Horses have long been a source of inspiration for writers. While they are often viewed as books for younger readers, the truth is that some of the finest equine stories are recommended for people of any age.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
This is probably the most famous book about horses ever written. You might think that it is a children’s tale because of the animated film versions it has inspired. Yet, Black Beauty is a serious tale about the need to better look-after animals. The story is told by the horse itself. We learn that this noble animal has a variety of owners over the years, with some of them being kind to him and others treating him badly. He meets a variety of interesting characters and lives through some tense moments.
Black Beauty was the author’s only published book and it was a massive success. Black Beauty helped the public to gain a better understanding of animal welfare and possibly led to some of the legal changes that were introduced now long afterwards.
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
You probably know of this book mainly because of the wonderful 1944 movie that featured a young Elizabeth Taylor alongside Mickey Rooney. Velvet Brown is a 12-year old girl who dreams of riding a horse in a race. She wins a horse in a raffle and learns how to ride it. At the end, Velvet wins the Grand National Steeplechase on her beloved horse. The story is unbelievable, but the book is slightly less dramatic than the movie. It is definitely worth reading regardless of whether or not you have ever seen the famous film version.
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
This is one of the famed author’s earliest books. It follows the life of Jody, a boy who grows up surrounded by horses on a Californian ranch. While he loves being around horses, Jody also lives through a number of dramatic moments with them that teach him valuable life lessons. The Red Pony was first published by magazines in 4 different chapters, all between 1933 and 1936. All of the stories were then gathered together in a single book that was published in 1937.
Jody is the main protagonist, rather than a horse. However, many of the book’s best stories involve horses and their impact on the people around them.
Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley
This book takes a close look at the world of competitive horse racing. It is set in California and provides a fascinating insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes at big race meetings. A rich variety of characters – both human and equine – help to make this an interesting read from start to finish. The action takes place over the course of a couple of years and feels sort of like a glamorous soap opera in a type of setting we don’t normally get to see.
Horse racing fans will be pleased to find out some useful information on the sport and how it works. Even if you have never looked for the latest Kentucky Derby odds on horses, there is a lot to like about Horse Heaven, though.
The Kellys and the O’Kellys by Anthony Trollope
In The Kellys and the O’Kellys, we get to see behind-the-scenes of the Irish horse racing business. Since it was originally published in 1848, it is also a historical look at the sport and the country in those times. The main characters are called Martin Kelly, and Frank O’Kelly. While much of the plot centers on their money and love lives, the horse racing element helps to bring it to life. A well-worked hunting scene also adds to the excitement.
These are all terrific examples of books that feature horses, but there are plenty of others for you to explore, too.