Horse Nation book critic Erin McCabe lists a few of her all-time favorite reads.
In honor of Thanksgiving, I pulled some of my all-time favorite horse books off the shelf. Here are five that have been monumental to me at one time or another and I’m thankful for the ways in which each of them has shaped my outlook and philosophy on horses, horsekeeping, and riding
1. Everyday Friends by Lucy Diggs. I was in 6th myself when I first read this book. It was a nice, contemporary departure from the horse classics I’d been devouring (you know, Misty of Chincoteague, My Friend Flicka, The Black Stallion, Black Beauty…), especially to a kid like me who had zero horse crazy friends. And the protagonist, Marcy, had glasses just like me, so that was pretty huge. I declared it my favorite book of all time and even told my 6th grade teacher (who was making us read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at the time) that it would be my favorite book forever (he begged to differ). Alas, it’s now out of print (and I’m holding on tight to my well-loved copy), but if you can get your hands on this one, it’s a fabulous read about finding something you love to do (riding horses, of course! Who cares about piano?), making new friends when old ones drift away (boys?! Who needs them when there are PONIES?), and learning that your own boring family isn’t so bad after all. It’s also about horses, of course—and all sorts of firsts: first lesson, first jump, first horse, first show.
2. The Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook by James M. Giffin, M.D. and Tom Gore, D.V.M. This book has talked me down from many a ledge—mostly the kinds of ledges caused by Strangles scares and Pigeon Fever outbreaks. I’m not sure how I survived nearly two decades of horse ownership without it. If there were such a thing as new horse showers, I would give this book to every new horse parent.
3. The Manual of Horsemanship: The Official Manual of The British Horse Society and The Pony Club. Alas, this one is also out of print, and now of course the United States Pony Club has its own leveled manuals, but dang if I don’t still think this book is pretty awesome. Also, remember how I said I didn’t know how I survived without the Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook? I’m pretty sure this book is how. Good Lord, I pored over this thing! I guess some people complain about it being dry, but it’s laid out very clearly and chock full of helpful line drawings. OK, sure, the references to numnahs are amusing and I never have had an occasion to make a wisp, but heck, I still refer to the section about setting up gymnastics.
4. Practical Eventing by Sally O’Connor. OK, obviously I’m old because this book is out of print now too. Why why why?? It’s so fabulous! It’s simple, straightforward, clear and even as a kid I gleaned so much from this book. The photo series of various riders tackling cross-country fences is worth the purchase price alone. All right, all right– I guess it’s time for me to check out Phillip Dutton’s Modern Eventing. But in the meanwhile, I still think this book belongs on any eventer’s shelf.
5. Right From the Start by Michael Schaffer. In my opinion, this book is a must-have for anyone bringing along a young or green horse. Schaffer has a kind approach that blends a natural horsemanship-esque philosophy with dressage, all in the interest of helping your horse learn to travel in a balanced way and enjoy her work. I love his rules: No One Gets Hurt; Reward in Proportion; Every Step Counts; Correction, not Punishment; and Take Your Time. Maybe I’ve taken that last rule to heart a bit too much, but they’re all good reminders. And Schaffer’s exercises are oh-so-helpful (especially “the natural circle” and traveling at an angle to the line–godsends I tell you!).
Erin McCabe rides two OTTB mares and hopes to someday soon get back to competing at horse trials. Her first novel, I Shall Be Near To You, is forthcoming from Crown Publishing in January 2014. You can learn more at erinlindsaymccabe.com.