May 19, 2011

Roles of Horses in Novels

Reading: Raised by Wolves - Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Watching: Desperate Housewives
Listening to: Black Eyed Peas
Making me Smile: Fiji holiday in a week

Anyone who knows me well enough would have a fair idea of my love of horses. And though my three children each have a horse, I’ve been unlucky with my own 'steads' of late and have a couple of gravesites in the paddock of my old mates =((

I don’t ride all that much anymore, at least not until I find myself another great horse at some stage, but I still admire them and like to write them into an occasional story or two. But it got me to thinking about the role of horses in books.

Historical novels abound with horses and carriages. Often we read about the steed that (who?) carries the hero to the heroine’s rescue, or the bad guy giving chase on his abused mount. And I’ve so often noticed the colour of the steed to be indicative to the nature of the rider: the huge black stallion who carries the hero, who is often a tortured/wounded soul and often misunderstood, or the proud and arrogant rake who just hasn’t found his perfect heroine yet (g)

Western novels. I don’t think a western would *be* a western without the prerequisite horse and carriage. And what about the sheriff’s horse, the Comanche’s sure-footed mount or the farmer’s all rounder who plods in front of the buggy, the plough or under saddle.

Then there are the many other genres. The horse shape-shifter or perhaps the unicorn in a paranormal. The thoroughbred racehorse in a single title/mainstream book or the Shetland pony in a children’s novel.

The all round usefulness of our four-legged friends in our stories makes me realise just how much we’ve had to rely on them in real life. I’ve had the pleasure of reading many great books featuring horses, books I’ve loved over the years.

The black stallion by Walter Farley. I think I read this book a hundred times as a child, as did my brothers and sisters.

Black Beauty by Anne Sewell. This book from the POV of BB I think really opened a lot of people’s eyes to the treatment of horses—animals in general. I know this one had me sniffling many times as a young girl, and the movie still does.

The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell. I read this one and most of the other books in the series umpteen times. These too are in the POV of the horses, and their fight against the elements, man and sometimes each other.

So tell me, are there any other great fiction books out there featuring horses I should know about?


  1. Mel, my middle daughter would so want you for a mum. Her own horse!
    They're are certainly beautiful creatures, but I must confess to being a little wary of them. I rode double one time and the horse bolted then stopped and I went into the dirt. The kind of thing you'd see in a cartoon where the horse then turns its head and gives a satisfied grin. lol
    Tabitha's reading The Secret Unicorn atm. She gets so engrossed in the world.
    And, Mel, you wouldn't happen to have a spare ticket to Fiji, would you? 8)

  2. Mel, I learned to ride when I was a kid. We used to go to a special caravan park every school holiday and it had a ranch over the road where they had trail rides. One of my sisters used to work there on holidays - she was much better than the rest of us (and she has her own horse now).

    Even though I love horses, I love dogs more, and as a kid I read more dog books (though, as you'd imagine, my sister read horse books!).

  3. Hi Mel,
    Yes, I have a passion for horses but have the same problem as you - gravesites marking them. I don't own one anymore, just drool over everyone who does!

    Ride A Wild Pony by James Aldridge was my favourite as a kid. I still have it. That book tore at my heart - the horse had to choose between a boy who had nothing and a rich girl with everything. Well, I think that's what it was about. It's been a long time since I read it. I must read it again and see if I still love it!


  4. Robbie, your middle daughter is sooo very lucky to have you! =)
    And LOL!!! on the image of the horse grinning at you falling off, that's happened to me quite a few times too.
    The secret unicorn - going to look that one up!

  5. Rach I've only ever been to a riding camp once, but it was great fun. I'd love to do one on the snowy mountains =)
    I've read a few really great dog/wolf books too, nice memories.

  6. Catherine it's awful when you lose one, they become part of the family even out in the paddock.
    I haven't read the book you're talking about but I'm almost certain that was a disney show way WAY back.

  7. Mel, love this post. As a horse lover and owner (we have 9 horses) they usually end up somewhere in my books. In fact, the heroine in my first book out next year is a horse riding instructor. My last heroine was a race horse trainer . . . you get the drift. I'm horse mad. As a kid I love Black Beauty and The Silver Brumby, but also read the My Friend Flicka series over and over. There was an old western called Tumbleweed which is one of my favorites . . . but my absolute favourite horse movie would have to be Gallant Bess. Sigh. And after all this horse talk I might just go and saddle up my boy Zeb (Whose piccy is on my website) and go for a ride.

  8. Mel, I've always dreamed of owning a horse. I wanted one so bad when I was a teenager. I too loved the books you mentioned - especially Black Beauty and The Black Stallion. Sigh. Must hunt them out again.

    While it isn't a book, do you remember the television series Follyfoot? I loved it and wanted to be Dora. I haven't seen it for years and years, but I'd love to see it again to find how it's stood the test of time.

  9. Ah horses - I love the idea of them though I don't know my fetlock from my forelock. "Black Tiger" was my favourite horse book when I was a kid.

