There’s nothing like cozying up with a good book during the long winter months, especially on those bitterly cold days that make riding impossible, or at least undesirable. To make your choice of what to read a little easier, we’ve come up with our selection of our favourite horse books from the past year, with a couple of faves from 2021.
To make the list, books had to be best-sellers, and/or critically acclaimed or award-winning. (You will notice that there are only two books written by Canadians, and that’s not because we don’t want to support our national authors. There appear to be few Canadian authors writing about horses in any given year, but as publishers make us aware of their upcoming book lists and any Canadian authors on them, we will be thrilled to promote them.)
If you’re a last-minute shopper looking for a gift the horse person in your life might love, then read on; if you hurry you should get delivery before Christmas. We’ve including online retailers, but you can also check your local bookstore or have them order a title for you. And if you’re not shopping for a gift, treat yourself!
Our list, in no particular order:
Love & Rules: Life Lessons Learned with Horses by Lee McLean
This is the highly anticipated follow-up to McLean’s multiple best-selling novel, Horse Woman. Love & Rules is a collection of essays that run the gamut of love, fear, winning, loss, leadership, ageing, growth, illness, and recovery — all through the sphere of horsemanship.
The Year of the Horses: A Memoir by Courtney Maum
An Amazon Best Book of 2022, an online review describes Maum’s book as, “Sharp, heartfelt, and cathartic, The Year of the Horses captures a woman’s journey out of depression and the horses that guide her, physically and emotionally, on a new path forward.”
The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America by Elizabeth Letts
This bestselling true story from the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse follows 63-year-old Maine farmer Annie Wilkins in 1954, when she embarked on an unbelievable journey. She had no money and no family, she had just lost her farm, and her doctor had given her only two years to live.
But Annie wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. She ignored her doctor’s advice to move into the county charity home. Instead, she bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men’s dungarees, and headed south in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. Annie had little idea of what to expect beyond her rural crossroads; she didn’t even have a map. But she did have her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
An Amazon Best Book of June 2022, this latest work by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks is based on the true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, who became America’s greatest stud sire. The book spans three time periods and traces the history the famous 19th century racehorse who was the sire of generations of top American thoroughbreds. But the story also follows the people who surrounded Lexington during his lifetime, many of whom were Black and enslaved.
Last Long Ride: A Journey of Adventure, Freedom, and Love Ends Where It All Began by Filipe Masetti Leite
We wrote about Masetti Leite’s documentary film, The Long Rider, that was released earlier this year, and as a companion piece comes Last Long Ride, the final book in his Journey America trilogy. Masetti Leite left his adoptive home of Canada and set out on quest to ride from Calgary to his family’s home in Brazil ‒ and later beyond ‒ entirely on horseback. He told Horse-Canada that through the film and his books he hopes to “inspire more people to ride horses and connect to the natural world.”
Project Solomon: The True Story of a Lonely Horse Who Found a Home – and Became a hero by Jodi Stuber and Jennifer Marshall Bleakley
This heartwarming story is about Jodi Stuber, who runs a therapy ranch, and a horse named Solomon. After losing his herd, Solomon was solitary and sad, spending his days standing near the plastic deer in his yard for company, until Stuber adopted him. Stuber was struggling with grief of her own and she and Solomon developed a remarkable bond, but when tragedy strikes her therapy ranch, the horse teaches Jodi more than she could have imagined.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse: The Animated Story by Charlie Mackesy
Charlie Mackesy’s beloved The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse has been adapted into an animated short film, streaming on Apple TV+ on Christmas Day. This beautifully made hardcover book celebrates the work of more than 100 animators across two years of production – with Charlie’s distinctive illustrations brought to life in full colour with hand-drawn traditional animation and accompanying hand-written script.
“I made a film with some friends about a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse – their journey together and the boy’s search for home. I hope this book gives you courage and makes you feel loved.” Love Charlie x
Horse Girl by Carrie Seim
Wills is a seventh grader who’s head-over-hoof for horses, and beyond excited when she gets the chance to start training at the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy. But Amara ‒ the Queen of the #HorseGirls ‒ and her posse aren’t going to let the certifiably dork-tagious Wills trot her way into their club so easily. Between learning the reins of horse riding, dealing with her Air Force pilot mom being stationed thousands of miles from home, and keeping it together in front of (gasp!) Horse Boys, Wills learns that becoming a part of the #HorseGirl world isn’t easy. But with her rescue horse, Clyde, at her side, it sure will be fun.
Horse-Canada spoke with the author last year; here’s what she had to say about her charming book.
Midnight & Moon by Kelly Cooper
A girl who doesn’t fit in befriends a blind horse who also struggles to find his place in the herd. A beautiful picture book that helps readers celebrate the qualities that challenge us and make us different. This gorgeous book was written by New Brunswick author Kelly Cooper and illustrated by Daniel Miyares.
Notable Mentions from 2021
Horse Girls by Halimah Marcus
This book of essays by acclaimed authors, including Pulitzer-prize winner Jane Smiley, reframes the iconic bond between girls and horses with the complexity and nuance it deserves. The essays are from writers as diverse as the Canadian who explores her Seminole and Quebecois heritage, a Black barrel racer in Texas, and horse culture in Pakistan. Publishers Weekly called it “Eminently thoughtful and fascinatingly intimate.” The website Refinery 29 said the anthology shows “the other side of horse girls, revealing that they aren’t all wealthy white girls, and that their passion for horses speaks to other desires simmering just under the surface.”
Pony by R.J. Palacio
Pony was named one of the best children’s books of the year by the Wall Street Journal and was a New York Times bestseller. Pony follows the adventure of a boy on a quest to rescue his father, with only a ghost as his companion and a mysterious pony as his guide. And did we mention the stunning cover art?
Other Cool Books
Horse Training Planner 2023 by Amanda Goble
A professionally-designed horse training planner and session journal for all horses, all riders, and all disciplines. Think you don’t need to write your riding workouts down and keep track of your training, vet treatments, and farrier appointments? Think again! Dr. Tim Worden, a member of the Equine High-Performance Sports Group, says, “Everyone should be recording what time of day they worked the horse, for how long, and the exercises they did. Also keeping track of farrier visits and vet appointments and treatments. When you record your training, and every aspect of your horse’s care, then you can go back and try to figure out the ‘why’ behind results and injuries.”
Horses: A Coloring Book for Horse Lovers by Ella Stevenson
Adult colouring books were all the rage a few years back, but we were taken by this latest one with 40 gorgeous horses ready and waiting for you to embrace your inner artist, no matter your age.