Beyond Black Beauty: My Favorite Books Featuring Horses

March 25, 2016

The real-life dream horse
When I was growing up, there seemed to be no chance that I would ever have a horse. Southern California was not the place to own a horse unless you were wealthy, and we were not. I had to content myself with reading about horses, and an occasional trip to the harness races when I visited my dad. Horse books fed my desire for knowledge about horses and gave me details for my daydreams about them. For a very long time, they were my only real connection with horses, and they made a difference in my life for which I’m grateful. 

Here is a list of a few of my favorite books featuring horses. It includes books that kept my childhood dream alive, books I discovered as an adult horse owner (when, astoundingly, my dream had come true), and a few that sound interesting that I haven’t read yet. Even if you’re not a horse lover, these books are fun and/or interesting reads in and of themselves. They might even help you understand why some people, like me, find horses so irresistible.

The Black Stallion series, Walter Farley. I read many of these while growing up, and like many impressionable-but-ignorant, horse-loving little girls, I dreamed of owning an Arab like the Black. I still have my original copy of this book, and I think it’s time to reread it. 

The Bonnie series, Barbara Van Tuyl and Pat Johnson. I adored these books about Sunbonnet and her young owner, Julie Jefferson. The Sweet Running Filly is the first in the series.

A Filly for Joan, and other books by C.W. Anderson. I especially loved the gorgeous illustrations in his books. 

Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Justin Morgan Had a Horse (and many more), Marguerite Henry. Henry wrote a whole series of wonderful books about horses. I haven’t read all of them, but that might have to change.    

Airs Above the Ground, Mary Stewart. Romance, mystery, and a horse—need I say more?

My Friend Flicka, Mary O’Hara. I just read this within the last year, and was impressed by the quality of writing as well as the story. 

Horse Heaven, Jane Smiley. Of all the books on this list, this one is the most likely, in my opinion, to hold the attention of the non-horse lover. It’s funny and filled with interesting personalities, both human and equine. 

Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand. The true story of Seabiscuit and the people surrounding him (I liked the movie, too.)

She Flies Without Wings: How Horses Touch a Woman’s Soul, Mary D. Midkiff. Using literature, folktales, myth, and the personal experiences of herself and others, Midkiff explores the spiritual connection between women and horses.

Zen and Horses: Lessons From a Year of Riding, Ingrid Soren. A really lovely book in which Soren “captures the essence of what captivates people so about horses—physically, mentally, and spiritually” as she shares what she learned taking riding lessons and studying Zen Buddhism.

Hold Your Horses: Nuggets of Truth for People Who Love Horses…No Matter What, Bonnie Timmons  A sweet and funny celebration of the bond between horses and those who love them.

You may have noticed two glaring omissions from this list: Black Beauty and National Velvet. I read Black Beauty as a child, and have never quite gotten over the cruelty Beauty experienced, so I never read the book again and don’t count it among my favorites. I have National Velvet on my TBR shelf right now. I tried to read it as a child but for some reason it never clicked for me. 

While researching this post, I added the following books to my TBR list:

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman the Horse that Inspired a Nation, Elizabeth Letts. The true story of a horse bound for slaughter, purchased for $80, who grew into a champion show jumper. 

Riding Barranca, Laura Chester. A one-year journal of a horsewoman's adventures with Barranca and other mounts.

Other People’s Horses, Natalie Keller Reinert. How can I resist a book described as “The Black Stallion for adults”? 

Death By Dressage, Carolyn Banks. A mystery in which the murder weapon is a horse! The first in a series.

The Dark Horse, Rumer Godden. Dark Invader, a disgraced racehorse from England, seems poised to win the Viceroy Cup...until he disappears. Will he be found in time to race?

I love it when my horse and book obsessions meet. (This list could easily have been twice as long, but this is me sparing you.) Do you have an obsession with books about a certain topic? Share your favorites in the comments!

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  1. I also experienced horses through books and tv shows, but they only briefly became present in my life...I liked tv westerns just because they had horses in them...This is a wonderful list and I'm going to look a few of them up! And now, look at you, your dreams came true!

  2. Rita--Yes, they did. I'm very lucky. For so many years, the only horses around me were imaginary, whether they were in books or on screen. Did you ever see the TV show Brisco County Jr. (I think it was in the late 80s/early 90s?. Brisco's horse played a leading role and I loved him.

    Hope you find a title or two on the list that you enjoy!

  3. Kathy this looks like a super list. I have watch the movie Sea Biscuit. Great story. Most of all I am so glad you got your dream with Tank. That has to be the best ending to a story. Hope you have a wonderful day.

  4. Debbie--Lots of great stories I enjoyed, and you're right, the best one has been my own!