Miscellaneous

Our Very Favourite Horse-Themed Books and Movies

Give the gift of imagination this holiday season with help from our staff and contributors, who have shared their picks for best horse books and movies.

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By: Horse Media Group |

We polled staff and contributors to find out which books and movies have been most memorable and inspiring to them. If you missed any of these gems, check them out now. Most are older, so start scavenging used book stores, thrift stores and online sources such as Etsy and Amazon. We asked each person what their favourites were, what it was about, what they loved about it and if it is kid-friendly, because we don’t want any surprises if you’re shopping for a horse-crazy child!

HORSE BOOKS

Antonia Henderson, Ph.D, equine psychologist

Pick: King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry

About: It is the story of the Godolophin Arabian, Sham, one of the three founding sires of the Thoroughbred racehorse, and the young Indian stable boy who cared for him. The story follows their travels all over the word as they face both hardships and victories.

Why: I was enchanted by the story and the love between the stable boy Agba and the horse in his care. The illustrations by Wesley Dennis took me away to another world. I was completely captivated.

Age: Yes. Very kid-friendly. I read the book myself, but it could also be a story that is read to a child. All of the Marguerite Henry series are wonderful, but this one was my favourite.


Anne Gage,  clinician, coach

Pick: My favourite horse-related book when I was  a child was the James Herriot series starting with All Creatures Great and Small.

About: The books are not specifically about horses, but they follow the life and adventures of a young veterinarian in rural Yorkshire in England.

Why: Set just before the Second World War, it’s a time when horses  had not quite been completely replaced by cars, trucks and tractors.

Age: Yes, it’s kid-friendly, especially if they are interested in all domestic animals and possibly in veterinary medicine.


Jennifer Anstey,  publisher

Pick: Absolutely anything by Dick Francis

About: They vary, but several feature Sid Halley, an amateur jump jockey turned sleuth, and the mysteries are from the racing world. Halley (like most of Francis’ protagonists) is the classic underdog hero; crippled in a racing accident and forced to take up a job he doesn’t want. However, his sense of honour and intelligence help him succeed and the bad guys get their just desserts.

Why: Horses, racing, murder/mystery and compelling, complex heroes.

Age: For teens.


Allison Barr, physiotherapist

Pick: When I was a kid I loved the Thoroughbred book series. I was about 12 when I started reading them.

About: They are about a young girl in the world of Thoroughbred breeding and racing.

Why: As a kid, I loved reading about the relationship she had with the horse Wonder, and enjoyed all the adventures they had.

Age: It’s definitely kid-friendly!


Karin Apfel, editorial director

Pick: Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell

About: The story is a depiction of the conditions horses endured in Victorian England (it was written in 1877). I found out later that the book had such an impact on animal welfare advocacy that anti-cruelty legislation grew significantly in the countries it was published in and a direct result was the abolishment of extreme adjustments of the “bearing rein” in carriage horses.

Why: I love that the story was written in first “person” from the perspective of the titular character, the horse. While clearly anthropomorphic, it made it very easy to relate to his experiences and increased the impact of them on me. I believe it not only sparked my interest in horses, but also empathy for all animals and how they are treated by humans.

Age: It is appropriate for some children. But, I remember crying a lot, so perhaps not the very young.


Lindsay Grice, judge, coach, trainer

Pick: As a horse-crazy kid, I loved the cartoon book series by English illustrator, Norman Thelwell.

About: A Leg at Each Corner and Thelwell’s Riding Academy, hilariously captured all the “oops” moments shared by horse-crazy kids on ponies. I recently thumbed through my childhood Thelwell books and found them freshly funny as an adult, now having made my living with horses.

Why: Of course everything is even funnier in understated British humour!

Age: Definitely.


Susan Kauffman, professional author and journalist

Pick: All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

About: This book recounts the experiences of a young Texan who travels on horseback into Mexico with his best friend to try to find the authentic cowboy lifestyle that was quickly disappearing in 1950s America.

Why: Once you adjust to McCarthy’s non-traditional writing style, you’ll find a fantastic page-turner of a story alive with unforgettable characters, a vivid sense of place, and of course, lots of horses. Action, adventure, romance, tragedy – it’s all there, centered around a courageous, capable, noble and completely unforgettable young cowboy named John Grady Cole.

Age: Definitely not.


Jason Irwin, horse trainer and clinician

Pick: Matlock Rose, The Horseman

About: It’s the life story of a famous trainer. He was an all-around trainer who later specialized in cutting horses [and won multiple AQHA and NCHA championships].

Why: A lot of the horses that this man trained were the early legends of the Quarter Horse breed. I found it interesting to learn the backstory on a lot of these horses that we so often hear the names of [eg. Jesse James, Peppy San]. Matlock Rose’s story is intertwined with the development of the Quarter Horse breed. Also, a lot of the other people that are characters in the book are now considered some of the most famous horse trainers and horsemen that there ever were.

Age: It’s probably more suitable for adults.


Jean Abernethy, professional author and cartoonist

Pick: Equus, by Tim Flach

About: Equus is a coffee table book; a compilation of photographs of horses.

Why: I enjoy the unique and uncommon angles the photographer has used. He lets light sources cast a horse into an abstract composition. He captures the geography horses live in, has photographed them from aircraft, even photographed them in the womb.