  10. Hi Helen (fellow horse lover!!)

    I must go and check out your books now! I watched all the My Friend Flicka shows as a kid (and was so frustrated to see the newer movie version was a black horse *g*)
    I don't recall Gallant Bess, another one to look up!!
    Hope you enjoy your ride =)

  11. Michelle - THANK YOU!!!!!!! I've been trying to think of the name of that series for so long now. I used to be glued in front of the tv imagining myself doing just that very same thing - saving horses from cruelty and letting them live out their retirement in lovely green paddocks! (Maybe one day I will)
    I am so going to be getting this on DVD =))

  12. Zana Black Tiger - I haven't heard of that one, thanks for the recommendation!

  13. Mel, I've been wracking my brain for horse books I've read -- and I can't think of any! (Shame on me.) I don't know how to ride -- but I would love to learn (even though it scares me a bit). I love the idea of cantering! (Or galloping, if I was ever brave enough...)

  14. Hi Mel,

    I' mad about horses, but in movies and books! If I se a pure white, sleek horse in movies, I'll keep watching for it's antics. And if it's a black!

    Robyn. if Mel passes you a spare ticket to Fiji, remember I've got a spare bedroom!

  15. Hi Emily,

    horse riding is a great hobby, even if you only get to do it once in a while. I have a great little bombproof pony here if you're ever over this way *g*

  16. Hi Nas,
    my daughter has a beautiful black horse (top picture) who just gleams when rugged. As you can see from the scruffy white pony (bottom picture with Miss three) she's adorable but very furry LOL!
    Robbie, come with =)) And Nas, we will still have to meet, yes!?

  17. Hi Mel, we definitely shall meet!

  18. Oooh, I adore horses! Sadly I sold my mare more than five years ago now, but after finally getting my own horse at 15 I was at pony club or competing nearly every weekend for the next decade :)

    I loved pony books growing up, and I still have my favourites. My fav series was the Jill series (starting with Jill's Gymkhana) by Ruby Ferguson. I've read and re-read them... although not for years! So I'd be about due to start again... :)

  19. Leah my 2nd eldest daughter did some pony club but we decided much more fun simply to ride at home.
    That title sounds familiar so it's probably fair to say I've read at least a few of "Jill's" books.

  20. Mel, I'm a horse lover, too! And grew up a totally devoted reader of books with horses in them! There is a gorgeous book called Son of Black Beauty by Phyllis Briggs - it's about a gypsy and his head-strong horse. I read that book so many times I nearly wore out the print! Sadly I don't have it anymore - it must have got lost during one of our frequent moves.
    I adored the Flicka books of course. And Josephine Pullein-Thompson wrote a lovely story called Show Jumping Secret.

  21. Hi Sharon!

    I loved that book too. All these wonderful stories everyone is reminding me about, it's great.

  22. I loved the Silver Brumby, and there was children's book about a palamino horse and a girl who lived in a mountainous place - I can't for the life of me remember the book title. It was a wonderful read. I think at aged 9 I devoured the whole book on a flight to the UK.
    There's also Drummerboy & the Gypsy, another kids story where a Gypsy boy finds himself befriending a pony. Great topic.

  23. Does ‘Thelwell’ count as a horse-story? I loved that little pony and his adventures. The Garfield of the horsey set.


    I grew up on a hobby farm with horses. My older sister was into dressage and I was well known as the *non-riding* one.

    But when I was about 22 I reluctantly went with friends to a horse-camp called the Lazy R when on holiday down in the south coast. Previously I’d had enough lessons to know how to get on a horse, walk on a horse and…at a pinch and in a crowd…trot on a horse, but our half-day trek included an hour in the ring to assess ability. The instructor had most of his teeth missing thanks to his day-job as a horse-breaker but he was an amazing teacher. In one hour he had me trotting around the ring with no reins and my arms outstretched beside me. Inconceivable!

    Out in the bush you could tell the experienced riders cos they all got to go upfront and were dressed more like cowboys with no safety gear on, us plodders were clustered at the back with the instructor. About 15 minutes in, the teacher sides up to me and says ‘You can go up front with the others.’

    Wh…what? I got to ride with the cowboys?

    With a panicked glance at my friends, I urged my little silver pony on and caught up with the riders at the front, @*#&ing myself. They opened a gap for me and my pony in the middle and absorbed us into their safety. With them flanking me and this courageous little goer beneath me I felt invincible! One of the strongest memories of my life is galloping with them down a long, white beach with the sand-and-salt mix spraying in my face, my hair whipping out behind me, eyes watering and stinging, heart pounding, the smell and sound of heaving horses all around me…


    I’m sure, like love, there is a certain connection that has to exist between the right rider and the right horse. That plucky little pony was the right one for me.

  24. Hi Nicola,

    the silver brumby seems to be a staple for the aussie horse lover =)

    Love the gypsy stories, they always seem to have that extra affinity with their horses.

  25. Oh Nikki, that was *gorgeous* and you are so right about that connection.
    I've had two horses that I really connected with. One was a cremello horse I rode every day (my best friend) and still think about though she'd be gone now. (just wish I'd kept her and not sold her on a stupid whim). Another was a horse who looked almost mule-like but we just clicked.

  26. Mel, other than riding on a horse at a fair, I've not had the privilege of riding on a horse. I've been on a donkey more times :)) I do see them in paddocks and think, one day, one day. But that day hasn't arrived. Also, I'm short with a bung knee, so getting on one will require a lot of assistance. :)) One day, one day.

  27. oh Eleni,

    come and visit me I'll be happy to take you for a ride (even if you would rather the pony!)

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