Of Horse

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The Best Books About Horses
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The Best Books About Horses

Here's a list of books for horse lovers!

Adult fiction

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The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss

The year is 1917, and young men are volunteering to go "over there" to fight for freedom against the Germans.  Back on the homefront, nineteen-year-old Martha Lesson leaves her home in Pendleton, Oregon, and comes to the Umatilla region looking for work, for adventure--and for a home.  A horse-trainer by trade, Martha arrives in south-central Washington State and goes to work immediately, hired by several local families to break horses to saddle.   

In the course of the winter months, Martha trains a horse for a man dying of cancer, befriends a German family shunned by their neighbors, attends dances and skating parties, and, despite her shy nature, becomes part of the community. Set firmly in time and place, this lovely historical novel contains no sex and minimal cussing (anyone who works with cattle is allowed to cuss at them--I have this on good authority), with stories gleaned from memoirs of actual settlers in the region.  

Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction (or training horses).  

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Just After Midnight  by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Faith leaves her abusive husband and plans to spend a few weeks at a rental house on the California beach to regroup (and hide from Robert) where she meets 14-year-old Sarah, who is grieving both the death of her mom and the sale of a talented dressage horse she raised and trained herself.

Faith and Sarah become friends, and when Sarah reveals that her own father murdered his wife, they go together to a place where they can both be safe: the barns and yards of dressage trainers.

Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, the plot becomes almost secondary to the character development, and I found myself becoming very attached to these characters and wanting the best possible outcome for them.

No car chases or explosions. Rather, this book is a quiet, sometimes painful exploration of friendship and personal growth. Some cussing, some bullying, no blood on the page. Recommended for readers who have a good friend (even if that friend isn't human).

NonFiction

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Crazy Good: the true story of Dan Patch, the most famous horse in America by Charles Leerson

The life story of a record-breaking champion horse whose disabilities nearly caused his euthanasia at birth. 

The Perfect Horse: the daring U.S. mission to rescue the priceless stallions kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts

In the chaotic last days of WWII, American soldiers captured a German spy and found that his briefcase was empty but for photos of beautiful white horses. Hitler had stockpiled the world’s finest Lipizzan and Arabian horses in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals were in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food. 

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The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the horse that inspired a nation by Elizabeth Letts

In 1956, the grade gelding Snowman was bound for slaughter, purchased at the last minute for $80 by a talented-but-broke Dutch immigrant named Harry de Layer. Together, Harry and Snowman went on to become America's show-jumping champions, winning first prize in Madison Square Garden. 

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Chosen by a Horse: how a broken horse fixed a broken heart by Susan Richards

The author already owned three horses when she decided to rescue another:  an abandoned, abused, arthritic Standardbred mare called Lay Me Down.  The complicated process of healing the mare also healed Susan herself.  And then, it was time to say goodbye.

Beautiful Jim Key: the lost history of a horse and a man who changed the world by Mim Eichler Rivas

The true story of a famous performing horse around the turn of the twentieth century.  His trainer, a former slave, claimed that the horse could read and write, make change with money, do arithmetic for "numbers below thirty," and cite Bible passages.

Audiobooks

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The Bear and the Nightingale  by Katherine Arden, read by Kathleen Gati

Vasilisa (Vasya) is both a child listening to Russian fairy tales and a young woman destined to become one of the greatest central characters in northern folklore.  This is the story of Vasya's childhood and transition to adulthood: hearing and telling the tales of her elderly nurse, living with the cold and unloving stepmother who sends her out into snow on foolish errands, meeting the Frost King and surviving his challenges, taming a magical steed called Solovey ("Nightingale") and confronting the tyranny of Chernobog ("Bear"), the dark, cursed god.

Some violence and bloodshed, minimal cussing, no nekkidness.  Russian politics and linguistics are complex, priests are not always good guys, and all horses talk to those who know how to listen.  This book is first in a trilogy but stands alone nicely. Highly recommended for lovers of folklore and fairy tales and horses.

