Calling all horse kids! I was you, once. My bedroom wall was adorned with a poster of various horse breeds, I preferred My Little Pony over Barbie, and I was always begging my parents for riding lessons. Naturally, my shelf was full of horse books for kids. I even lived my equestrian dreams when I got to college and took Equitation (fancy word for horse riding) to fulfill my physical education requirements. Yes, you may have to take gym in college. I could trot and canter with the best of them! Or in fact, very, very far from the best of them. But I was living my best life, puttering around on a beautiful horse named Ladyhawke who was spirited but bitey.
Horse books are truly their own genre. Many adults turn to the well-trod canon when they meet a horse-loving kid: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, National Velvet, and Misty of Chincoteague. I honestly don’t know how well these books hold up to the young readers of today. But — hot take alert — it’s never a bad idea to forgo a classic in favor of giving a kid a good book written recently. A kid with a voracious appetite for horse books can always come around to the classics. That’s why they’re considered classics!
So whether you’ve got a picture book reader in your life or one who’s graduated to middle grade books, there are simply so many great horse books for kids out there. I’ve rounded up a collection (see what I did there?) for a range of ages and interests. See what connects with the horse kid in your life. Giddy-up!
Horse Picture Books
Horse Power: How Horses Changed the World by Jennifer Thermes
If you have a fact-loving horse enthusiast on your hands, choose a book like Horse Power, which details how important the relationship between humans and horses has been throughout history. It’s a browsable book with lots of sidebars and infographics to catch the attention of young readers. With stories ranging from the evolution of an animal who stands on one toe (like, how?) to the advent of the “horseless carriage,” everyone is sure to learn a thing or two.
Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman and Daniel Minter
Any collection of horse books for kids needs some true stories of amazing horses (and their people) from throughout history. This picture book biography relates the story of William “Doc” Key, a man enslaved at birth. Following emancipation, he taught his horse Jim to read and do simple arithmetic. The two performed at venues around the United States. Could the horse really read? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is the patience and kindness Doc used to train Jim.
If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino
For many horse-loving kids, owning a horse is in the realm of fantasy, often because of finances or living situation. While that’s sad, nothing is stopping kids from imagining life with a horse. This book is one such daydream, with simple text and richly colorful illustrations. It’s a great book for any child who might benefit from learning how to fully envision one’s dreams.
Princess Cupcake Jones Saddles Up! by Ylleya Fields and Michael LaDuca
Princess Cupcake Jones is always up for another adventure, and this entry in her picture book series is about saddling up her pony Lacey. It turns out to be more of a challenge than she expected, and she learns a lesson about giving and receiving help in the process. A fun feature of this series is the word hidden among each of the book’s illustrations. Perfect for horse kids and eagle eyes.
Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers by Cari Meister and Sara Rhys
Poetry and picture books are a classic pairing for a reason. Rhyme is a way to help instill language, and rhymes about ponies can truly cement that love. This book is great at embodying the various kinds of roles people take when they’re on horseback including that of cowgirls, knights, and equestrians. Fundamental to all of that, of course, is simply being friends with a horse. The sweet illustrations, including the endpapers with portraits of horses chronicled within, including Nibbles and Sugar Plum, are pure delight.
The Horse and the Mysterious Drawing by Li Jian
Horses are important to mythological stories around the world, including China, where this story originates. In this book, a horse gets loose and goes for a swim. When it emerges from the river, there’s a drawing on its back. The boy who the horse belongs to cleverly figures out the meaning of the drawing. This story is great for bilingual readers as the text is in both English and Chinese. Any collection of horse books for kids should strive to include stories from a variety of traditions.
Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and Menahem Halberstadt
If you’ve got a reader who likes an opportunity to add sound effects to a story, here’s a fun one. This delightful tale is about a horse who saves the day. When the boy who travels around Jerusalem selling challah falls ill one Friday morning, Soosie knows the route so well that she can deliver the bread without a human companion. The author’s note includes information about the history of Jerusalem’s Angel Bakery, the inspiration for the story.
Gift Horse: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson
Riding a horse also carries the potential for real action, which is what this book provides. Gift Horse is a picture book with a boy named Flying Cloud making the journey into manhood by taking on an unexpected challenge. His rescue of Storm, his stolen horse, earns him the right to wear the shirt of a warrior. The book, set in the 19th century, includes information about the history of the Lakota people and the traditions chronicled in this tale.
Abuelo by Arthur Dorros and Raúl Colón
For many people, the opportunity to ride a horse is one that creates long-lasting memories. For the boy in this story, his memories of riding horses with his grandfather prove to be very important when he moves away to the city. He cherishes time spent with his abuelo and the life lessons learned. This book also had beautiful illustrations from notable illustrator Raúl Colón.
Middle Grade Horse Books
The Horse Diaries Series by Various Authors
Grownups in the U.S. who love history frequently mention the Dear America series as being formative reading. For kids who love history and horses, the Horse Diaries provide an unmatched combo. These are especially great for kids who specifically want books from a horse’s point of view. The stories cover a wide range of history and geography, tracking horses in Iceland circa 1000 AD, 16th century Spain, 9th century Arabia, and more.
Horse Girl by Carrie Seim
The title kind of says it all, right? This book is about 7th grader Wills, accepted to train at the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy. She experiences all the ups and downs of being a new kid and a horse girl, including dealing with some mean girl behavior from fellow riders. She’s also struggling with her mom’s overseas deployment. It’s an amusing slice of life book that is sure to charm plenty of horse girls, and likely to create some new horse girls as well.
Riding Chance by Christine Kendall
Troy is assigned to the local city stables to work as community service for a juvenile offense. Through that work he discovers the sport of polo. It turns out to be the fresh start he needs, and an outlet for dealing with the loss of his mother. It’s a touching story based on Philadelphia’s Work to Ride program. This book is especially good at relating the experience of being around horses for the first time and discovering what wondrous creatures they are.
The Horse of the River: A Camp Canyon Falls Adventure by Sari Cooper
Pair a horse book with a survival story, another beloved genre for many a young reader, and you get The Horse of the River. Twelve-year-old Gillian is excited and nervous about spending a month away from her family at summer camp. Her worst fears are realized when a series of mishaps results in her being alone in the wilderness with a horse called The Beast. And that’s not an ironic name. She has to come to understand this horse even the camp counselors struggle to control if they’re both to survive.
Mulan: Before the Sword by Grace Lin
This book is a prequel to the Disney film version of Mulan. Mulan’s horse, Black Wind, is much more interesting to her than her domestic duties. She craves adventure. And it finds her when her sister is bitten by a venomous spider. Mulan needs to seek a healer. Black Wind is her faithful companion for that journey. The story weaves together various threads from Chinese history and mythology, all while showing us the courage of the beloved Mulan.
The Perfect Horse: The Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped by Hitler by Elizabeth Letts
This book, a young reader’s adaptation of a bestselling work of adult nonfiction, traces one U.S. troop’s quest to save the world’s most precious horses. Hitler’s eugenics efforts extended to horses, and this book provides an age-appropriate introduction to some of the atrocities of the Second World War. Anyone who has an interest in Lipizzaner horses, famed for their stylized jumps and dancelike movements, will appreciate this harrowing chapter in the breed’s history.
This list is only a start to the wide world of horse books for kids, which is a good thing. A horse kid who loves to read is fortunate to have such a deep well to pull from, from classics to new literature. Meanwhile, if you’ve got a fish kid, a kid who loves all animals, or the elusive but special plant kid, we’ve got more recommendations where these came from.