Age: Depends on the kid. Any child who is attracted to horses and amazing images would spend time with it. It’s an expensive book, though, so you wouldn’t want to get peanut butter on it.


Josh Nichol, horsemanship clinician and trainer

Pick: The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley

About: The book is about a young boy and a horse that build a bond and work through many challenges together.

Why: I love the connection that was built between the two of them.

Age: Yes


Andrea Harrison, educator, writer, rescuer

Pick: I am a voracious reader and a number of different genres of book immediately all deserve recognition here – ranging from Dick Francis novels and Thelwell’s Riding Academy to any one of the great biographies I have read. If you asked me to pick one I would have to go with How Good Riders Get Good, by Denny Emmerson.

About: It’s about making choices to make you a better rider (and horseperson) across any equestrian discipline. Denny outlines seven areas of choice for the reader to consider and decide how much energy they want to invest in each.

Why: The book is great because it ranges from the miniscule details of being “good” to the big picture visionary pieces involved. He includes many interviews with well-known names, which offers a perspective and breadth that is refreshing. I was working on deciding if I was going to continue to pursue excellence in my riding or ratchet back to happy trail riding. This book inspired me to find a balance that works for me.

Age: While not unfriendly to youth, I suspect this book is a little over most young horse lovers’ heads.


Anne Gage, clinician, coach

Pick: Wild Horse Hank, starring Linda Blair, 1979

About: A young girl who saves a herd of wild horses.

Why: WILD HORSES…. what’s not to love about that!?

Age: Yes, it’s very family friendly in my opinion.

HORSE MOVIES

Jennifer Anstey, publisher

Pick: So, so many so, I’ll go with the most recent: Unbranded

About: It’s a documentary about four guys riding 16 wild mustangs over 3,000 miles, through five states.

Why: Horses and adventure  and incredible scenery.

Age: Yes


Nicole Kitchener, stable owner and professional writer

Pick: International Velvet with Tatum O’Neal. It’s a sequel to 1944’s National Velvet with Liz Taylor.

About: Sarah Brown from the U.S. is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in the UK after her parents die in a car wreck. She has a hard time settling until she falls in love with the foal born to her aunt’s mare, National Pie (a la National Velvet). Sarah and Arizona Pie eventually make the British three-day-event team and go to the Olympics.

Why: It gets right to the heart of every girl’s dream of finding the perfect horse and achieving her dreams. It is also beautifully shot and stars some big names like Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Plummer. I think the story still holds up even though it was released in 1978.

Age: Yes, but might be more suitable for older kids, as there’s a scene involving a car accident that could be upsetting.


Susan Stafford-Pooley, Horsepower editor

Pick: The Black Stallion

About: In terms of sheer breathtaking beauty and cinematographic excellence, this award-winning movie is by far my favourite. It follows the adventures of Alec Ramsey and a majestic black Arabian stallion (played by equine actor Cass Olé) after they are shipwrecked on a deserted island.

Why: Alec galloping along the beach with his arms splayed like wings and The Black’s long mane flying still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Age: Although I was not a child when I saw it, I suppose it is suitable for kids.


Antonia Henderson, Ph.D, equine psychologist

Pick: Seabiscuit

About: The movie is based loosely on the true story of a little Thoroughbred horse that no one believed in who ended up a champion race horse during the great depression in the U.S.

Why: Usually my bar for horse movies is quite a bit lower that what I’d expect in anything else. But Seabiscuit not only is full of horses but is actually
a well-written, well-directed and well-acted movie.

Age: Rated PG13, if that helps.


Amy Harris, managing editor

Pick: Racing Stripes

About: Stripes is a zebra who was raised on a horse farm in Kentucky with a collection of animals including Thoroughbreds and a miniature horse. He dreams of becoming  a racehorse himself, and his girl, played by Hayden Panettiere, dreams of being  a jockey. The Thoroughbreds on  the neighbouring farm taunt Stripes, but in the end, he shows them!

Why: I was a young mom, with a toddler, who loved the talking animals in the movie. The animals are hilarious, and you can’t help but root  for Stripes and  his seemingly impossible dream.

Age: Absolutely!


Andrea Harrison, educator, writer, rescuer

Pick: The Man from Snowy River

About: It’s a love story mixed with a horse story with a little coming of age thrown in for good measure. It’s set in Australia and based on a poem of the same name. It’s a simple story and parts of it seemed a little corny even to young me, but it is one film about horses that didn’t have me yelling at the screen or distressing me so much I had stop watching.

Why: I loved the horses – their wildness and the stunts were quite amazing. The scenery is striking and stunningly beautiful. I suspect the film is one reason I absolutely love buckskins to this day.

Age: I would say it’s fairly kid-friendly, but it also has some good discussion points. Why would a parent mind who a child marries? How far should you go to prove a point?


Dianne Denby, sales representative

Pick: The Horse Whisperer, starring Robert Redford

About: A horse that was injured badly when hit by a truck and the emotional struggle faced by the horse and owner to recover.

Why: One of the first movies that showcased the emotional scars that a horse faces when he feels he’s not protected by the girl he loves. Might seem “out there,” but I’ve personally experienced this and it’s 100% true.

Age: For an older child with good guidance by a parent.