Reminiscing about favourite horse books

19 07 2006

I must have been a dream to buy gifts for when I was a kid, because I only wanted two things: books, and anything having to do with horses. Horse books were, of course, the best present of all! As a little girl growing up in Canada, it never seemed odd to me that so many of the books my parents dutifully shoveled at me were British; I loved them all and read them over and over.

I don’t remember much about the authors, strangely; it’s only now, with the help of Google and Amazon, that I’ve been able to put names with titles. The incredibly prolific Pullein-Thompson sisters loom large in the world of horsey lit; I must have read dozens of their books, like Prince Among Ponies and the various Pony Club books. Another favourite was the Jinny of Finmory series by Patricia Leitch, dealing with the adventures of a girl and her Arab mare Shantih; these seemed a bit darker in tone than the Pullein-Thompson books. Most of these books seem to be out of print now but they still crop up on eBay and in secondhand book shops. Another favourite British series for me were the Follyfoot books by Monica Dickens (was the TV series ever shown in North America?). Her memoir Talking of Horses is also a great read, full of her usual warmth and wit. My local library has it and every few months I treat myself and sign it out again.

Moving to American authors now, the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley also looms large, and I was pleased that the 1979 movie version turned out as well as it did (don’t you dread horse movies sometimes?). I think The Black Stallion’s Filly was my favourite, but I do have a soft spot for the Fury books, which were about a fabulous wild red stallion living on a Caribbean island.

The Black Stallion's FillyThe Black StallionThe Island Stallion's Fury

It’s impossible to talk about favourite horse books without coming at last to the lady who towers above them all, Marguerite Henry. She wrote dozens of books, most of them horse-related, and although they have been reissued a few times, for me the definitive covers will always be the classic illustrations by Wesley Dennis.

She didn’t always get her facts straight; unfortunately, her version of Figure’s origins and early life in Justin Morgan Had A Horse (e i e i o) has somehow become received wisdom even in the face of what is actually known about him. Historical truth does not always serve the storyteller’s aims, however, and it is much more dramatically satisfying to root for runty “Little Bub”, pawned off on an unwilling creditor and then growing up to prove his worth in spectacular fashion.

It’s occurred to me that most of the books discussed here were published between 1945 and 1970; was this then a sort of Golden Age for young people’s horse books? What were your favourites authors or fictional horses? What books would you give the horse-crazy kid in your life? As always, your comments are welcome.




6 responses

20 07 2006
Bridlepath » Blog Archive » The farm girl and her $300 horse

[…] It made me think of how often the story of the brave underdog and his or her horse plays out in our favourite stories: the Black Stallion books, National Velvet, Seabiscuit, Hidalgo (fiction, my dears, and did you notice the horse still had his shoes on when he was released back to the wild herd?) and many of Marguerite Henry’s classics. I hope Sara and her gelding triumph in Aachen and write their own fairy-tale ending to their story. […]

22 07 2006

I LOVED King of the Wind.
I reread that book so many times it fell apart but i still kept it.

24 07 2006

I too loved The Black Stallion’s Filly; didn’t all girls? And I agree that the best horse books for young readers are those dog-eared books from the Golden Era of the 1940s. Still, the popularity of Seabiscuit has spilled over to kid’s books, and there are a few good ones out there for young readers; I talked about them on my blog back in November at: .

25 07 2006

Black Beauty hands down. As a matter of fact I did buy it for a young person recently and had to read it again before sending it out. It was the book that gave the horse feelings for us in the 60s. After reading Black Beauty, when we played “horses” for hours on end, we played that we WERE the horses. I think it is partly the root to the “relationship” factor in my adult horse dealings. I know it seeded the burden of responsibility for humane care and concideration I have.

20 08 2006

Gotta be the Silver Brumby series, by far! But definitely loved Black Stallion, Jinny series, Saddle Club, My Friend Flicka and anything else I could get my hands on! Why is it even when I tell myself no more horse books until I’ve read all the ones I own, I somehow manage to acquire more? eheheh…

14 02 2007

I remember Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka and a series of horse books by Glenn Balch. I think that Black Beauty did the same thing for me that ELL stated above. But all of them feed my dreams.

Books were always my stated present of choice but unfortunately no one in my family circle wanted to feed my horse desire so the only horse book I ever received was Black Beauty from my rogue aunt, Margie, who the rest of the family frowned upon. She was the only one that dared to encourage me against my family’s wishes. Guess that’s why she was my favorite aunt.

I read every horse book I could get my hands on through our local book mobile. Don’t know why but they didn’t have The Black Stallion books but I have them all now!!

Thanks for sharing this trip down memory lane.

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