We love fiction, from crime to romance to fantasy – anything set in the horse world. Equally though we love non-fiction, how to improve our riding, or horse management skills.
There are some horse books that stick in the memory long after they are finished. Here are a few of our favourites:-
1)Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
Who hasn’t heard of, or read this tear jerker? With over 50 million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling novels of all time. Its author, Anna Sewell wrote the book while she was an invalid. She died just 5 months after its publication. The book, which was first published in 1877 is narrated by Black Beauty and details the harsh lives Victorian horses had, especially carriage horses. Black Beauty showed us the way to respect and care for horses and paved the way for the way they are looked after today.
2) National Velvet by Enid Bagnold This wonderful book was first published in 1935 and made into a film in 1944, starring twelve-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. As children we all wanted to be Velvet Brown and have a stable full of horses. Violet’s passion for the horse she loved was echoed in many of our lives.
One day Violet and her father’s assistant, Mi, see the rogue horse The Piebald jump over a five-foot-high fence to get out of a field. Mi says, in passing, that “a horse like that’d win the National”. Velvet becomes obsessed with winning the horse in an upcoming raffle and riding him to greatness.
After riding him in a local gymkhana, she and Mi become serious about entering the Grand National steeplechase at Aintree racecourse and train the Piebald accordingly. Velvet wins, but slides off after the winning-post due to exhaustion, and her sex is discovered in the first-aid station. Velvet and The Pie become instant celebrities. Violet tells the enquiry that she did not win the race, the horse did, and she simply wanted to see him go down in history.
3) Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen. Riding Lessons is the first book published by author Sara Gruen who is probably better known as the author of Water For Elephants. The book had some pretty rotten reviews regarding the inaccuracies it contained, but we loved the way the way the protagonist clearly adores horses and the equestrian sport she loves – which ever discipline it is.
Once a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, a tragic accident destroyed the riding career of Annemarie Zimmer and her beautiful horse Harry.
Twenty years later, Annemarie is home on her dying father’s New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned, she is accompanied by her troubled teenage daughter. Things change when she finds an injured white striped gelding startlingly similar to her beloved Harry.
4) Fly-by-Night by K. M. Peyton Adults of a certain age will remember longing for the privilege of owning a horse. For those growing up many decades ago horse ownership belonged to a few lucky folk, something the rest of us dreamed about. For those horseless hoards our imaginations were fed by stories like this, where little girls bought cheap, unmanageable horses and turned them into superstars. Fly by Night was first published in 1968. It is about an 11-year-old girl, Ruth Hollis, who buys a pony for £40 from a dealer. She attempts to train him herself without much success and eventually joins a pony club to learn more about horses. A rivalry develops between Ruth and another girl, Pearl, who owns a pedigree Arabian mare named Milky Way. Enter Peter, a runaway boy who just happens to have lots of experience with horses. He helps Ruth and Fly-by-Night.
5) Riders – Jilly Cooper This book, first published in 1985 was as famous for its eye catching cover as for its bonkbuster content. Riders has to rank amongst our all-time favourite horse books. While certainly not literature Riders was devoured by us all. This is a horse book for grown-ups- passion, rascals, underdogs and incredible horses – what’s not to love?
Jake Lovell, the gypsy-born hero of the novel, is a brilliant horseman. With the help of his rich debutante wife, Tory Maxwell, he is able to set up as a show jumper with his own yard, thus beginning a rivalry with his old school bully Rupert Campbell Black. Old rivalries are reawakened as they fight it out to prove who is the greater horseman and, just as important the greater lover. This was the first book of its kind, giving us an insight into the lives of top riders, their grooms, lives and horses.
6) Ruby Ferguson – Jill stories Much loved by pony lovers of a certain age. These timeless classics were written by a Yorkshire lady who was born in 1899. Her last Jill book was actually written the year I was born, the first was written in 1949. They feature a girl who loves horses and wants her own. Eventually as is the case with most of us, she gets her first pony and of course struggles to ride it, finally helped by a wheel chair bound expert who was injured in the war. These books created a world of picnics, afternoon tea and old fashioned jodhpurs. What still exists though is our love for ponies and the easily identifiable riding and horse care problems.
7) Pullein Thompson sisters These amazing sisters created an equestrian world that brought horses and ponies to horse crazy girls. Their impact was such that I am still naming pets after characters in their books. The sisters Josephine Pullein-Thompson MBE (3 April 1924 – 19 June 2014Diana Pullein-Thompson (born 1 October 1925) and Christine Pullein-Thompson (1 October 1925 – 2 December 2005)wrote dozens of books between them. These books are still doing the rounds today, as battered treasures owned by grown-ups who loved them as children. Our favourites are:- Josephine Pullein-Thompson -Six Ponies (1946),I Had Two Ponies (1947), Plenty of Ponies (1949), Prince Among Ponies (1952), Show Jumping Secret (1955) Diana Pullein-Thompson -I Wanted A Pony (1946), Three Ponies and Shannan (1947), A Pony To School (1950), A Pony For Sale (1951), Janet Must Ride (1953) Christine Pullein-Thompson- We Hunted Hounds (1949), I Carried The Horn (1951), Goodbye To Hounds (1952), Phantom Horse (1955), A Day To Go Hunting (1956), The Impossible Horse , (1957)Three To Ride (1958), The Open Gate (1962), Phantom Horse Goes To Ireland (1972), They Rode To Victory(1972), I Rode A Winner (1973), Mystery At Black Pony Inn (1976), Phantom Horse In Danger (1980). Amazing the impact these books had on our lives, most of which were written before we were even born!
8) BHS manual of horsemanship The Pony Club’s Manual of Horsemanship was the horse and pony owner’s bible back in the day. Contained in the book was the correct way to do anything horsey, from the correct way to clean out a hoof to a horse’s daily routine – did no one go to work in those heady days? How could they in between skipping out stables and strapping the horses there was little time for anything else.
This timeless classic is now on its 14th version having undergone, in 2011, its biggest overhaul in a decade.
It has a very new look from the much loved original containing greater detail of the requirements of the paces, the training scale and lateral movements plus major updates to the horse care sections.
9) Monty Roberts The Man Who Listens To Horses – This book was the first of its kind and marked a turning point in the way we communicated with and trained our horses. Monty Roberts burst into our equestrian consciousness in the 1990’s with his ‘new’ ways of handling horses and dealing with problems. His organisation which promotes the ‘Join up technique’ has spawned a plethora of horse communication methods. Roberts believes that horses use a non-verbal language, “Equus,” and that humans can use this language to communicate with horses.
This book was incredible when read for the first time and still has the power to amaze.
10) Joyce Stranger – After a non-stop diet of pony stories Joyce Stranger’s books were tougher aimed at adults, the characters suffering hardships and real life desperation, all intermingled with their love of horses and animals. Joyce Stranger was the pseudonym of Joyce Muriel Wilson who lived in Anglesey, Wales. She died in 2007.
Stranger trained as a biologist, specialising in animal behaviour. She later tried her hand at dog training. Animal themes, especially the relationships between humans and animals feature in all of her books. Her stories are quite downbeat, with the human characters living unhappy lives in the beginnings and show how animals live in a world that is real to them. Our favourites are Breed of Giants, Zara and Khazan.
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