When I was in 5th grade, my language arts class had a contest…whoever read the most books won a prize, and everyone who read more than 20 got to be in a special party. I read, I think, 22-25 books in that time, and many of them are long forgotten. A few I remember by name, but still a few others burned into memory–but their name long ago faded away.
One book I read was about a girl who, IIRC, was visiting an older woman who often talked about some person’s ponies. This is NOT your typical horse-and-girl book–it had a slightly dark tone to it. This older person was fairly disturbed, and there was a certain mystery feel to the book–what had happened to Oberon, the prize stallion on the farm this older woman talked so obsessively about? There’s a scene where she talks about the horses on the farm…heck I even remember, “One dapple grey mare, we called her Apple…she had a mane three feet long…”
The big twist at the end is that this woman, enchanted as a child, had essentially stolen Oberon and snuck him off to some hidden cabin in the woods. She kept him there, or perhaps abandoned him there. The young lead in the book travels to this forest, finds the cabin, and discovers the skeleton of the horse in it. She rubs away the grime on the brass name plate of his halter to reveal, of course, “Oberon.” (That, I believe, was the Sixth-Sense-type “Ah-Ha!” moment of the book.)
Does this story strike a familiar chord with anyone?
I, too, read this book as a child, and I’m almost sure the title is “The Ghost Pony.” The young girl’s name was Sarah, and it was a daffy old man, not a daffy old woman, who told her about Oberon. The old man used to be in charge of taking care of the ponies who hauled mine carts. When the mine closed, the old man could not bear the thought of his favorite pony, Oberon, being sold, so he essentially stole him, took him out into the woods, and locked him into a small cabin, believing that the pony would be able to figure out how to unlock the door and get out, as he had shown a talent for that before. The old man then fell under suspicion and was unable to get back, and of course the pony died in the cabin. The story ends up with Sarah preparing a proper grave for the pony’s remains.
Yep, I cried when I first read it. Something about dead ponies just gets to me.
P.S. Sarah found the pony’s remains BEFORE she ever met the old man. Riding her own pony past the abandoned old cabin one day, she hears a horse neighing inside and hooves pounding on the walls. She immediately jumps down and opens the door, and finds only the bones and the halter with the tarnished name tag reading “Oberon”. Hence the “Ghost” bit in the title.
Ahhhhhhhh…yes! Thank you so much, Marlitharn!
I’m not finding it under the title The Ghost Pony though…there is a book about Chincoteague ponies called The Legend of the Ghost Pony, and there’s a book (with a similar sound) in the “Pony Pals” series, but this book was around long before pony pals existed.
I’m impressed with you memory of the story–and heck, right down to the name of the characters! How long has it been since you read it?
Oh that story sounds so sad! I’m reminded of another story I read as a girl, called Pit Pony. It was about ponies who had to work in the coal mines in Wales, I think it was. Poor things were sentenced to a life underground, never coming up even when they weren’t working. The stables were down below! I think the story involved a girl who wanted to rescue a special pony from a life of drudgery. I think there were also Welsh Corgis in the book, but I could be mixing it up with another.
Anyone read Pit Pony?
It is called “The Mystery of Pony Hollow” and is by Lynn Hall
(the magic search terms were “pony oberon skeleton” in google)
Want a copy?
Glad to help, Ruffian. I read that book several times as a child, and the reason I remember the main character’s name so well is because it’s the same name the protagonist had in another favorite girl-horse book, “Keeping Barney”.
Hello Again, you rock. I’d forgotten the vaguely annoyed feeling I always felt towards that title, because it’s not a mystery, gosh darn it, it’s a ghost story. With some mysterious elements. Or I may possibly just be nuts.
Oh, I remember that! That was a really great book!