29 November 1996

Remarkable – a mule who drew and who wrote

CLEVER they may be, but even in the days when mules were plentiful, one that could write and draw was indeed unique. That animal was called Custard.

The letters that this military mule wrote while stationed in England from 1929 to 1932 have now been published. Custard not only wrote letters to two young sisters, Merrie and Bright Middleton, but sent humorous sketches, too, illustrating the ups and downs of her everyday life.

She was helped, of course, by Major V R Burkhardt a friend of the sisters father. Now the long-treasured letters have been published with a foreword by Jilly Cooper who pays tribute to the mules and muleteers who served with the military during the first World War and in Italy during the Second.

Confessions of Custard, a delightful book with appeal for young or old and an insight into military history, is published by Leo Cooper Books (01226-734555) at £9.95.

Much has been written about Riding for the Disabled, usually about its benefits for children, but Cobbes Meadow goes a step further. "A story of riding with the disabled" is the subtitle to Pennie Kidds book. Pennie enjoyed riding as a girl and as a young adult and, thanks to the Cobbes Meadow RDA, continued to do so after developing multiple sclerosis.

So the view she gives of RDA work is a very special one, through which the pleasure that RDA has given her and her friends comes shining through. Captain Mark Phillips has contributed a foreword and the book is published by Buckland Publications Ltd, 125 High Holborn, London WC1V 6QA at £6.50.

Driving Dos and Donts by Sallie Walrond is one of the recent titles in the Threshold Picture Guides published by Kenilworth Press (01296-715101 fax 01296-715148), a leading publisher of equestrian books. It is No 37 in the series and, like its predecessors, which cover a wide range of riding and management activities, is beautifully illustrated by Carole Vincer and neatly fact packed. It should be read in conjunction with Guide No 28 Starting to Drive and No 34 Driving Questions Answered.

Specialist equestrian publishers J A Allen are also publishing a useful series of guides. No 5 in the series of Allen Photographic Guides is Towing Horse Trailers (£4.95) written and illustrated by John Henderson, who stresses that safety and the importance of driving with the horse in mind are the prime considerations

Diagrams enhance the explanations of manoeuvres while sources of information and key points – eg, Danger! It is illegal and very dangerous for a person to travel in a trailer – are highlighted.

Breed enthusiasts will enjoy Valerie Russells latest book, Shetland Ponies published by Whittet Books, London (0171-6031139) at £15.99. This is a fascinating read which reflects the personalities of Shetland owners almost as much as of the ponies themselves. Besides giving plenty of stud details and bloodline information, the book celebrates the history of the breed, going back over several centuries, looks to its future and shows time and again that todays Shetlands are fun. AR