For many parents during the pandemic, it’s been a challenge keeping kids occupied, healthy and happy. People young and old are fed up with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, but it’s been especially tough for young people who have been forced to learn from home and not socialize with friends like they want to. And for horse loving girls who might be missing out on a trip to the barn, or weekly lessons, well that’s just brutal, right?

Fortunately, a new horse novel has arrived to take young minds off of home schooling and put them in the competitive riding ring. Described as Mean Girls meets Black Beauty, Horse Girl  by New York writer Carrie Seim will appeal to horse-mad tweens and teens.

According to the synopsis, Horse Girl tells the tale of Wills, 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.com got to speak with Seim about her latest book and what inspired the comedy writer who has written for several Nickelodeon comedy specials, along with The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR’s UnFictional, The New York Post, Cosmopolitan, Architectural Digest and McSweeney’s. An alum of The Groundlings comedy theater in Los Angeles, she has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer, E!TV and the Comedy Central Stage.

Horse Canada: What inspired you to write HORSE GIRL?

Carrie Seim: Horse Girl was inspired by my childhood in Nebraska. My sister Lindsay and I were both absolutely horse crazy as kids. We read all the classic horse books: Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Black Beauty, Black Stallion as well as The Saddle Club book series. Lindsay collected Breyer model horses, we taped Olympic showjumping competitions on the VCR, and we begged our parents to go to horse camp. After years of pleading, they finally agreed to let us go to a regular YMCA camp that offered just one hour of horse riding a day — but it quickly became the best hour of our entire lives!

I wanted to revisit that electric time between childhood and adulthood when everything feels possible and impossible all at once. The book is a story about friendship and sisters and horses — and all of the perils and unbridled joy that come with each.

I also wanted to explore that tipping point in adolescence when it suddenly becomes uncool to like anything too much and you have to decide if you’re going to stay true to your heart or try to hide it. My protagonist Wills is aware that being obsessed with horses after some of her friends have outgrown them might make her seem weird or “certifiably dork-tagious,” but she goes ahead and loves them anyway. It was wildly gratifying to write a strong female character who makes a lot of mistakes and is constantly falling on her face, but keeps getting back on the horse (quite literally).

HC: Why do you think horses are so captivating to young girls (and women of all ages)?

CS: Horses are majestic creatures that symbolize the pure-hearted, tender comforts of childhood — but also the power and freedoms of adulthood. When you fall in love with horses, you get to gallop back and forth between both worlds. How magical is that??

If you think back on the most beloved horse tales, they usually involve a young person who’s somehow able to save or tame or heal a horse — but she does it using gentle savvy and a giant heart rather than cruelty or brute strength. What a powerful lesson in leadership. Horses teach us that we don’t necessarily have to be the biggest or the toughest to succeed — we can be the smartest or the cleverest or the most empathetic. I think that’s why horse stories endure and why they often act as a generational through line.

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be a girl or own a horse to be a #HorseGirl. You simply have to love and embrace these beautiful beings (whether real or imagined) and all that they embody.

Carrie Seim and friend. (Laura Barisonzi photo)

HC: Do you still ride? Do you have a fave horse?

CS: Remember that horse camp I mentioned? Well, it turns out that’s where I discovered I had a severe allergy to horses — it was devastating! After camp, my sister continued to take English riding and jumping and dressage lessons at an equestrian center in Omaha, while I was planted safely in piano lessons. (Sad trombone.) But I was still absolutely crazy for horses. I’d go to the stable after school and do my homework in the bleachers, watching Lindsay’s lessons and her jumping competitions, in absolute awe. In many ways, this book is a love letter to my sister and her breathtaking connection with horses.

These days, I ride every chance I get … thanks, Claritin! I’m still a beginner who makes a ton of mistakes, but my heart still soars whenever I’m near a horse. During the pandemic I got to do several trail rides — including one where my horse decided we should both take a surprise dip in the river! And I can’t wait to get back into proper lessons this summer.

As for my favorite horse, that has to be Clyde Lee, the real Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross who inspired the “horse-tagonist” in my book! He was my sister’s absolute favorite lesson horse, and he taught countless kids how to ride. Truth be told, Clyde wasn’t that interested in jumping … or cantering … or trotting … or really moving at all. His only real interest was in snacking. But he was a gentle giant beloved by everyone at the stable. And I never could have written this book without him.

HC: Your book is described as “Mean Girls meets Black Beauty”; is that how you’d describe it?

CS: Yes! Or perhaps “Mean Girls meets Misty of Chincoteague.” Horse Girl was of very much inspired by all the classic horse stories I grew up with. But I wanted to add an irreverent sense of humor and plenty of awkward, angsty moments to balance out the earnestness. I’m proud to have written a funny book for girls — there are so few of them out there. I think humor, especially the self-deprecating kind, can be such a powerful tool for women of all ages.

The story is told in a modern voice with plenty of modern #horsegirl problems — including the snobby kids Wills encounters at the stable when her parents finally allow her to enroll in riding lessons and she can’t afford her own horse. The book is definitely informed by, and an homage to, those timeless tomes in the Horse Girl Canon. But I hope its fresh approach will resonate with tweens, teens and horse lovers of all ages.

HC: What are you hoping young readers will take away from the book?

CS: The most important lesson in the book is that if you’re feeling awkward or lost or like you’ll never fit in, trust that someday you will find that magical place where you do. Where everyone will embrace you and your inner #horsegirl. In the book, I describe the feeling as finding your “forever herd.” I hope young readers will keep searching until they find their own forever herd. And if they don’t find it, I hope they’ll create it for themselves.