Book cover - Victoria Eveleigh - Joe and the Race to RescueThis is the third (and final?) instalment in the Joe … series by Victoria Eveleigh (read my reviews of Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe and Joe and the Lightning Pony). It picks up pretty well right after the last book, with Joe having moved on from his pony club champion, Lightning to new pony, Fortune. He begins to realise what a good teacher Lightning was as he struggles to forge a meaningful relationship with Fortune, who is of a very high quality but doesn’t seem to have engaged with him.

Meanwhile, Joe’s finally found a horsey world where girls, pink and sparkles do not rule: the world of the heavy horse. Introduced to Malcolm by Chris, the farrier, Joe’s soon learning all he can about driving and ploughing, taking out subscriptions and learning to care for – and even ride – these gentle giants. This is an area that I don’t think I’ve seen covered in a modern pony book before – there is driving in historical novels, of course, but not up to date ones, and we meet a pony who does equally well being driven and ridden, too.

It’s not all about Joe and his horses – his friendships, especially with Martin and Caroline, continue to deepen, and Sensei Radford makes a brief but profound appearance. I do love the range of role models that Joe has, not forgetting neighbour Nellie, who gives Joe a few pointers along the way. And there’s plot and excitement aplenty, of course: who is going to be picked for the England team in the international pony club games, and what exactly does the watery picture on the front signify. There are some lovely touches and echoes, especially in a ploughing scene near to the end of the book.

Once again, Victoria Eveleigh has got it just right, with modern touches (Facebook pages are updated with new pony pictures and text messages are important) but a good old-fashioned story without magic and silliness, lessons to learn about heavy horses and a good solid underpinning about family, friendship and care for the animals. It’s a shame if this is the last we’re going to see of Joe – maybe he can develop an interest in Exmoors next …

This book was kindly sent to me by the publisher – thank you, Orion.