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A Professional Rider

April 12, 2017

So, A Professional Rider is…a book. It’s by Mrs. Edward Kennard, who wrote Pretty Kitty Herrick, and it’s sort of like that, but weirder and more upsetting.

We start with Margaret Hope, a flirtatious teenager who boards at a school not far from her father’s house. Unscrupulous horse-dealer Dick Garrard talks her into marrying him, but when her father disowns her, Garrard drops all pretense of loving her and does his best to get as much work out of her as possible.

He soon finds that he hasn’t made a bad bargain: Margaret is an excellent horsewoman, better than him with more finicky horses. His business grows after she starts showing his horses in the hunting field — even though she insists on telling prospective buyers the truth about a horse’s flaws. She doesn’t enjoy the life, though: her husband keeps her working all the time, and women of her own class are unfriendly to her. Her only friend is their landlord, Sir Reginald Farndon. He’s a bachelor living with his sister, and even though he’s about thirty years older than her, it’s clear that if Margaret wasn’t married, they could fall in love.

Eventually Margaret has a daughter, Judy. Judy is stronger-willed than Margaret, and an even better horsewoman, able to ride anything in her father’s stables by the time she’s eight years old. Margaret manages, with the help of Sir Reginald, to send Judy to her old school, so that she becomes a gentlewoman instead of succumbing to the atmosphere of the stables.

When Judy is eighteen, Dick finally succeeds in actually working Margaret to death. He’d like to do the same to Judy, but she’s less tractable, and so their relationship is increasingly strained. Finally he kicks her out of the house, and she’s forced to fall back on an offer of marriage from Sir Reginald, in spite of their 55 year age difference. Judy is kind of carrying a torch for a guy she met in the hunting field whose name she never got,  and Sir Reginald is kind of creepily in love with her, but she doesn’t really have any other option.

If I tell you that Sir Reginald has a nephew, you can probably figure out the rest for yourself. Also there’s one very gruesome horse death, followed by a passage about how lucky the horse was to die in the hunting field instead of having to get old, and one less gruesome horse death. Also a bit from the point of view of a hunted fox. Honestly, I’ve made the plot sound a lot more coherent than it actually is. It meanders, and Kennard dwells on things that turn out to be unimportant and glosses over the things you would think she’d want to concentrate on.

There’s still stuff I like about her as an author. She’s full of unexpected intelligent moments — insights into character, and yeah, maybe that bit with the fox — and her irrelevancies add a level of realism, although I doubt that was her intention. Mostly, though, she just seems unfocused. I think focus was the one thing that was present in Pretty Kitty Herrick but isn’t here. So, yeah, I don’t know that I’d recommend A Professional Rider, but I still want to read more by Mrs. Edward Kennard.

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7 comments

  1. Like nails through the horseshoe, these are the days of our lives


    • 😂😂😂


  2. Given what I remember from Black Beauty, she might actually be right about it being better to die on the field than get old if you’re a horse in those days.


    • Kennard suggests “the friendly bullet” as another alternative.


      • That is actually a kindness under certain circumstances. My memory is if a horse breaks a leg, it’s difficult to suspend them and keep them immobile long enough for them to heal. Ruffian had to be put down within hours of her injury and that’s in the heart of horse country.

        I also work part time for a veterinarian and humane euthanasia is such kindness to the animal under many circumstances.


        • Yeah, I’ve been told that before, and it’s sort of hard to take, but I can understand it. Shooting them so that they don’t have to live to old age, though? It just seemed like it was playing into the idea that an animal’s only value is its usefulness to humans.


          • Reread Black Beauty.



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