Jane and Penny Brooke love horses. They each have a pony that they ride and care for. Unfortunately, Penny is getting too big for her black pony, Brambles. Her father says as much, but indicates that he cannot afford to buy her another pony.
When the girls are out riding one day, they come across their friend Sheila. She is battling with a young colt, obviously afraid of him. When the girls question their friend about the pony, they are surprised to find that Sheila owns him. In fact, her parents acquired the unbroken colt for her as a first horse!
When Jane and Penny learn that the unmanageable colt is likely to be shot if he cannot be trained, they know they have to find a solution. Penny has an idea of a pony switch. Surely if they take on the colt and train him and provide Sheila with Brambles, then all will be well!
And so starts the girls’ journey of owning an uneducated colt. Jane and Penny quickly learn how much effort – and consistency – is required. With the help of an older teen, Jane and Penny introduce Rusty to being led properly, to having his legs and feet handled, rugging and even being backed under saddle. As he grows and develops they learn about a horse that is losing its baby teeth, how to apply poultices and prepare a horse for its first farrier visit.
The story focuses on the importance of finding a balance between tending to a horse’s educational and welfare needs and meeting school obligations. Penny finds as the main carer for Rusty – and the child who is a little over enthusiastic – that things need to be taken slowly, and carefully. She finds her schooling suffers greatly because of her dedication to Rusty. Plus, the colt is taken through some exercises too quickly in her eagerness.
A Colt in the Family does a great job of educating readers about caring for young horses. It would be well suited to younger readers eager for a pony adventure.