A few days ago, a couple other contributors and I were talking about horses and horse books. In particular, one book we didn’t really care for. I was glad, since it seems like everyone but me likes it and I was glad to be wrong. I won’t mention which one, though, so I’m not hoisted on a petard. (Hoisted on a Picard, however, would be acceptable. Or, wait. Captain Picard also loves horses. Y’all, I can relate anything in life to Star Trek.) I also think that Becky Renner might be working on a post about horse books for adults, and I can’t wait to read it. I need more horse books for adults in my life, please. But the whole conversation actually made me kind of nostalgic, because horses played a big role in my childhood.
Like a gajillion other little girls before me, I was completely horse crazy. I can’t remember exactly when it started, though I remember walking home from school with my mother sometimes and we would stop to pet a horse that lived on the way home. I’m sure moving across the country and driving past a stables on the way to school every morning only reinforced the craze that was bubbling under the surface. I loved to watch the horses in the big paddocks by the road, sometimes happily grazing, sometimes running and playing. In my mind, I would have sworn a couple of them had horns on their foreheads and weren’t just ordinary horses, and that they looked at me with a secret knowing as they ran past. I was fanciful, and even now I anthropomorphize animals like whoa. You know they totally understand everything we say to them, don’t say you don’t believe that.
Naturally, with the horse craze came the horse posters all over my bedroom walls. And the magazines. And the riding lessons. And, of course, books about horses. ALL the books! Even though I only had a horse for a few years, the overall experience left a permanent mark on me. The stables were a safe place for me, and got me through a lot of tough times. My childish horse craze happened at the best possible time, right when I needed it the most. To this day, I have a love of horses, and horse based literature, that I doubt will ever leave me.
Everyone probably knows the usual horse books that children read. Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague, My Friend Flicka. I read those, naturally. My favorite ones, though, were a little different than the usual. The best ones usually are.
The Blue Ribbon series by Chris St. John. This series had six books, starting with Riding High. I grew up in Arizona so I was most familiar with the western style of riding, which to my eyes looked like chasing cows or running around barrels. I wasn’t too interested in either at the time; it wasn’t fancy enough! The girls in the Blue Ribbon series rode English (already the Anglophilia was strong with this one) and they did three-day eventing, which really just frosted my cake. I had dreams of riding my way to an Olympic gold medal because of these books. A gold medal on my small, lazy, entirely cowardly horse who wouldn’t even go on a familiar bridle trail by himself. There’s a possibility I was slightly delusional.
Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffrey. I fucking LOVE Arthurian legends. I’ll read them in any form they come in, over and over again. I also adore Anne McCaffrey. So for Anne McCaffrey to write an Arthurian story about a peasant boy on a quest to find just the right kind of horses for King Arthur and his knights? Yeah, that rang ALL my bells.
Secret of the Unicorn Queen series. This six-book series started with Swept Away by Josepha Sherman, about a tween girl who accidentally gets transported to an alternate universe full of unicorns and magic and warrior women fighting to break a curse placed on their leader by a wicked sorcerer. As a child, I read my copies until they literally fell apart. When I discovered that the first two had been re-released in a single volume, I got really freaking excited because I thought the whole series would be reissued. Alas…
What books fuelled your horse-crazy childhoods?