Published: Jinty 26 April 1980 – 30 August 1980
Artist: Phil Townsend
Translations/reprints: None known
Clare Hollings loves Dad’s horse Cromwell. Dad is training him up for the Hampton Cup, which the family want to win to bring more publicity to their riding stables. She is annoyed Dad is not allowing her to ride Cromwell for the trophy, although she is the only one Cromwell really responds to, and it’s only with her riding him that he can tackle the water jump, which is a real sticking point for him as he has a fear of water. Despite her successful demonstration of this, Dad still won’t allow her to ride Cromwell in the competition as his mind is set on an experienced rider, not a novice.
Then Cromwell is blinded in an accident. Although it was dog Caesar’s fault for chasing a rabbit right under Cromwell’s hooves, putting him off his stride and causing him to fall over the jump, Dad blames Clare, saying it happened because she was showing off, and now Cromwell will have to be destroyed.
Mum protests at how unfair Dad is towards Clare. He eventually repents his harshness, saying it was an emotional reaction to his ruined hopes of saving his business. But the damage is done. He’s got Clare blaming herself and she goes on the run with Cromwell. She’s not going to have Cromwell destroyed, and she’s going to show Dad that Cromwell can win the cup, whether he’s blind or not.
This means somehow working out how to train a blind horse to jump, staying a fugitive and ahead of all attempts to find her and Cromwell, and keeping Cromwell safe from being destroyed. And all the while, Clare’s blaming herself for what happened and is having horrible nightmares over it. But soon they are joined by Caesar, who insists on sharing their life on the run and making himself useful.
Other dangers arise in addition to living wild. In one instance, Cromwell gets stolen and sold to the knacker’s yard. Clare breaks into the knackers to rescue him, Caesar lets all the other ponies loose as a cover, and somebody yells that Clare is stealing all the ponies. Which means the police could be after her on criminal charges as well as running away from home.
In another instance Cromwell is facing down an angry bull, but Caesar succeeds in chasing the bull off. Unfortunately, Farmer Monkton, who owns the bull, shoots Caesar dead (he has the grace to provide a grave for Caesar). He realises who Clare is and says he’s calling her parents.
We then find out Monkton has a daughter named Angie. Like Cromwell, Angie was blinded in a riding accident. It hasn’t put her off horses though. All sympathetic, Angie helps Clare to escape. But then there’s another problem – Cromwell has broken loose and heading for a cliff he can’t see. Angie uses her guide dog, Sabre, to turn Cromwell back from the cliff. Angie then helps Clare and Cromwell into hiding.
However, it doesn’t take Monkton long to realise this. He tails Angie and soon finds the fugitives. But then he sees how happy Angie looks in helping them, and she hasn’t looked happy since she went blind. He becomes torn between what he should do and what his heart says. For the moment his heart seems to rule as he does not turn Clare and Cromwell in this time.
Clare begins to make progress in teaching Cromwell to jump blind. Angie gets them an entry form for the Hampton Cup, which they have to enter under assumed names. But there is one big problem: entry fee is £20. Where can they get money like that? Overhearing this, Monkton gives Angie the money. Angie soon realises why and is so grateful.
Cromwell is making further progress. That water jump is still a sticking point with him, but Clare persists with it until Cromwell doesn’t seem to have a problem with it anymore. But at the Hampton Cup itself – what a time for Cromwell to refuse the water jump!
However, Clare’s parents are watching, realise it’s her in disguise, and cheer her on. Encouraged by this, Clare completes the round. Clare and Cromwell succeed in winning the Hampton Cup. However, Amelia, Clare’s old nemesis who was originally considered for riding Cromwell in the cup, discovers Clare’s disguise and gets her disqualified for entering under false pretences. But Clare has made her point to Dad, and he agrees to let Cromwell live. Moreover, she’s created huge publicity for the riding school in the press, so the riding school gets saved after all.
This story is still remembered – not as a Jinty classic mind you, but for the criticism that it is too unbelievable. A blind show-jumping horse is what the critics seem to find implausible, though there have been counter-claims that there have been a few blind show-jumping horses in real life. One such is Wren Blae Zimmerman. Perhaps it’s a matter of opinion. Still, girls’ comics are well-known for stretching credibility anyway, and I’ve seen far more incredulous stuff in girls’ comics than a blind show-jumping horse. So now we’re moving on.
Though not one of Jinty’s classics, the story certainly delivers on emotion and drama. Clare is not only faced with saving her beloved horse from the scrap heap (a common enough dilemma in girls’ serials) but also with a guilt complex and trauma over blaming herself for Cromwell’s condition. Like many girls’ serials dealing with guilt complexes, it is unfair and unreasonable, and this one is the result of Dad handling things badly. Although Dad repents this pretty quickly, it comes too late to help Clare. Moreover, even if they did sort out the guilt complex, there is still the matter of Clare wanting to save Cromwell and Dad insisting he be destroyed. Added to that, Clare later sees the horror of Caesar being shot dead. Now that is a shocking moment to have in a girls’ serial, and one reader wrote in to express how moved she was at that scene.
Unlike some emotional stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, the emotional side is not drawn out, nor does the situation just go on and on with no end in sight. Clare, though she has her moments on the run, does not spend a lot of time endlessly stumbling from one scrape to another until she finally gets a break as some protagonists in girls’ stories do. This helps to keep the pacing credible and the story does not start to drag or get tedious. Unlike “Over the Rainbow” or “For Peter’s Sake!”, Clare does not spend a vast number of episodes on the run making one narrow escape after another. In fact, it does not take her many episodes to find the help she needs, in the form of the Monktons.
The Monktons are well-conceived, rounded characters who get their own development. Angie, though blinded from riding, still loves horses and would love to get back into the saddle. No, she hasn’t become embittered or lost her nerve in any way over riding. And she does make a comeback in a way, through Clare. Mr Monkton is initially crusty and unsympathetic towards Clare’s situation, and we can see it stems from bitterness over his daughter being blinded in a riding accident. He scorns the idea of his daughter wanting to ride again although she is blind. If only he had access to the Internet; it lists a number of stories about blind horse riders, including show-jumpers. Maybe Angie will go that way in the end anyway. After all, this is girls’ comics. And frankly, Angie’s crying out for her own serial, a serial about a blind show-jumping girl (say, is there such a serial somewhere?). As it is, we are impressed with Mr Monkton turning into a softer character and becoming more human once he sees it is doing Angie a world of good. He goes from nearly unseating Clare’s mission to helping her achieve it.