HN book critic Erin McCabe counts down her favorite books for horse lovers of all ages.
Because winter is cold and dark and reading is a way more fun indoor activity than cleaning tack, here’s a round up of some of my recent favorite horse books (plus a few prospects), any and all of which should help see horse lovers on your gift list through until the days get longer. (Or, you know, you can always give yourself a nice gift.)
For Babies: Because you can never start the Horse indoctriNation early enough!
That’s Not My Pony… by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
This book is super short, with a pony on every page and lots of sensory stimulation (fluffy mane, velvety nose, bumpy hooves…) providing the chance to start teaching horse parts. See my book review here.
These two books are a matched pair. The first follows the adventures of Dog, Pig, Cat, and Duck as they ride Mr. Horse (falling off is fun—whee!)–see my review here. Jingle Jingle is for the holidays with the critters going off on a sleigh ride. The books teach the importance of getting back on when you fall and with the simple, repetitive (not in a bad way) vocabulary it also makes a good book for kids who are just learning to read.
Calico The Wonder Horse or The Saga of Stewy Stinker by Virginia Lee Burton
This book is a fun Western with awesome black and white illustrations. I dare you not to fall in love with sassy and smart Calico. And, if there are any boys on your list who need some Horse indoctriNation—this is a great book since it’s got plenty of cowboys and action (all with a nice redemptive story). Check out my review here.
If I Ran the Horse Show: All About Horses (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library) by Bonnie Worth, Aristides Ruiz, and Joe Mathieu
Written in rhyme and illustrated in the Dr. Suess-ian style, this book is chock full of accurate information about horses—breeds, colors, horse parts, tack parts, and even a discussion of the differences between English and Western! It’s like a mini-horse encyclopedia and is perfect for the young and horse-crazed who like factual information presented in a fun way.
Horse: The Essential Guide for Young Equestrians by Libby Hamilton
This is the world’s perfect first horse encyclopedia, complete with adorable drawings and plenty of neat surprises like a flip book of a horse’s gaits, a stall door that opens, and a saddle with moving parts. You probably need this book for yourself too, just for the fun of it. See my review here.
Timber Ridge Riders by Maggie Dana
This series follows the friendship between Kate and Holly as they try to outmaneuver horse-snob nemesis Angela. Wholesome with the right amount of tension to keep the story moving quickly, the horse world is fully realized and spot on. I recently reviewed the first book, Keeping Secrets, here.
Happy Horsemanship by Dorothy Henderson Pinch
Told from the point of view of the horse, and filled with cute line drawings and moments of humor, this is a great book covers the basics for those new to riding and caring for horses. I still remember the pages of this book that my first riding instructor photocopied for me.
For Teens (and Adults):
Catch Rider by Jennifer Lyne
This novel follows tough-girl Sidney as she works to make her dream of riding in the Maclay finals come true. This book deals with some weighty issues (poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism) and includes some swearing, but has a lot to say about standing up for yourself and working hard to achieve your goals. Check out my review.
Blaze of Glory by M. Garzon
A trilogy for older teens (because Garzon is not afraid to tackle domestic violence and sex; loyalty and betrayal) this series nails the horse stuff and is a fast-paced coming-of-age story, complete with romance, horse shows, and a fiery protagonist. I reviewed Blaze of Glory here, Look Twice here, and Renaissance Man here.
Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
This is a book even the non-horsey can appreciate. Protagonist Martha, a horse trainer during WWI, rides the county, training up horses in her quiet way and dealing with issues like animal abuse, cancer, accidents, and romance. It’s touching portrayals of the various members of the community will leave you teary. I wrote a review of it here.
Thrown by Colette Auclair
A fun rom-com in which protagonist Amanda leaves her life as a Grand Prix rider to be a private riding instructor to a handsome (widower!) movie star’s daughters. Great horse-y details and a lively plot make this a quick and entertaining read. I reviewed it here.
Boleto by Alyson Hagy
This book will please fans of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain and Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses. Literary (no quotation marks!) and written in a sparse style, the novel offers quiet insight and beautifully detailed descriptions of the Wyoming landscape and horses (especially of protagonist Will Testerman’s filly). It’s not a happy story, but you will root for Will, an admirable young man trying to find his own way in the world, balancing his cowboy integrity against the shady California polo scene.
Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton: The Complete Resource for Today’s Eventer: Training, Conditioning, Competing by Phillip Dutton and Amber Heintzberger
I’m pretty sure this is the new Practical Eventing. It’s also on my Christmas List. Enough said.
The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy by Pellom McDaniels III
Who wouldn’t want to read the first comprehensive biography of Isaac Murphy, the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times (1884, 1890, 1891)? Especially when you learn that, despite his enormous success, he was kicked off the track because he was African American.
Happy holidays, and Go Reading!
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.