Edited by Halimah Marcus
“Recovering, aspiring, and devoted riders redefine the iconic bond,” states the cover – Horse Girls is an essay collection exploring what it means to be a “horse girl.” Edited by Halimah Marcus, it features essays from instantly recognizable names, like Jane Smiley, but also plenty of work from authors not quite as well-known. The book showcases the diversity of the horse world, featuring works from authors around the world, from Black authors, Pakistani authors, authors with Native American heritage, LGBTQ+ authors and transgender authors and that is what makes it great.
“Horse Girls” shows that horses are truly for everyone, that “horse girls” are broader and more multifaceted than one might expect, and that there are many ways to be a “Horse Girl” even if you don’t currently have horses in your life. In that last regard it proved relatable for me in places – I’m a self-described “horseless horse person” – grew up riding, albeit not competitively, discovered the English-riding sporthorse world in my late teens and well, life had other plans and here I am, currently horseless. For me, it was refreshing to see something reminding me that I’m not the only one whose life has pulled me away from riding, competing and being deeply active in horses for this moment.
“Horse Girls” also highlights the strength horses give us – this wasn’t always a lighthearted read and the authors didn’t shy from discussing challenges they’ve faced or realizations they’ve grappled with, whether it’s one author (Nur Nasareen Ibrahim) writing about growing up in Pakistan and realizing how privileged she was to have had the childhood she did, or authors discussing confidence struggles, racism they’ve faced, strained relationships with parents, eating disorders or even life during the COVID-19 pandemic and all the uncertainty that’s come with it. It’s a very real, human book in places. But the common thread woven throughout? Horses are there for us. Horses are what we come back to, they’re a shoulder to cry on or a refuge from the rest of the world. Horses are the common ground we can all find, no matter our differences.
Every self-described “horse girl” should consider reading this one.
CORRECTION: Author Nur Nasareen Ibrahim, who contributed an essay to Horse Girls, was misidentified as Indian. Ibrahim is Pakistani and the review has changed accordingly.