wait some years more before she got one into print.  After leaving school she went to college and trained as a teacher. She taught until the birth of her daughter, Justine, in 1962, and then returned to part time teaching some 5 years later, teaching KS 1.

Her daughter inherited her love of horses, not to mention talent as a writer, and competed regularly as well as becoming an accomplished author herself at a young age. Justine read Modern European History at university and also found time to write and get into print her first pony book, Bobbie Takes The Reins in 1981 and its sequel Bobbie’s Sponsored Ride in 1982.

Jo Furminger wrote several other children’s books, although none of them were horsy.

The Blackbirds Series

Claire Forrester had once been pony mad. But that came to an abrupt stop when she and her mount parted company on a trek. So the discovery that her new home came complete with a resident pony was NOT good news. But suprises are in store for Claire, particularly when she finds herself a founder member of the Blackbirds pony group.” [From the DW of Pony At Blackbird Cottage]

This and the following 7 books followed the adventures, trials and tribulations of various members of the group.  

Finding the books:  the first 3 titles were reprinted in pb by Knight in 1980 and are relatively easy, and cheap, to source. The other 5 books, to my knowledge, were never re-printed and are therefore much harder to find, and command high prices; ‘Gallop’ and ‘Midnight Horse’ being the rarest and most expensive.

A Pony at Blackbird Cottage
Hodder & Stoughton, 1975, illus Susan Hunter
Reprinted in pb, Knight, 1975, 120 pp.

Claire Forrester was pony mad until she and her pony parted company on a pony trek in Wales.
Then her family moved house, and she found that the new house came with an unusual added
extra:  a pony.  Then Claire becomes a founder member of the Blackbirds Pony Group.

Blackbirds Ride a Mystery Trail
Hodder & Stoughton, 1976, illus Susan Hunter’

Reprinted in pb, Knight, 1976, 121 pp.

Philippa doesn’t have a pony of her own, and it’s taking her a long time to earn
enough money to buy one.  Then the Blackbird Pony Group invite Philippa
to join them.  They help out at the local riding school, and in return get free
lessons and can borrow the ponies.

Blackbirds’ Pony Trek
Hodder & Stoughton, 1977, illus Susan Hunter
Reprinted in pb, Knight, 1981

The Blackbirds Pony Group do very badly at the local gymkhana, and to improve themselves,
and show their critics they can ride, they decide to do a pony trek.  All does not go as planned,

Blackbirds and the Gift Pony
Hodder & Stoughton, 1978, illus Susan Hunter

Sally’s parents were going to the USA, and she had to stay behind.  The only compensation, she thought, is
that she would be allowed to ride Neill's pony. However, Neill is vile, and unless his mother is watching, Sally’s
not allowed near the pony.  Then Sally meets a strange lady who gives her a pony, and this leads her to
the Blackbirds Pony group (Neill's sworn enemies).  There’s doubt though about whether the pony is really hers.
Neill certainly doesn’t think so.

Blackbird’s Own Gymkhana
Hodder & Stoughton, 1979, illus Susan Hunter

Many thanks to Sarah Beasley for the picture.

“The Blackbirds feel they can't wait nine whole weeks for the next gymkhana - so they decide to organise their
own. Easier said than done, for their are a number of problems to surmount - where will they hold it? What
about judges? And Prizes? there are also other difficulties. A young and inexperienced neighbour is determined
to tag along too, and the Blackbirds encounter the formidable Mrs Tavener, who is set on ruining their carefully
laid plans. However, a dramatic event suddenly turns the jinxed gymkana into a big success.”

Saddle up Blackbirds
Hodder & Stoughton, 1980, illus Susan Hunter

Phanton, the Mainwarings’ pony, is found lame and muddy. It’s obvious someone’s borrowed the pony, and
the Blackbirds are furious. They decide to solve the mystery, but have no idea that their investigations will
in the end mean they try to buy some land for a riding school.

Blackbirds at the Gallop
Hodder & Stoughton, 1980, illus Susan Hunter

Many thanks to Annette York for the picture.

Joanna, who is not the most popular member of Blackbirds, is horrified when her horse injures a judge’s foot
at the local gymkhana. The Blackbirds try to make up for it by offering to help the judge at her own riding stables,
but of course it doesn’t go to plan.  There is a lost child, and Joanna, who is a bit accident prone, is blamed for
everything that goes wrong. However, in the end she saves the day.

Blackbirds and the Midnight Horse
Hodder & Stoughton, 1984, illus Susan Hunter

Susan is terrified when she looks out of the window on a dark and stormy night, and there, in her garden, is a
ghostly grey horse.  There is no sign of it next morning.  Is it a ghost?  And if not, who is the owner?

Bibliography - pony books only

The Blackbirds Series

A Pony at Blackbird Cottage

Blackbirds Ride a Mystery Trail

Blackbirds’ Pony Trek

Blackbirds and the Gift Pony

Blackbird’s Own Gymkhana

Saddle Up Blackbirds
Blackbirds at the Gallop

Blackbirds and the Midnight Horse