Who Else Loved Horse Books?

For the love of horse books

I am a child of the city. Growing up in Manhattan, my horse crazy childhood days were mostly fueled by books. Not the kind of books you find in book stores today — teenage paranormal romance, anyone? Nope, I read horse books. Even today I can picture the place in the stack of my local library on York Avenue where the horse books were shelved. I can remember walking home with a huge stack of hardcover books, their pages smudged with the fingerprints of too many small girls to count. I would lie on my bed, inhale the aroma of paper, and let my imagination soar.

A Horse Named Joe
A Horse Named Joe tells the story of a young man with his “one man horse” who takes on the local talent in a 500 mile race. You can guess the ending, but I must have read it a dozen times.

I read everything. Every Walter Farley book, every C.W. Anderson book, every Marguerite Henry book, and the famous ones like My Friend Flicka and Black Beauty.

Who didn’t dream of being Alex Ramsey in the Black Stallion series? Or Steve Duncan, taming the glorious Island Stallion. It didn’t matter to me that most of these stories featured horses and boys. I had no trouble imagining myself being the one who magically connected with the wild, troubled horse.

Another book that sticks in my mind, Riders from Afar by Christine Pullein-Thompson, told the story of

Riders from Afar
Did this book plant the desire to foxhunt in my 10-year old mind?

an American family who rents a Castle from an English family for the summer. The American kids learn a lot from their new English friends, and the “Yanks” turn out to be better riders than had been anticipated. The book culminates with a foxhunt, which seemed completely out of reach to me at the time.

Other books that I remember reading include “Harlequin Hullabaloo” by Dorothy Lyons. That poor girl trying to dye her lovely pinto into a solid color! And then there was “Afraid to Ride,” a book that I realize that has inspired the novel I’m writing now, where the protagonist is overcoming her fear caused by an accident.

Afraid to Ride
I’d forgotten about this book until I started going through my mind library of favorites. In fact, there are aspects of this book that probably inspired my protagonist in the novel I’m writing.

What about you? What were your favorite horse books growing up?

18 thoughts on “Who Else Loved Horse Books?

  1. I lived for horse books, too. They were the closest thing I had for horses for a long time. The library was the place for me, too. I loved the Marguerite Henry books the best. It is where I fell in love with Morgans. I ride a 14.2 black horse, now. I often am reminded of “Big Red and the Little Black Pony.” He may have been small, but he was the hero of the story, as Cole Train is the hero of my story, these days.

  2. I also lived for horse books and read them over and over. “A Summer for Ponies” by Zilpha Keatly Snyder comes to mind, as does all the Jean Slaughter Doty books, especially “Summer Pony”. I also loved “Fly by Night” by K. M. Peyton.
    This is making me want to go back and re-read them!

    As an adult, I love the Pony Jumper series by Kate Lattey, Mary Pagones’ eventing trilogy, Karen McGoldricks dressage fiction, Kim Ablon Whitney’s novels of the H/J A circuit and Natalie Keller Rheinhart’s racing fiction.

    1. After the pony books, I graduated to Dick Francis mysteries but I haven’t found all that many adult books that I enjoy. I will have to look into some of your suggestions. I also am working on my own novel which is equestrian-themed. Now that I’m laid up, I’m hoping to get more writing done.

      1. Ooooh I loved Dick Francis novels – I read every one he published. I’ve tried to like the ones by Felix Francis as much, but they’re lacking something. 🙁

        Try some of the ones I’ve mentioned – they’re well written, I promise!

  3. I scoured the library for anything horse related 🙂 All the Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry Books (of course) and Smoky the Cow Horse, Little Vic, The Red Pony (I cried), oh and so many I can’t remember their names 🙂

  4. I loved loved loved my horse books to death. Bille and Zottel, Britta, Black Beauty of course (why do I just now realize they all start with a B?).

    But for the love of god, don’t go back as an adult and reread the books that made your childhood magical: you’ll destroy your lovely memories. We adults have become too jaded, too cynical, to enjoy the simple innocence of many of those books and it will seriously warp your memories (happened to me, I’ll never try again lest I kill off more nostalgic feelings).

  5. I still have some of my Black Stallion and Flame books, my Black Beauty book,My Friend Flicka and the sister book I can’t recall the name of off hand. I have a mental image of the spot in the library where the non-fiction horse books were. I lived for the Bookmobile growing up. I read all of Margret Campbell Self’s books about show rules, every story of fox hunting and every tack catalog. I recall living the Black Stallion stories every night as I went to sleep and lying on the bed with my best girl friend as we went though her newest Deluxe catalog. I was lucky enough to ride as a 6 year old but didn’t get to take lessons until I was nine. Any book with a horse I coveted. I have shelves of horse books now but I keep the old ones in gratitude for the friendship they gave a lonely, horse crazy girl.

  6. Count me in! I think I only read horse books, certainly all the ones you mentioned. I loved the classics, even the “lighter” fare. I’ve gone back and re-read all the Black Stallion books, and even the cynical adult that I am enjoyed them (and just ignored the factual errors.)

    One of my favorites was “Doodlebug,” I wanted (like the girl in the book) a Beautiful Black Stallion with Flowing Mane and Tail. I have a pretty bay, so I got some of my childhood wish!

  7. I loved this book that I think was written in the 60s called Light Horsekeeping. It had tons of pictures and was about girls loving and living for horses. And I just bought another copy of Hobby Horse Hill. I loved that book and the illustrations and I was concerned that in all my moves I lost it. So I might now have two. I also loved the Marguerite Henry books. My mom’s friend got to visit and ride Misty when she was a little girl. Misty lived for a while with Henry in Wayne, IL which is near where I grew up and where I learned to ride. What a great blog post. And I had no idea you were a city kid!

    1. Yes, I don’t seem to give off the New York City vibe. I suspect I’m not fashionable enough! I was lucky that my grandparents lived about 65 miles north of Manhattan and I spent weekends and summers there where I could ride.

  8. Oh my gosh, of course I read everything horse related I could find in my Detroit library. Growing up a city girl virtually killed me. Funny, though, I couldn’t deal with the Black Stallion series. The first book, with Alex being cast away, was just too traumatic for me. But everything else? You bet.
    As for not re-reading them years later, why not? Now I understand King of the Wind so much the better.
    My favorite horse book of all time…and honestly, remains, Don Stanford’s “The Horsemasters.” I understand Disney made a movie of it, I’m glad I didn’t see it as it would have ruined it for me. What made it better that it was based on a true riding academy, Porlock Vale? I dreamed of going to England and going to that school. Didn’t, but in fact, my barnlord actually attended that self same school…and it shows. She’s a stickler for barn cleanliness.

    I think the WORST horse book, ever, was Steinbecks’ The Red Pony. It was horrible, but everything Steinbeck ever wrote was depressing as hell. My aunt …who was a teacher but had never had children of her own, thought she was doing me a favor by introducing me to ‘literature’ and thinking The Red Pony was suitable for children. Hell, it’s not even suitable for adults.

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