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Some Kind of Courage  by Dan Gemeinhart, read by Andrew Eiden

12-year-old Joseph has lost almost everything:  all that remains are his memories of his family and his horse. Then, Mr. Grissom sells the horse.

Joseph loves that horse so much that he takes off after her--following a no-good horse trader through the wilderness of the Wenatchee Valley where he encounters a hostile grizzly bear and a not-completely-hostile group of Native Americans.  He befriends a Chinese boy who speaks "not a lick of English" through the entire story.  He helps a family of settlers, runs afoul of a horse thief, and tracks down a highwayman.  A happy ending seems sure...and then tragedy strikes.

Or better yet, listen to the audiobook, nimbly read by Andrew Eiden, who sinks deeply into the dialect of the characters and almost gets the pronunciation of "Yakima" entirely right.  No sex, no romance, some blood, some alcohol, some (minor) cussing.  

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham 

Each year in November, capaill uisce, the water horses, come out of the ocean to race on the sand.  The water horses are swifter than regular horses; they are wilder...and they are killers.

Breathtaking action and suspense will keep the pages turning late into the night.  With the action comes blood and a bit of gore, but the energy that starts on page one sustains readers through the icky parts, balanced by the sweet, tentative beginnings of an unlikely courtship between two riders.

Minor cussing, some blood/gore, some violence between people as well as between the water horses and their victims.  A little romance and a little magic.  The book and the audiobook (featuring the talents of two excellent readers)are both highly recommended. 

Graphic Novel

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Grand Theft Horse by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Gail Ruffu's life had always centered on horses: riding them, caring for them, training for them. She was a respected racehorse trainer when she became part-owner of Urgent Envoy, a promising young Thoroughbred horse. The horse's co-owners pushed Gail--and Urgent Envoy--to race early and fast. He sustained a minor injury, one that would heal completely given time. But the other owners wanted to win.

That's why, on Christmas Eve 2004, Gail stole her own horse…and after years of dodging the law, ended up as the first person in a hundred and fifty years charged with "Grand Theft Horse," a legal case that went all the way to the California Supreme Court.

The dramatic story will ring absolutely true to horse lovers of all ages. No sex, no cussing, some violence (towards people and animals), some (horse) drugging situations. Strong female protagonist, and great artwork.  Recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

Juvenile fiction

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The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Aerin, the un-magical daughter of the King, befriends her father's lame, retired warhorse, Talat, and discovers an old, overlooked, and dangerously imprecise recipe for dragon-fire-proof ointment in a dusty corner of the library. Then, dragons begin to plague the kingdom:  first, small dragons.  Then, a big one. 

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

Joey is too small to be a proper farm horse, so in 1914 the British Army bought him as an officer’s mount and sent him to the Western Front.  But Joey, who narrates the story, still longs for the peace of his old farm and for the companionship of Albert, the young man who loves the horse more than anything.

This book has been adapted into a feature film by Stephen Spielberg, and into a stunning stage play featuring life-sized puppets as the horses.  See video of the puppet-horses HERE. Recommended for ages 10 to adult, have a hankie ready for the final chapters.

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Mrs. Mack by Patricia Polacco

The author recalls the summer when she was ten years old and staying with her father in Michigan where she took riding lessons and became best friends with a perfect horse.  The pictures are beautiful and appeal to younger readers, while the narration will hold the interest of horse-loving teens and adults. 

Picture books for children

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Wonder Horse: the true story of the world’s smartest horse by Emily Arnold McCully

A fictionalized story about a former slave who became a famous horse trainer, and the horse he taught to do marvelous tricks.

The Superlative Horse by Jean Merrill

“A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air.”

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Clip Clop by Nicola Smee

One-by-one, the barnyard animals climb on Mr. Horse and beg for a ride—faster, and faster, and faster!

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