Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

5 Contemporary Horse Books for Your Literary Stables

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Gretchen Lida

Staff Writer

Gretchen Lida is an essayist and an equestrian. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Brevity, The Rumpus, The Washington Independent Review of Books, and many others. She teaches composition in Illinois, lives in Wisconsin, sometimes lives on Nantucket Island and is still a Colorado Native.

With each extra minute of added daylight, spring gets closer. For equestrians, this season between the thaw of winter and the wait for the mud to dry up can make us go a little mad. To keep the madness at bay, we clean tack, watch videos on Instagram, and bribe friends with baked goods to use their indoor arena. As for me, I read—and read and read. Horse books, specifically.

My equine-obsessed heart finds solace through books about horses or with horse characters. The good news is there is a fantastic collection of contemporary horse books that not will not only scratch the horsey itch, but add something new to your equestrian repertoire.

Here are some of my favorite contemporary horse books, for both children and adults.

The Princess and The Pony by Kate Beaton

This children’s book is part Thewell Pony, part How to Train Your Dragon. Our heroes are a warrior princess name Pinecone and her perfectly plump and hopelessly dim-witted pony who head off to prove themselves on the battlefield. The Princess and the Pony is funny, sweet and empowering in a way that feels more like a gentle push and not a club of overdone optimism.

Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang by David Phillips

Pest or patriot, the American Mustang has been contested for more than 500 years. I usually avoid books about wild horses because they are often fueled by bias. On one side, Mustangs are depicted as hooved locusts destroying farmland and sucking up U.S. tax dollars. On the other side, they are seen more as magical symbols than living, breathing animals with real impacts on the environment around them. Those both for or against the Mustang are often up to their waists in idealism and absolutes. Wild Horse Country is a refreshing bit of sense among the noise. Pulitzer Prize finalist David Phillips works diligently to unravel the history of the Mustang and why its galloping silhouette has embedded itself in the American psyche. Then, with unparalleled clarity, Phillips discusses the complexity of the modern Mustang, including solutions to both slaughter and overpopulation.

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

In the old west, one out of every four American cowboys were black. The African-American, Native American, and Latinx communities have had a huge impact not only on ranching culture, but also on the horse industry itself.

That same industry, then and now, has a problem with inclusivity and erasure. Ghetto Cowboy grabs that problem by the reins and shows the power of both representation and the connection of horse and boy.

This illustrated young adult novel by G. Neri tells the story of Cole, who, after getting in trouble in school, goes off to live with his father, an urban cowboy in one of Philadelphia’s roughest neighborhoods. Readers get to watch Cole discover who he is when he befriends Boo, a rescue horse new to the stable, and learns about the legacy of America’s black cowboys.

 Learning to Fall: A Novel by Anne Claremont

I loaned my copy of Learning to Fall to a fellow horse lover, and she had to leave it at work. If she took it home, she told me, she would choose reading another chapter over going to bed.

Set in the high stakes and often glamorous world of show jumping, Learning to Fall tells the story of Brynn and her horse Jett. Brynn puts everything on hold when her horse trainer father dies in an accident. He leaves both Brynn and her mother with mountains of debt, and in a last-ditch effort to save them, she enters the Million Dollar Gold Cup.

Romance, heartbreak and jumps so high you will be clinging to your chair as you read, Learning to Fall  is a wonderful piece of escapism. It is also a glimpse into an elite sport in a way we often don’t get to see.

The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History by Susanna Forrest

Lyric, haunting, and exhaustedly researched, Susanna Forrest’s The Age of the Horse is a masterpiece. Horse and human are two integrated species that have consciously and unconsciously shaped each other for thousands of years in thousands of different ways. Susanna Forrest explores this binary orbit by showing us a few of the many functions of the horse throughout human history including muse, weapon, companion, food source, and even healer.
The Age of the Horse is also a globe-trekking book. Readers travel from the grandeur of Versailles to the windy steppe of Mongolia and the rolling hills of America’s heartland, but we never lose sight of the horses that brought us here.

What are your favorite horse books? Want even more recommendations? Check out “Books For Young Horse Lovers.”