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For a stable leading man, try a pony tale

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Horsewyse

For a stable leading man, try a pony tale

Matthew Thomson

Every girl still wants a pony but they now want the related books, videos and teh CDs. The simple love story of a girl and her horse has spaqned into a marketer's dream with the latest incarnation of the tale, The Saddle Club, selling thousand in prnt and video.

John Stephens, the former predident of the International Research Society for Children's Literature, said yesterday the "pony story" genre played to girls' desire for an ideal compainion. "There are elements of romance ... they are faithful and strong; they need looking after but they look after you - its what they're never going to get from men," he said.

Professor Stephens, who is Macquarie University's acting head of humanities, said tales of girls and their horses - which began with Anna Sewell's 1877 novel Black Beauty - used to find an adolescent readership, but with the mysteries of life now revaled at ever younger ages, the market has changed.

"It was aimed at [ages] 11 to 14, but there's been a cultural shft in what they know, so it's probably aimed at pre-teens now," Professor Stephens said. "But its still the same genre, [and] it's like a love story - girl meets pony; girl gets pony; girl loses pony."

The Saddle Club is also a marketing love story with Bonnie Byrant's books selling more than 500,00 copies in Australia; the ABC television series averaging almost the same number of viewers; video sales ranking in teh top 20; three gold cast-member albums, and now Princess Veroinca, a solo CD by Heli Simpson who plays the show's rich bitch.

Heli, 16, on the promotional hustings in Brisbane yesterday - and scheduled to hit Sydney on Wednesday - relfected on horse appeal.

"I think its the way that a girl can have a relationship with a horse and have so much fun at the same time," said Heli, now on her second horse.

Heli said girls in the tweens and younger were increasingly drawn to The Saddle Club. "Many are in love with horses, and anytihng with horse kind of themes is attractive to them."