- Jody is the protagonist of the novel. He is the only child of Carl Tiflin. In the first story of the novel, he is about ten years old. He grows from story to story, but is still a young boy at the end of the book. He has the dreams and fears of any young boy. He is sometimes mean, sometimes has unrealistic expectations, but is mainly a gentle, good-hearted boy.
- Billy Buck is the single hired hand on Carl Tiflin's farm. An experienced middle-aged man, he is very good with horses, and Carl trusts him deeply. Billy often takes a keen interest in Jody, and tries not to disappoint him. Jody's grandfather thinks that Billy is one of the few of Billy's generation that has not gone soft.
- Carl Tiflin and Mrs. Tiflin are Jody's parents. Carl runs a tight ranch, but he is by no means rich. He plans ahead, always trying to bring Jody up correctly. Yet his pragmatic manliness sometimes gets the better of him, as Carl finds it difficult to show regret or to praise Jody.
- Mrs. Tiflin usually stays in the house, cooking meals and keeping house for the men of the ranch. She is often quick to scold Jody, but is very understanding when a horse of Jody's is in danger. Also, she is always touched to see Jody maturing. Mrs. Tiflin usually leaves decisions up to Carl, except when Carl tries to treat her father with disrespect.
- Mrs. Tiflin's father, Jody's Grandfather is an old man who lives in Monterey and sometimes visits the Tiflin ranch. When he was a younger man, he led a wagon train across the Great Plains to California. That crossing was the most important thing in his life, and it is all he talks about. He doesn't realize that his repetitive stories bore the others.
- Gitano is an old paisano
man; in other words, a man of Hispanic descent. He was born in a small Adobe house that stood on what is now the Tiflin ranch. In many ways, he represents the Hispanic peoples who owned the land before white Americans moved in.
- A horse, the red pony is a young colt. He belongs to Jody and is Jody's responsibility. He is sometimes fierce, and like any good horse he is difficult to break, or train to wear a halter and saddle, etc.
- Nellie is a mare, or female horse. She is bred with a stallion, Sun Dog, in hopes that she will produce a colt to replace Gabilan.
- Smasher is a shepherd dog that once killed a coyote.
- Carl Tiflin's old horse.