Caroline is different from most pony book writers in two ways. Firstly she tends to write for a much older readership, mid teens to adult (although most can be read by younger readers). Secondly her books are very funny. Strangely, considering the potential for farce in the world of the horse, humourous pony books are a rarity but Ms. Akrill manages hers with a light touch.
Her most well known work is the Eventer's Trilogy, but she wrote a number of other books and also many horse-related articles and short stories in magazines and annuals. As well as writing she has had a very varied career. Famously quoted as having said she has tried and failed most things, she has certainly not failed in her writing career, with her books being amongst the favourite pony stories of many readers.
After writing some superb books Ms. Akrill became a chief executive of J. A. Allen books which as you may know published a selection of excellent pony books in large paperback form (including some of Caroline's own stories). She now runs the Plas Maenan Hotel in Wales.
The Eventing Trilogy / Eventer's Trilogy: The author's most popular series. Follows the fortunes of Elaine who longs to become a top eventer. However when she takes a horsy job with two sisters known affectionately as the 'Galloping Fanes' her life becomes inextricably entwined with theirs, with both hilarious and heart-rending results. A fab series which not only is very funny but also manages to explore important issues within the world of competitive riding.
PONYMAD SERIES RATING: GOLDEN CUP FOR AN OUTSTANDING READ
1) EVENTER'S DREAM (ARLINGTON 1981) Reprinted in paperback by both Armada and Dragon SUMMARY: Elaine's dream is to become a top eventer, but when she starts working for the eccentric Fane family it leads to a difficult choice between ambition and loyalty. PONYMAD RATING: GOLDEN CUP
2) A HOOF IN THE DOOR (ARLINGTON 1982) Reprinted in paperback by both Armada and Dragon SUMMARY: With the help of the Fanes, Elaine sets out on her eventing career. But all does not go smoothly when her event horse is injured. In desperation she decides to try eventing the strong-willed old horse Comet whom the Fanes had given her in lieu of wages. The results are surprising to say the least! PONYMAD RATING: 5 HORSESHOES
3) TICKET TO RDE (ARLINGTON 1983) Reprinted in paperback by both Armada and Dragon SUMMARY: After a strained parting with the Fane sisters, Elaine leaves their employment to attend a prestigious eventing course where the goal of all the students is to be picked to ride in a team at a top event. But Elaine begins to learn a lot about herself as the course progresses...has she really got what it takes to be a great eventer or are other things in her life more important? PONYMAD RATING: GOLDEN CUP
CAROLINE AKRILL'S EVENTING TRILOGY (ARLINGTON 1983) SUMMARY: Collected edition containing all 3 books in series
THE EVENTER'S TRILOGY (DIAMOND BOOKS PB 1994) SUMMARY: Collected edition containing all 3 books in series
Collectors Info: First editions are hardbacks and the second and third in the series have particularly striking covers. There were also Armada and Dragon paperback reprints and both hard and softcover omnibus edition containing the full series. There is also a little-seen boxed set of the 3 paperbacks. The paperbacks are at the moment, fairly easy to find in both the UK and USA, (especially the omnibus edition) although the hardbacks remain rare. They are to be reprinted soon by Fidra Books.
The Showing Trilogy: Series centred upon the showing world, a rare topic in pony books. Once again, very funny reading, especially as Caroline learns to ride side saddle. The characters from the series also appear in 2 short stories by the author: The Lamentable Leading Rein & An International Incident (see short story section below)
1) CAROLINE CANTERS HOME (HODDER & STOUGHTON 1977) ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT Rare SUMMARY: Caroline shows her Aunt's pony Clytie and to her amazement they do rather better than she could have ever imagined! PONYMAD RATING: 5 HORSESHOES
2) I'D RATHER NOT GALLOP (HODDER & STOUGHTON 1975) ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT Reprinted as a Knight paperback. SUMMARY: Caroline reluctantly agrees to show her Aunt's pony, but when she finds out she has to ride side saddle she is not amused! PONYMAD RATING: 5 HORSESHOES
3) IF I COULD RIDE (HODDER & STOUGHTON 1976) ILLUSTRATED BY ELISABETH GRANT Rare SUMMARY: Caroline finds herself secretary of her Aunt's Riding Centre. But is this really the life for her? PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES
NB - This is the reading order for the series, which you will notice is different from the publishing order.
Collectors Info: All three hard to find, Caroline Canters Home and If I Could Ride exceptionally so. I'd Rather Not Gallop had a paperback printing which is the easiest to find of all the books in the series, although even that one is not common.
The Silver Bridle Trilogy: Unusual and excellent horse story set in the world of film-making and show-business. Struggling young actress Grace pretends she can ride to get a part. She is forced to learn to ride or lose her starring role. But then she starts feeling a growing affinity with horses which makes her question her ambitions. Read a review of the trilogy
PONYMAD BOOKLOVERS RATING: 5 HORSESHOES
1) MAKE ME A STAR (GRAFTON 1986) SUMMARY: Struggling young actress Grace is desperate for a part and when her eccentric agent Ziggy actually manages to get her an audition for a high profile TV series, she thinks her luck may be turning. But then she finds out the role requires someone who can ride. Determined not to lose out on her big chance, she pretends that she can...after all how hard can it be just to sit on a horse….?
