On the surface, a four-book series about a group of students – with one main main character – at an elite boarding school where they are also trained to become professional horse riders.
Except it isn’t superficial. These teenagers face tough decisions, heartbreak, unfairness, teachers that need to be harsh, and learning when to stand up against something wrong.
Unlike some horsey books, it’s also realistic about the dangers of riding, which was something I liked about them. There’s a pre-book death and the students themselves are eventers, with (dangerous) cross-country being a large focus, although showjumping and polo is covered, among other things.
They are still perfectly enjoyable if you’re not big on riding or horses, if you’re willing to skim past anything you’re not familiar with, like breeds, descriptions and manoeuvres.
The timeline confused me a little, but that could have just been because I’m not familiar with the American school system (it’s set in Kentucky) – and it isn’t actually important anyway. Remember that all four books make up their first year and you’ll be fine.
Georgie Parker’s dream is to become an eventer. To follow in her mother’s footsteps and attend the prestigious Blainford All-Stars Academy, and be trained by one of the top riders and teachers in the world.
The auditions are competitions, competing for the prize of a place at the Academy. It wouldn’t be spoiling to give away that Georgie gets in, but it would be if I gave any details of why things don’t go completely smoothly – the fact that they don’t should be obvious, wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise.
A title with double meaning;
Showjumpers as in the showjumperette mean-girl clique (just like Georgie and her friends are the eventing clique, there are the Westerns, the polo riders, dressage and others.) Three main showjumperettes are introduced, but only one becomes Georgie’s biggest rival.
Showjumpers as in a competition between the boarding houses for the school Cup; this and Georgie’s love life being the main parts of this one.
When Georgie has to pick another class, she decides on polo, which raises the theme of sexism with a polo teacher none too pleased about this girl in his class.
It is also a book showing their maturity, as it is only with good sense and determination that Georgie and her friends manage to make their own polo team, complete with buying their own horses.
Just as all the books are for horsey people, this one is very focused on polo; no list of all the rules, but you do read about the group learning how to play, getting what they need, and you will finish it finding out what a riding star is (spoiler: it’s a position.)
I found the title of this one misleading. Taken literally, The Prize isn’t introduced until the last couple of pages. Taken metaphorically, I suppose there are several triumphs that I won’t give away.
This one is less about classes and school – which doesn’t mean they don’t learn a few new skills – as the students are instead sent on apprenticeships, with the focus being mainly on Georgie’s (no points for guessing who she gets partnered with) and one of the others.
The girls are put in real-world situations where they need to deal with and stand up to real-life professional riders (not to mention the real-life privileges money can buy you) as we see them finish their first year with a flourish.
Warning: A small part of this one involves Rollkur. If you’re more into riding than me, perhaps you’ll already know what it is; if not, can I suggest parents find the relevant parts before letting younger children read it. I may be overreacting, it’s not a big part, or graphic, and nothing bad happens, but it took me by surprise and I was disturbed by it. (And I’m 23)
I can’t find any information on there definitely being more, but there might be, and sequels are possible given that there are more years of the school.
It also ended with the opportunity for some new characters to be introduced, as – again, I found this realistic – a couple of the members of the core group decided to change their major following their experiences.
Pony Club Rivals is a spinoff from Pony Club Secrets, but you don’t need to have read Secrets first. The fact that Secrets was supposed to be 4 books, expanded to 8, and ended up at 13, makes it likely that there will be more Rivals (the latest was published in 2011.)
The only real spinoff element is the fact that Rivals is set where the last two Secrets books go, and there is at least one character in both series. Otherwise, Rivals is mainly new characters, there’s no magic, and it’s for slightly older readers.