Popularity is a capricious thing. There’s really no accounting for why Misty of Chincoteague became Marguerite Henry’s most popular novel, when she wrote so many equally wonderful horse stories. And there’s also no accounting for why dozens of books filled with absorbing tales of wild horses, show ponies, racehorses, and riders are left unread on library shelves, while books like Smoky the Cowhorse and My Friend Flicka are read almost religiously by horse lovers.
Up and Away, by Miriam Young
Take two horse-crazy girls, a stable full of quirky equines, the drama of the show ring, a taste of mystery, and Sam Savitt’s gorgeous illustrations and you have one good read! Up and Away will even appeal to those who profess to dislike horse stories; the humanity of the characters and the charming plot will turn anyone into a fan. This is classic ‘50’s horse lit at its best.
The Golden Stallion, by Rutherford Montgomery
The first in a series of Wild West adventures, The Golden Stallion tells of the heartwarming bond between a fierce, fleet-footed palomino stallion and the rancher’s son who inevitably tames him. Set in the mountain wilderness of Montana on the spacious Bar L ranch, these stories are enough to inspire a lifelong love of Western fiction—our personal favorite in the series is The Golden Stallion’s Revenge.
Man O’ War, by Walter Farley
Mention Walter Farley to any horse lover and you will undoubtedly end up in a deep conversation about his famous equine opus, The Black Stallion. Due of the popularity of that book and its many successors in the series, Farley’s equally exciting novel Man O’ War often gets overlooked through no fault of its own. Chronicling the life of one of racing’s most outstanding stars from the heartbreak of the weaning barn to the triumph of the racetrack, Man O’ War is a thrilling treat for anyone who likes horse racing or Farley’s stories.
Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West, by Marguerite Henry
Here is one of those “equally wonderful horse stories” by Henry that we mentioned earlier, and the power of this book is only heightened by the fact that it’s a true story. The story of Wild Horse Annie—and her pa who was ‘saved by the milk of a mustang’, her cowboy husband Charlie, the people who fought to protect the mustangs, and the wild ones themselves—is true, and was never told better, thanks to Henry’s peerless prose and Robert Lougheed’s illustrations. The fruit of Annie’s efforts, the Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971, still protects the horses that she loved.
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. Follow her on Twitter: @miraclewelsh