2) STARS DON'T CRY (GRAFTON 1987) SUMMARY: Despite her disastrous screen test in which chaos ensued and a horse was injured, the producers love Grace. But she is forced into taking an intensive riding course in order to get the part. It seems a small price to pay for such a juicy role, but then she finds out her instructor is to be the taciturn horse handler whose horse she caused to be injured and he despises actresses, her in particular!
3) CATCH A FALLING STAR (ARMADA 1988) SUMMARY: Grace had only taken on horses as a means to an end to secure her dream role. But now she finds she is falling in love with them. When a beautiful but dangerous horse's life is threatened she finds herself questioning her ideals and ambitions.
THE SILVER BRIDLE (J. A ALLEN 1993) SUMMARY: Contains the full trilogy of three novels within a single volume.
Collectors Info: First published in 3 paperback volumes which did not appear to be marketed primarily as pony books. These were then re-issued as one entire volume which was aimed firmly at the horsy market and renamed The Silver Bridle. The single volume is much easier to come across than the first edition paperbacks. This volume was published as a large paperback edition by J. A. Allen. No hardback editions as far as I know.
Other Horse & Pony Books:
NOT QUITE A HORSEWOMAN (Non-fiction) (ARLINGTON 1982) Reprinted in paperback a couple of times. SUMMARY: Although not a fictional pony book but a book of collected writings I have included it here as it reads almost like a series of short and funny stories. Aimed at an adult readership. PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES
FLYING CHANGES (ARLINGTON 1985) Reprinted in paperback by J. A. Allen. SUMMARY: Set mainly in the dressage world, the story of a gifted but manipulative dressage star who puts success before his own family with tragic consequences. PONYMAD VIEW: Far darker in tone than the author's other works and aimed at the adult market, it nevertheless has glimpses of the characteristic Akrill humour. PONYMAD RATING: 4-5 HORSESHOES
Collectors Info: Probably slighter easier to come by than her other books, especially the paperback reprints. Firsts are a bit harder but not as highly priced as her other books.
Short stories in other collections: This may not a complete list. There could be more I do not know about as yet.
THE LAMENTABLE LEADING REIN In PONY MAGAZINE ANNUAL 1975 (PURNELL 1974) ILLUSTRATED BY ELAINE ROBERTS SUMMARY: Humourous showing story linked to the 'Showing Series' (see above). Aunt Sybil and co decide to show their small brood mare in the leading rein class. Hippy-ish Simon must suffer the indignities of having his hair cut and wearing a suit in order to lead the pony in the class. Despite his sacrifice however, their project is doomed to failure. PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES
AN INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT In PONY MAGAZINE ANNUAL 1976 (PURNELL 1975) ILLUSTRATED BY ELAINE ROBERTS SUMMARY: Humourous showing story linked to the 'Showing Series' (see above). When hopeless Mr Duffy finally finds a pony worth showing it seems he has a chance in the children's pairs class. But the two young riders loathe each other! PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES
THE DIFFERENCE In PONY MAGAZINE ANNUAL 1977 (PURNELL 1976) ILLUSTRATED BY ELAINE ROBERTS SUMMARY: Pony story set in France. Lesley visits her friend who lives in a crumbling castle in Bordeaux and discovers it is a world away from life at home. PONYMAD VIEW: Well written, at times quite lyrical story, although if you are expecting the usual comic tale you will be disappointed. This is a gentle, thoughtful study of an older, slower way of life. Not a huge amount of pony content and will not be to everyone's taste. PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES
THE CHURL WHO LOVED HORSES In PONY MAGAZINE ANNUAL 1978 (PURNELL 1974) ILLUSTRATED BY ELAINE ROBERTS SUMMARY: Unusual fantasy story, sad in parts but with an uplifting end. When Janie starts having nightmares she seeks out the history of her village and finds that horses played an important but tragic role in it. PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES
THE CELEBRATION In PONY MAGAZINE ANNUAL 1979 (PURNELL 1974) ILLUSTRATED BY ELAINE ROBERTS
OUR DAISY'S FLAG DAY In PONY MAGAZINE ANNUAL 1981 (PURNELL 1980) ILLUSTRATED BY LESLEY BRANTON SUMMARY: Humourous story about a feckless young girl who gets into all sorts of trouble when she tries to save an old horse. But her antics pay off in an unexpected way… PONYMAD RATING: 3-4 HORSESHOES
Collectors Info: These stories are all to be found in old Pony Magazine annuals. Although the annuals are not common they can be found reasonably easily in the UK with a little searching and are usually cheap. A bit harder to track down elsewhere.