Forgotten Favorites: Horse Books of the Past

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Nearly every horse enthusiast is familiar with the most well-known horse stories: Black Beauty, National Velvet, the Black Stallion series, Misty of Chincoteague, and King of the Wind, as well as modern favorites such as the Saddle Club series. These books remain perpetually in print, populating library shelves and online bookstores and endearing generations of readers.

Unfortunately, some of the best horse stories of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s have disappeared from bookshelves and libraries, sadly resigned to an “out-of-print” fate that obliterates these titles from modern view. Yet these beloved horse books still hold a place in the hearts of horse-crazy bibliophiles everywhere. Let’s take a trail ride down memory lane and become reacquainted with a few forgotten favorites that can still be found in used bookstores and online:

Galloping Gold
Galloping Gold, by Patsey Gray
As a prolific author of horse books, Patsey Gray is fondly remembered for her many titles, including Double Standard, Jumping Jack, Star Lost, Horse in Her Heart, and others. Galloping Gold, while possibly not her best-known book, is memorable for its heartwarming premise and the devotion and dedication that the book inspires. And who doesn’t love a story that involves a gorgeous palomino horse?

Golden SovereignGolden Sovereign, by Dorothy Lyons
While Dorothy Lyons penned a dozen horse-related novels, her most widely known title is undoubtedly Golden Sovereign, thanks to its release as a Scholastic paperback in the 1960s. Golden Sovereign incorporates all the elements of an enduring classic: likeable characters, an elegant rescue mare with a mysterious past, and a stunning palomino stallion with enormous potential but an unpredictable disposition. Through plot twists and turns, high points and lows, this book—the third in Lyons’ Connie McGuire series—embodies all the facets of a perennial classic.

The Sweet Running Filly
The Sweet Running Filly by Barbara Van Tuyl and Pat Johnson
This book and its sequels (collectively known as “the Bonnie books”) bridge the literary gap between mysteries and horse fiction, and introduce the characters of Julie Jefferson and her “sweet running” filly, Bonnie. Originally published in the 1970s, the books achieved substantial popularity (The Sweet Running Filly originally sold over 200,000 copies) before going out of print. But today’s fans are in luck, because the Bonnie books are in the process of being republished, and the first two titles in the series are again available in paperback.

Scarlet Royal
Scarlet Royal by Anne Emery
Anne Emery is most remembered for the popular teen fiction that she produced during the ‘50s and ‘60s (including such titles as Sorority Girl, Going Steady, The Popular Crowd, and First Orchid for Pat), but she also penned a well-loved horse story entitled Scarlet Royal. Despite the fact that horse-related fiction was not Emery’s area of specialization, Scarlet Royal resonated with readers thanks to its realistic characters, intriguing plot device, and characteristically happy ending. While horse-savvy readers may note (and chuckle at) a few equine-related factual errors in the story, this satisfying tale deserves modern-day consideration.

So, think back—which books do you remember from your childhood? Which ones will you track down and discover all over again?

Further Reading
Collect a Barn of Classic Horse Books
30 Best Horse Books


Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of several books, including The Field Guide to Horses, (Voyageur Press, 2009). She raises Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin and is a certified horse show judge. She’s also collects vintage children’s books. Follow Samantha on Twitter: @miraclewelsh

25 COMMENTS

  1. Of these 4 only “Galloping Gold” is one I have not read. The other 3 sit in the spare bedroom book shelves. Have read those three in the past more than 10 times each.

  2. You have triggered such great memories of these books. Some of them, like Golden Sovereign, I read so many times that the book fell apart!

  3. What great memories. There’s another one from the 1960s: “Casey Jones Rides Vanity” and I was able to find it at AL Libris and it cost a fortune to buy!! It’s about a girl who already has a horse but sees her dream horse at a horse show. The rider is injured and no one is paying attention to the dream horse. Casey cares for Vanity and learns a lot about herself and others in the process.

  4. Great article! Scarlet Royal was a favorite of mine. Right alongside National Velvet! What a ride down memory lane! Thanks for the remembrances.

  5. Talk about bringing back memories! Walter Farley and Margaruite Henry were my top two authors! For vacation one year we went east so I could see Assategue (sp) Island! Great memories

  6. My all-time favorite horse book growing up was “Fly-by-Night,” by K.M. Peyton. That one really struck a chord with me since I was very much like the heroine, and in a similar situation with a non-horsey family and no real support of my passion! I also enjoyed all of C.W. Anderson’s and Marguerite Henry’s books when I was younger, too, of course!

  7. I loved all the CW Anderson books and I also grew up with the series of Billy & Blaze books – great stories and illustrations!!!

  8. I still have my copies of The Sweet Running Filly and Golden Sovereign…another favorite of mine was The Horsemasters…wonderful books with a focus on working hard for your dreams and good “horsey values”! There is a new series of books called Crown Prince and Crown Prince Challenged that remind me of these in style and tone.

  9. I have Scarlet Royal and Golden Sovereign and many others. I have been grabbing them up at used book sales for years. Library book sales are a good place to find them. I don’t know what I am going to do with them or my extensive horse reference book collection, especially on Arabians, since I am almost 63 and have no horse loving relatives to pass them down to!

  10. I still have a copy of “The Red Pony” I’ve had it since 7th grade, a teacher gave it to me, it was very old back when I got it, it still has an old burlap like cover..

  11. Afraid to Ride by CW Anderson, the Horsemasters by Dan Stanford. Took awhile to track them down, but thank goodness some people hang onto their old books. Thanks for reminding me about Scarlet Royale!

  12. Horse Show Hurdles was a great one about Tam and her small black hunter, Merlin, plus her sister Cynnie and her Saddlebred Pinwheel. They summered in Vermont at an old barn run by a crusty Yankee—until the new stable in town with an unethical owner tried to coerce them to his stable. Great story!

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