John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony

"The Red Pony" "Steinbeck"
The Red Pony on display at Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California

As a young girl growing up in California, I remember reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. However, it was Steinbeck’s movie The Red Pony that will forever be etched in my memory bank.

Born in Salinas, California in 1902, John Steinbeck grew up in Monterey County and spent plenty of time on the Hamilton Ranch (Steinbeck’s relative on his mother’s side of the family.) Steinbeck modeled the fictitious Tiflin Ranch from The Red Pony after his own life experiences.

"John Steinbeck" pony
John & Mary Steinbeck riding horseback on Jill.

No stranger to the equestrian world, Steinbeck was given a Shetland pony by his parents when he was four years old. His trusty pony Jill carried John and his sister Mary all over the ranch land.

Red Pony from a child’s view

The Red Pony was written by Steinbeck during a difficult time in his life. His mother was dying from the result of a stroke and Steinbeck was helping to care for her in the hospital. During that time period, Steinbeck wrote the four part series from the perspective of a ten year old boy.

"The Red Pony"
Notes from The Red Pony

The Gift

In his first story from The Red Pony, father Carl Tiflin gives his son Jody a red pony named Gabilan. After forming a strong bond with Gabilan, the pony gets sick and eventually dies. I remember the scene from the movie very vividly. The pony is standing in the rain and having difficulty breathing. The next scene shows Jody attempting to keep the vultures from landing on and eating the carcass of his red pony. I remember sobbing as I watched this movie.
While the book The Red Pony is a classic – required reading in many schools – and a favorite book for horse lovers, I would not recommend The Red Pony movie for young children.

"The Red Pony"Have you read any of John Steinbeck’s books? Learn more about Steinbeck on Twitter @SteinbeckCenter.

Follow me on Twitter @Nancydbrown and @Ridinghorseback for all things related to travel and horseback riding vacations.

To learn more about author John Steinbeck and his life, visit The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California

Book review and photos by Equestrian Travel Expert Nancy D. Brown